Apple, AT&T, Shazam Entertainment, and others have been sued in federal court by Tune Hunter, which claims the various companies have infringed on its patented song identification technology. Applied for in 2000 and granted in September, 2005, U.S. Patent no. 6,941,275 describes a music identification system that can either record the timestamp and currently playing radio station on an electronic device, or record and submit for processing a sample of audio in order, each technique capable of determining the song playing at the time. After submission, the song’s title, artist, and other information can be presented to the user via Internet or traditional voice telephony, with the possibility of providing a purchase link alongside the results.
Though Shazam and other companies may have offered music identification services since before 2005, Tune Hunter could recover damages for infringements taking place after its patent was granted. Apple, although potentially protected by its App Store contract, may be liable given that it has actively promoted Shazam’s iPhone application in a dedicated advertisement for the iPhone 3G as a reason to purchase the device. Other companies named in the suit include Samsung, Amazon, Napster, Motorola, Gracenote, Cellco Partnership (Verizon Wireless), LG, and Pantech; it is unclear whether additional applications, such as Melodis’s Midomi or Griffin’s iFM, will also be impacted by the patent.