Apple hit with lawsuit over iTunes interface | iLounge News


Apple hit with lawsuit over iTunes interface

Contois Music Technology has filed a lawsuit against Apple over the user interface of iTunes, according to an AppleInsider report. Contois alleges that Apple violated a patent it holds, and seeks damages and the ability to stop Apple from distributing iTunes as the application looks and behaves now.

“The suit, filed on June 13th in Vermont District Court, alleges that Apple’s iTunes software design infringes on Contois’ six-year old design patent (US Patent No. 5,864,868) entitled ‘Computer Control System and User Interface for Media Playing Devices.’ Contois is seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction enjoining Apple from further distributing its iTunes software in its current form. The company also asked the Court for an unspecified amount of monetary damages resulting from Apple’s ‘copying and willful infringement’ of its design patent as well as reimbursement of legal fees associated with the lawsuit.”

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what the heck

Posted by jeffhwang on June 21, 2005 at 12:59 PM (CDT)


I am confused, itunes is only 4 or 5 years old, not six

Posted by M Bargo on June 21, 2005 at 1:12 PM (CDT)


Maybe they’re including development time?

Posted by FoolsRun on June 21, 2005 at 1:40 PM (CDT)


Contois consists basically of eMusicGear, which is a music web-store.  They had this patent for six years, but I don’t see an actual product.  There have also been many “Computer .. Interface for Media Playing Devices” since then.  I’m thinking that Contois is simply being a patent squatter here.

Posted by spiderland on June 21, 2005 at 1:40 PM (CDT)


M Bargo, that is the point Contois is trying to make.  Contois is saying that Apple infringed on their patent, as in, they had the patent and then Apple used it.

I agree with spiderland.  They are just squatting in order to make some money and get some publicity just by riding Apple’s success with iTunes.

Posted by Third on June 21, 2005 at 1:48 PM (CDT)


Considering that Apple once sued practically every other software producer in the 1980s over the “right” to have icon names *center-adjusted* under icons, this sounds like karma to me.

Posted by Demosthenes on June 21, 2005 at 2:37 PM (CDT)


Anyone over heard of the “Ass kicking machine”?  Its a real thing… i saw it in scientific american I think… point is that it also has a patent… a michine that you pedal with your hands while bend over that turns a big wheel with boots attached to it that kick your own ass.

Although the iTunes interface is indeed phenomenal, i could likely have sketched up the idea on a napkin, which makes it silly that there shoud be patents for such things.  I can’t imagine what other kinds of technical information could be attached to it.

And just to be fair, apple suing back in the day over centred text is also stupid.  Stupid just like the the fact that the word “Canadian” is a Registered trademark of Molson Brewing Corp.

I could rant on forever… but I’ll stop.

Posted by Ryan on June 21, 2005 at 3:28 PM (CDT)


Reading some of the items that they claim iTunes infringes upon, I can’t see why they aren’t also suing Microsoft for Windows Media Player, or any of the dozens of other companies that put out music players. Is it because employees from Contois now work at Apple?

Posted by Daryl Hawkins on June 21, 2005 at 7:13 PM (CDT)


this will be settled out of court; there will be no change to itunes.

Posted by jmaurand on June 21, 2005 at 8:25 PM (CDT)


ok maybe I’m being a bit overconfident but this is definitely patent squatting, and that’s how most of these things get settled.

Posted by jmaurand on June 21, 2005 at 9:05 PM (CDT)


Okay, if they’ve had the patent for six years, why did they just now file the lawsuit? iTunes has looked generally the same for the last SEVERAL years, so if they were going to file something they should have done it earlier. Contois can go screw themselves now. I really don’t care if they have the patent before Apple and Apple stole it from them. If they wanted people on their side, they should have filed the lawsuit sooner. Now they just look like a Johnny-comelately trying to steal money from a corporation.

Posted by Jack Dawson on June 21, 2005 at 9:35 PM (CDT)


“the interface to sort songs by artist name, track name and album”

that’s like every single media player in this friggin world. goddamn

Posted by sheffiledpunch on June 21, 2005 at 10:42 PM (CDT)


well they figure since apple is doing so well, its the perfect time to bring down such a big digital audio entity in the market, although apple will take them on and their prosection with no problem.

Posted by M Bargo on June 22, 2005 at 3:05 AM (CDT)


I am so completely and utterly fed up with this software patent crap, from the SCO Linux thing to the One Click Shopping feature on Amazon to Apple sueing anyone who called the place where deleted files go the wastebasket. 

