Oh, Spotify — what you go through just to serve the American people. You took great pains to wheel and deal, taking years, just to come to our shores. You crossed your Ts and dotted your Is, and made nice with the music industry. And for what? Just a scant couple of weeks after opening here, you get slapped with a lawsuit.
The litigant in this case isn’t a record label, however — it’s a U.S. company called PacketVideo. About 10 years ago, it was once a buzzworthy enterprise that tried to bring mobile streaming video to the masses. In the end, it wound up being a letdown, and now it has resurfaced to allege patent infringement against the popular European online music service.
PacketVideo’s streaming aspirations might suggest a valid basis of some sort, but… well… not so much. Patent #5,636,276, which the company bought a couple of years ago, is ridiculously vague and tough to take seriously. The title, “Device for the distribution of music information in digital form,” could refer to almost anything. And diving into the language inside doesn’t fare that much better. In general, it just describes the basics of how music streaming works — not some innovative execution, specific invention or ground-breaking protocol. It’s like getting a patent that describes putting paintbrush to canvas, and then suing artists who create masterpieces.
Patent law was created to protect intellectual property and original works. Unfortunately these days, it has become little more than a weapon in the war against innovation. These frivolous lawsuits harping on vague concepts are way too common, and it’s sad because we, the end users, will be the ones who wind up getting short-changed.
I don’t claim to know the landscape of patent law in other countries. If you reside outside the U.S. weigh in — Is there this much legal contention among the tech firms where you live?