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[FYI] Amazon sued for patent infringement


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Amazon sued for patent infringement 

By Margaret Kane, ZDNN April 13, 2000 4:12 PM PT 

URL: http://www.zdnet.com/pcweek/stories/news/0,4153,2542378,00.html  

Amazon.com Inc., which has been under fire for making certain 
controversial patent claims, is now being sued by a San Francisco-
based music firm for, of all things, patent violation.  

Intouch Group Inc., which filed the suit in U.S. District Court in 
San Francisco earlier this week, alleges that Amazon, as well as four 
other firms, violated a patent governing the way consumers sample 
music online.  

The patent, referred to as a "network apparatus and method for 
preview of music products and compilation of market data," was 
granted to Intouch in October 1999. This extended an earlier patent 
that dealt with kiosks placed in music stores. Intouch's kiosk 
system, the iStation, allows users to listen to samples of songs 
before purchasing CDs. It also allows businesses to gather users' 
demographic data through a registration process.  

But company CEO Joshua Kaplan said the patent goes beyond simply 
playing songs online.  

"It covers (a user) going onto a site and requesting to listen to pre-
selected portions of pre-recorded music -- anything from sample up to 
full track," he said. Kaplan said the patent does not pertain to 
music issued by record companies. But because much of the technology 
used to transmit audio files over the Net requires the songs to be 
altered in some way, the patent effectively covers most online music 

Amazon did not immediately return calls for comment. Liquid Audio 
Inc., Listen.com and Warner Brother's Entertaindom declined comment. 
Discovermusic.com officials said the company is reviewing the case 
with its attorneys.  

Intouch wants the court to grant an injunction that forbids the 
defendants from violating the patent, and it asks for unspecified 

Growing patent controversy  

Patent suits, particularly ones involving business methods rather 
than straight technology, have been the source of much controversy in 
the tech community.  

Ironically, Amazon.com has been at the heart of much of that 
controversy. The software retailer has taken out patents on its one-
click ordering method and affiliate marketing technique. It also 
filed suit against some competitors to protect its technology.  

That triggered a storm of criticism. CEO Jeff Bezos subsequently 
issued a public letter calling on the U.S. Patent and Trademark 
Office to rethink the way it issues business-method and software 

The appeal seems to have worked. The Patent Office said earlier this 
month it is considering a makeover that would include efforts to 
revamp the way in which those patents are granted.  

However, Bezos has so far not indicated any willingness to give up 
his company's patents. Indeed, Amazon is continuing with efforts to 
prosecute alleged violators of its patents.  

"It's going to be interesting whether he's willing to stand behind 
those words," Intouch's Kaplan said of Bezos.  

Technology catches on  

Kaplan defended his company's patent, saying he has spent years 
developing the technology for a specific application.  

"The difference is that we spent $30 million building a business. 
We've been doing this for 10 years, and we patented that system. The 
only difference was we amended it to cover a networked version of 
what we did earlier," he said.  

"When we initially got (the patent) in 1993, people said 'Who's going 
to subscribe to a service to listen to pre-selected music? What a 
narrow patent. It's worthless.' But in 10 years the industry has 
moved in our direction. What was once an extremely narrow patent has 
become broader."  

He said Intouch had notified about 30 companies last year that it had 
applied for the patent.  

"We weren't going out there with a big stick and saying 'Let's try to 
get these people to do this,'" he said. "This is just in the sprit of 
understanding intellectual property."  

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Es duerfte sich wohl um US-A-5,963,916 vom 05. Oktober 1999 handeln. 
Der Patentanspruch 1 lautet:

1. A method for enabling a remote user to preview a portion of a pre-
recorded music product from a network web site containing pre-
selected portions of different pre-recorded music products, using a 
computer, a computer display and a telecommunications link between 
the remote user's computer and the network web site, the method 
comprising the steps of:  

a) using the remote user's computer to establish a telecommunications 
link to the network web site wherein the network web site comprises 
(i) a central host server coupled to a communications network for 
retrieving and transmitting the pre-selected portion of the pre-
recorded music product upon request by a remote user and (ii) a 
central storage device for storing pre-selected portions of a 
plurality of different pre-recorded music products;  

b) transmitting user identification data from the remote user's 
computer to the central host server thereby allowing the central host 
server to identify and track the user's progress through the network 
web site;  

c) choosing at least one pre-selected portion of the pre-recorded 
music products from the central host server;  

d) receiving the chosen pre-selected portion of the pre-recorded 
products; and  

e) interactively previewing the received chosen pre-selected portion  
of the pre-recorded music product. 

Die Patentanmeldung hat schon eine bewegte Geschichte hinter sich:

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This is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 
08/668,327 filed on Jun. 26, 1996 ABANDONED which is a continuation 
of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/282,153 filed on Jul. 28, 1994 
abandoned, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. 
No. 08/035,661 filed on Mar. 23, 1993 abandoned, which is a 
continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 07/957,444 filed on 
Oct. 6, 1992, now U.S. Pat. No. 5,237,157, which is a continuation of 
U.S. patent application Ser. No. 07/582,253 filed on Sep. 13, 1990 

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In nuce geht dieses Patent also auf eine U.S.-Patentanmeldung aus dem 
Jahre 1990 (!) zurueck, die dann x-mal nach dortigem Patentrecht 
abgestorben und dann (wohl mit hinzugefuegter "new matter"?!) als  
"continuation" weitergefuehrt worden ist.