And now it’s looking ever more likely that software will be patentable over here in Europe too.  Perfect, that’s just what we need.

Posted by PhennPhawcks on June 22, 2005 at 5:26 AM (CDT)


It’s simple. There’s more than one way to skin a cat, and Apple made it to market first. It’s entirely probably that the designers at Apple had the same ideas that Contois had.  For Contois to claim that they alone came up with that design is asinine. They were probably too busy figuring out ways to sue other companies instead of putting their efforts into delivering a product to the market. Apple wins, fair and square.

Posted by Teknojunkie on June 22, 2005 at 9:30 AM (CDT)


Apple made it to market first. It’s entirely probably that the designers at Apple had the same ideas that Contois had.

Apple was in fact incredibly late to market. iTunes, released way after 1999, was in fact just SOundJam in drag - Apple bought the program lock, stock, and barrel. And the original SoundJam’s interface (circa 1999) was not iTunes-like at all - in fact it was more like the classic Finder, with folders for genre, artist, and so on. iTunes was not an innovator interface-wise and so is not the most blatant infringer from a patent point of view - it’s just that Apple has the biggest pockets and the most to lose from bad publicity.

You go back to 1998 and you find programs like Real, J River Media Jukebox, and MusicMatch - all of which had interfaces much more “like” Contois’s claimed exclusive interface than SoundJam. Not to mention, of course, Winamp and a bunch of clones, many with skins doing a classic multi-pane media browser.

But the real issue is that Contois filed in 1996, which is definitely earlier than most players around today.

Personally, I feel that interfaces should be controlled using copyright law, and not patent law. Also, the Contois patent more properly describes a client-server system, with a central machine controling media hubs. iTunes functions more as a store-and-forward system for conveying content to devices for off-line control, and so is qualitatively and functionally different.

Posted by Demosthenes on June 22, 2005 at 2:49 PM (CDT)


I disagree.  The real issue is patent squatting.

It is unfair to file a patent, without any actual intent to create the product in mind.

Contois had at least six years to come up with a product.  Their exhibit against Apple shows a HAND DRAWING against the iTunes interface.

If patent squatting continues, this can have a negative effect on consumers in the future.  I’m hoping this trend will stop.

Posted by spiderland on June 22, 2005 at 4:19 PM (CDT)


From my understanding, it sounds like they could rename the Artist and Album field to something else- like Performer and Record, and it wouldn’t be a violation anymore.

I believe that companies should infringe on a patent or copyright that another company holds, but who are these Contois people? And if they’re suing Apple, they should sue Microsoft, Real, and every other company that uses those fields.

Posted by Eric Stevens on June 22, 2005 at 7:10 PM (CDT)


Demosthenes, did you even read the article to which you are attempting to respond? If the patent was that damn important to a company (Contois in this case) they should have filed the lawsuit sooner. They’ve had I don’t even know how many years iTunes has been available to file a lawsuit and they didn’t do it until now. Why? They have no good reason. The interface has been virtually the same in all of the iTunes iterations, especially in all the versions of iTunes 4. So they pull out a DRAWING they did in 1996 and that’s supposed to mean something. This would have been far more meaningful and credible if they had filed it when iTunes 1 was out, or at the very latest iTunes 3. Now their patent and their lawsuit mean nothing to me. I hope Apple screwed them over. I hope they did. Sitting around on their asses and doing nothing until now, Contois would deserve to get screwed over.

Posted by Jack Dawson on June 22, 2005 at 8:45 PM (CDT)


jack dawson,

There’s no statute of limitation on WHEN a patent infringement lawsuit can be filed; as long as the patent is active, they can do as they see fit.  It’s no different than what Eolas did with the IE lawsuit; they can sue whoever they want to and when they want to as they did to MSFT (while ignoring all other browsers). As long as the patent(s) are legit, all the power is in the patent holder’s court.  Timeframe and speed of legal action is irrelevant.  Besides, for all anyone knows Contois might have been in negotiations with Apple on possibly working out a licensing deal for some time, and when that fell through they THEN decided legal action was their only recourse.

Who knows what went on and how long it did before the suit was actually filed, besides the lawyers and the suits for both companies?  Who knows how long they’ve been aware of iTunes’ interface and how they felt it infringed on their previous work?

Regardless, if they have a valid patent (THAT should be the REAL argument, IMO), then they have a right to protect it, regardless of how long it takes them to finally take action.

Posted by flatline response on June 23, 2005 at 10:19 PM (CDT)

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