Burst.com sues Apple over iPod
Business and Law Features

Burst.com sues Apple over iPod

Santa Rosa (CA) - Burst.com announced a patent infringement suit against Apple as a response to a suit filed by the iPod maker in January of this year: Apple originally had sought invalidity and non-infringement with several Burst.com patents that potentially could collide with Apple's digital media products. Burst.com now claims that Quicktime, the iPod and iTunes infringe on four of its patents.

The suit was filed on 17 April in Federal District Court in San Francisco and aims to force Apple "to pay a reasonable royalty for (...) infringing products and services, and also seeks an injunction against further infringement." Burst has hired an armada of lawyers to prepare for battle. The firm has named law firm Hosie McArthur, which won $60 million for the company in a 2005 suit against Microsoft, as its representative in court.

The firm is supported by the Seattle office of Susman Godfrey, Houston-based intellectual property firm Heim, Payne & Chorush and Palo Alto-based intellectual property firm Carr & Ferrell. "Apple failed to license Burst's technology when it introduced its iPod and iTunes products in 2002," Burst.com said in a statement. "While we had hoped to avoid litigation and negotiate a reasonable license fee, it is Apple's own actions that have forced our hand," the firm's chairman and CEO Richard Lang was quoted in a press release.

At the center of the suit are four patents - 4,963,995; 5,995,705; 5,057,932 and 5,164,839 - which Burst.com received between 16 October, 1990 and 17 November 1992. All four patents relate to the conversion of analog audio into a digital format and outline several transmission as well as storing approaches. If confirmed valid, the patents cover audio and video "signal compression and intermediate storage in an integrated circuit, random access memory" as well as a transfer of digital audio and video to "a hard copy magnetic media." Patent 5,164,839 also mentions "capabilities to transmit and receive program information in either a compressed or decompressed format over fiber optic lines, conventional phone lines or microwaves."

Burst.com believes that Apple's iTunes Music Store, iTunes software, the iPod devices, and Apple's QuickTime Streaming products directly infringe on its patents.

In a similar patent infringement suit, Microsoft settled with Burst in March of last year for $60 million, which provided the company with a non-exclusive license to Burst's patents. While Apple is the dominant player in the digital audio market, Burst.com's suit may only be the beginning, if it is successful: If confirmed in court, Burst.com could launch a wave of license claims against all companies that offer digital audio players and audio/video download services in the US.

Burst.com was founded in 1988 as a partnership between Lisa Walters and Richard Lang, who leads the firm as chief executive officer today. The firm received its first patent in 1990, was named "IVDO" in 1992 and was renamed to "Burst.com" during the height of the Dotcom boom in 2000.