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Sorenson Countersues Apple Over Codec Tiff

Sorenson Countersues Apple Over Codec Tiff

by , 11:00 AM EDT, July 22nd, 2002

Sorenson Media has responded to a lawsuit from Apple, which claimed that Sorenson violated exclusivity rights by offering another version of their Spark video codec to other parties. Sorenson's countersuit against Apple claims breach of contract and fraud. At the heart of the claim is Sorenson's Spark Codec, which Apple uses in QuickTime. Sorenson licensed the Spark Codec to Macromedia to be used in the Flash MX, which Apple claimed violated its exclusivity agreement with Sorenson.

In a press release related to its countersuit, Sorenson has claimed that even Steve Jobs has acknowledged in an e-mails that his company did not have exclusive rights to Spark, though Sorenson did not offer the exact e-mail in question. The company is claiming breach of contract and fraud, and is seeking damages from Apple due to lost business from Apple's claims. From that press release:

Central to the Sorenson Media claims is a February 2000 e-mail from Steve Jobs, Apple's chief executive officer, to James Lee Sorenson, Sorenson Media's CEO, which states that Apple had exclusive rights to past but not future versions of software codecs produced by Sorenson Media.

"Given the content of this e-mail, which we have attached to our counterclaims, it is difficult to understand how Apple filed this lawsuit in the first place. Apple's lawsuit claims that Apple has exclusive rights to the very same things to which Mr. Jobs' admits that Apple does not have exclusive rights," said Ed McGarr, vice president of sales and marketing at Sorenson Media.

The Sorenson Media counterclaim alleges that Jobs claimed to Macromedia that Apple had exclusive rights to Sorenson's Spark Codec, which was specifically designed for Macromedia's Flash MX product. This claim has chilled sales that Sorenson expected to achieve through co-marketing efforts with Macromedia to a very rapidly growing Macromedia Flash MX developer base.

"The Sorenson Media complaint alleges that what Mr. Jobs said to Macromedia is the exact opposite of what he stated in his February 2000 e-mail," said McGarr.

You can find more information on Sorenson at the company's Web site.

The Mac Observer Spin:

We have no idea what to make of this as of yet. If Apple has exclusivity rights, then Sorenson clearly violated those rights. If Apple does not have exclusivity to ongoing versions of the Spark Codec, then Apple will likely lose this lawsuit. Unfortunately, we don't know exactly how these contracts were worded, but we hope that the two companies can work it out. Sorenson has played an important part in the development of QuickTime, and it would be a shame to see relations between the companies become more strained.

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