Apple Hit with iTunes Video Encoding Lawsuit

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Apple is the target of yet another patent infringement lawsuit, this time from the New Jersey-based Multi-Format Inc. The company alleged in its lawsuit that Apple is violating its patents by building and selling products that support downloading and viewing video-based programs such as TV shows and movies, according to Patently Apple.

The lawsuit claims that by “making, using, marketing, distributing, providing, testing, configuring, selling and/or offering to sell in the United States and importing into the United States Power Mac G5, iPhone (including 3GS and 4G), iPad, iPod classic, iPod nano, iPod Touch, Apple TV, and iTunes products; and allowing, authorizing or otherwise providing capability and/or access to third parties or its customers to, inter alia, download and view video programs,” Apple is using Multi-Format patented technology without authorization.

Apple’s iTunes Store offers TV shows and movie downloads for purchase and rent, and the company’s hardware products, such as the iMac, iPhone and iPad, include hardware and software designed to play iTunes Store content. According to Multi-Format, that’s enough to violate its patent.

The patent in question, number RE38,079, describes a system where video content can be converted between formats, resized and stored digitally for playback on a variety of devices.

Multi-Format is asking the court for damages and back payment for royalties from Apple and “its affiliates, offers, agents, servants, employees, and all persons in active concert or participation with them.”

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Jeff Gamet

I find it interesting that Multi-Format failed to include the Intel-based Mac Pro and iMac in their claim. Oversight? Or maybe they didn’t feel it was necessary to list every Apple computer?


Sounds like another law suit that has no merit.


Glanced through the actual patent and it sounds like this patent was for broadcast use (NTSC and PAL) instead of computer use. If it’s only for broadcast use, then of course it predates (1998) anything Apple has done within iTunes. If they’re trying to make it extend to computer use (beyond their original mpeg stuff), then it opens a large can of worms allowing pre-computer age patents to apply to computer age products.


So is the patent infringement just an idea infringement. Like, can someone come up with some futuristic “maybe” device, write it up, patent it and in a successful crap shoot, grab the loot and run?

Here’s a future device dream: A small device that sends out “shut up waves”, the device to be carried by someone who wants his/her spouse to cease nagging, immediately.

Or an “idiot-idea stop wave”. Oops, not such a good idea.

Actually, I’m serious. Is this suit actually just an infringement on “ideas” or a thought experiment someone came up with years ago without any actual code or implement being produced?


“This invention relates generally to video production, photographic image processing, and computer graphics design, and, more particularly, to a multi-format video production system capable of professional quality editing and manipulation of images intended for television and other applications, including HDTV programs.”  (from the Patent “Summary of Invention”).

Having read the document from top to bottom it appears that it relates to video production / post-production. It also seems to be at the ‘content generation’ end (Final Cut) of the equation rather than the ‘consumption’ end (iTunes, Apple TV etc).

I can imagine that maybe Apple have infringed this patent in regard to software and or hardware combinations used in the post-production, broadcast, video-editing. It makes no mention (that I can find) of the internet, unless you interpret the following:

“36. The multi-format production system of claim 20, wherein the step of accessing the program in the production format occurs remotely from the step of converting the video component of the input program into the internal production format..Iaddend..Iadd. “

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