Eastern Texas court orders Apple to pay $8 million in patent trial over iPod playlists

“Apple Inc. was told to pay closely held Personal Audio LLC $8 million after a federal jury in Texas found that the maker of iPod music players infringed patents for downloadable playlists,” Susan Decker reports for Bloomberg.

“Personal Audio, a patent licensing company with an office in Beaumont, Texas, sued Apple in 2009 for $84 million in damages, claiming infringement of two patents,” Decker reports. “The inventions cover an audio player that can receive navigable playlists and can skip forward or backward through the downloaded list. Apple contended that it wasn’t using the inventions, and that the patents were invalid.”

Decker reports, “The case is Personal Audio LLC v. Apple Inc., 09cv111, U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas (Lufkin).”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Oh, wherever will Apple ever find eight whole million dollars to satisfy the latest rocket docket beneficiary?

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “JES42” for the heads up.]

40 Comments

  1. Lufkin, TX, population 35,000. The judge was probably the cousin of Personal Audio, LLCs principals. I’d like to see one of their “patented audio players” for sale somewhere.

    1. Inbreeding will produce mutants. Thus the inexplicable decision. Next the judge will award $100 million in damages for the ‘play’ button on the iPod, another $100 million for the ‘fast forward’ button and finally $100 million for the ‘rewind’ button.

    2. Build spectacular Apple retail stores in Lufkin, Longview, and Beaumont, even if they don’t make much profit. Create an army of Apple fanatics within the Eastern District jury pool, and surely some of the judges’ families might wind up as contractors or employees.

      On that point, do they exclude Apple customers from the jury in this case?

    3. This is a Federal Court, not a “local one”. Judge was appointed by Clinton in 1999.

      This court’s operation has nothing to do with the “rural nature” of the area. More to do with the Judge’s broad interpretations (plantiff friendly perspective) and desire to get these things settled ASAP.

    1. I wonder how much the judge will award Personal Audio in the case of Ballmer losing his left nut – what if it were to be forcibly wrenched from him? Would that constitute squirting on a Zune?

    2. Did you even read the article…? A jury found Apple guilty. If you’re not familiar with our judical system, I suggest that you read what a jury is before you call the judge an idiot. Once found guilty, by the people, he had to levy the claim in favor of Personal Audio. Before calling somebody an idiot; you may want to understand the process to prevent yourself from looking like an idiot. Which you do by your comments.

  2. At least they didn’t get the $84 million they were seeking, they only got $8 million. To Apple, that’s like asking one of us to cough up 8 cents, so no real harm done. And virtually all federal judges are supreme idiots, not just this one.

  3. Those saying it’s chump change for Apple, including MDN, are missing the point.

    It’s bad precedent, for a patent that should never have been granted in the first place, if the brief description is accurate.

      1. Stop picking on Madden law. Hand it to the Canadians to poke fun at an American legend, player, coach and commentator. Sure he fumbles around grammatically and all, but give him a white board, a camera and a mike, and BOOM!! Here’s a guy that loves Brett Farve!

      2. I must be infringing patents somewhere too, i constantly create 3 hour long playlists and record them onto 7″ reel tapes, which i can easily navigate from song to song or skip ( forward advance switch).
        All the makers of “mix” cds that are sold publically or via web stores.. they too are doing the same.
        PVRs?
        When will a fkcing person ever make a patent with provable intent to do something other then sit silently like a flee, waiting?
        Parasites… either exterminate them… or flick them onto your enemy.

  4. Amazing how many people who don’t even take the time to review the case or understand how patents or the court system work resort to name calling when their favorite company loses in court. So I suppose, based on the above reasoning, that Apple’s multiple-touch gesture patents shouldn’t be valid either? How about the recent patents Apple was awarded for 3D GUIs?

    Journalists take no time to learn the ins and outs of anything before they print the story, so the details by necessity are boiled down to basic terms. Keep that in mind before you spout of again.

