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Apple Faces Lawsuits Aplenty

Chris Richardson
Staff Writer
Published: 2005-03-07

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The legal teams representing Apple certainly have their plates full at this time. Apple is facing a number of legal matters concerning leaks of privileged information, patent infringement, and those of an intellectual property manner.

Concerning the leaks, by now, many are aware of Apple's lawsuits aimed at a number of blogs that cover the Mac industry. The owner of the Apple news site ThinkSecret was sued by Apple because of the site's leaking of information about the Mac mini and the iPod Shuffle. The lawsuit, while seeking no damages, is asking the owner to release the source of the leak.

This request has, of course, made many people wary of the site's first amendment rights, as well as whether or not bloggers should be considered journalists. Many bloggers championed the perceived rights of ThinkSecret and its owners. One such blogger, Randall Newton, seemed to sum up the blogosphere stance with this statement appearing on his LoomisBoy blog:

"This is a troubling development, but most likely only a temporary setback for First Amendment rights. Every new form of media in the last 200 years has gone through a similar rite of passage. Blogs (like mine) are as valid a form of ‘press' as the pamphlet was during the American Revolution. Citizen journalism via web logs is every bit as protected by the First Amendment as the work of the New York Times and CBS.

If the current judge in the Apple Computer case doesn't recognize that, someone higher up the appeal chain will."

Mirroring these statements are ThinkSecret's actions. Last Friday, the site asked for all charges to be dropped in a press release appearing on the site:

"Apple's lawsuit is a affront to the First Amendment, and an attempt to use Apple's economic power to intimidate small journalists. If a publication such as the New York Times had published such information, it would be called good journalism; Apple never would have considered a lawsuit."

Should bloggers be afforded the same protection as the Wall Street Journal? If the first round is any indication, whether they should or shouldn't may not matter…

In other legal news related to Apple, not only are they executing a lawsuit on one end, they are also being hit with two on the other. Two separate lawsuits questioning certain iPod/iTunes features have been filed against Apple.

The first, filed by Chicago-based Advanced Audio Devices LLC claims the iPod violates a certain patent pertaining the term "music jukebox". Apparently how Apple's player functions violates AAD's idea behind their broad patent. endgadet.com offers more:

…a quick search of the [United States Patent and Trademark's] database reveals that AAD were indeed granted a patent on July 1st of 2003 for a "music jukebox which is configured for storing a music library therein" that "includes a housing, audio input structure on the housing for receiving audio signals, audio output structure on the housing for outputting audio signals, and a data storage structure in the housing for storing audio signals." (Which sounds like a pretty broad patent.) Apple has yet to issue a response.

The other lawsuit facing Apple concerns the company's approach to digital rights management. A Hong-Kong based company called Pat-rights has issued a demand for 12% of Apple's revenue from their iTunes music service. iTunes makes use of Fairplay to protect the rights of its music inventory, but they have not patented the technology responsible. Because of this, Pat-rights feels Apple must be using their software to protect its digital music.

The Mac Observer offers this look at the situation:

Pat-rights patent describes a method of "protecting publicly distributed software from unauthorized use" using a sub-program for encryption, a sub-program "for authorizing (the) use of a software product," and a sub-program for authenticating a users computer.

The patent holding company claims Apple has not patented its Fairplay technology and that for that reason it must be using its patent. "This is certainly a patentable technology," Pat-right president Peter Chung said in a prepared statement released in late February. "If iTunes does not patent it, there must be a very good reason for them not to do so- someone else has patented this."

It certainly sounds like Apple's busy start to 2005 is going to remain that way, if not more so.

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About the Author:
Chris Richardson is a search engine writer and editor for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest search news.

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