    1. Well, it’s not as simple as you make it out either…
      Granted, we are looking at sparse details that are not spelled, but it is disingenuous to suggest that the Apple patents for MultiTouch are just as spurious as these for Personal Audio likely are.

      Speaking of details, and basing a contention on reason:

      First, this Playlist stuff and MultiTouch you bring up are likely not equivalent. The thing about the MultiTouch gestures themselves being “obvious”, etc. would not be the “patentable” part of Apple’s patent per se. These would be Trademarked for look and feel, etc. The underlying tech is what Apple would patent: how the screen detects and accepts the gestures, how the software predicts what you might have meant, the “friction”, “springiness” and “inertia” of the UI response, etc.

      What has Personal Audio got in its “Patent”? Real tech innovations used in a working product?

      This is what people here are disputing. IF Apple says they are NOT using the TECHNOLOGY “detailed” (very much doubtful there is anything there) in Personal Audio’s patent, then we take that at face value, regardless of details or not. Apple said it, I have no problem believing they could accomplish the same thing on their own, and do much better to boot. If anyone can, surely Apple can.

      Secondly, regardless of lack of details in urrounding the court proceedings and arguments one way or the other by either side, this “patent” held by Personal Audio can be checked out. Apparently it is pretty sparse on tech details. Apparently, it pretty much does only describe organizing audio media by Artist, Album, Song — If so, and again, it can be checked out, that IS pretty obvious and should NOT have been awarded a patent.

      So again, when Apple is reported to have argued that the patent is invalid, we are taking that at face value — because a) it checks out with facts that we do know, and lack of further details are neither here nor there (the patent is in the public domain); and b) there is no reason to think that Apple of all companies couldn’t have come up with their own implementation of an hierarchical system of categorization if they put a couple of their dumbest engineers on it for a couple of days.

      1. I read the patents. They are for an Internet radio interface. More in line with “pandora” or “last.fm.” That is not the way iTunes works (yet).

        But I can understand why the jury would be confused; the wording is convoluted.

    2. I think we all know how the court system works. Kind of like a swing hanging of two branches with the tree trunk in the middle.

      But of course Biz Law elitists like you will always defend them no matter what. Afterall, the injustice system is what you have (probably) signed up to uphold……so its going to he almost impossible for you say anything against the lawyer culture in the US. Why do you think 60% of US senate and 37% of house of representatives are layers. They go there so they can pass as many harmful & destructive laws and regulations to provide work for their lawyer friends. Cynical? I wish! Someone I know- passed his bar exams in 2005 – tells me that he used to think the law was to promote freedom liberty and justice, but in fact he soon came to realize that what the law had become was for bureaucrats to regulate every aspect of society for monetary and “power” advantages. This Texas region is doing just that, holding up its reputation of awarding meaningless patents awards so that others might use their services in the future.

  5. …You can patent a playlist? Well, then let me go patent the videolist. It’s like a playlist, but with videos.

    Let’s see, how many times have I infringed on patents? Oh, all of those CDs that I used to burn before we got a car with an iPod interface? Hm.

    1. It’s not the playlist that’s being patented, it’s the implementation of an idea into actual use.

      The problem here is the transfer/sale of patent rights. Allowing a patent to be transferred or sold to an entity or person who has no intention of implementing its use in a product undermines the patent system. Use it or lose the rights to it, I say.

  6. Seems like any Tech company that gets sued in the eastern district part of Texas can’t win. I bet the Judge and its Lawyers are getting big bucks under the table when it comes to Apple and other Tech Companies. Our whole legal system sucks in my opinion. They are being bought off.

    1. “Our whole legal system sucks in my opinion.”
      And in the opinion of the rest of the planet, I think. A phrase used to indicate disapproval in Canada is, “That’s a real US style lawsuit” – and, of course, everyone knows what the implication is.

  7. In the courtroom during closing arguments, Apple all but volunteered to pay $5 million. Apple’s defense was fairly passive. Apple could have made this go away long ago with some chump change. Don’t make rash judgements until you have complete facts.

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