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SanDisk sued for MP3 patent dispute

Written by Dave Horvath @ 15 Dec 2006 6:40 User comments (20)

SanDisk sued for MP3 patent dispute Known for its flash memory and MP3 players that hit the market with most of the functionality of the market leading competitors yet at cheaper prices, SanDisk is the target for a recent lawsuit and injunction by the Italian company Sisvel S.p.a.
With the injuction submitted to a Berlin court, Sisvel were granted seizure of SanDisk products at a recent trade show. German authorities raided the 2006 IFA trade show and took control of any and all SanDisk MP3 products on display as well as advertising materials. The grounds for this seizure come by the fact that Sisvel believes SanDisk had not secured the proper patents for its MP3 playback on their devices. According to a Sisvel representative, the Berlin District Court ruled the seizure legitimate and warranted even though no ruling has come about stating that any actual patent infringement has been committed. As backwards as this may sound, this potentially could open the door to future devices in that more companies may be obligated to obtain patent licenses for anything with Sisvel's MP3 audio playback.

Many consumers may not know of Sisvel, but they have obtained many of the patents for various forms of audio playback. They claim that their patents are essential for all forms of MP3 playback and have convinced many hardware giants including Apple and Microsoft to purchase them. SanDisk claims that its players do not infringe on their territory in anyway and holds fast to their claim that they owe Sisvel nothing and will not pay them anything.

With a long background of lawsuits, Sisvel is going for the collective throats of SanDisk by not only pursuing action in Germany, but the Netherlands, the UK and the US as well.

ARS Technica

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20 user comments

115.12.2006 9:06

so sisvel developed and pateneted the .mp3 format and playback codecs?

215.12.2006 9:47

Not exactly. They have laid claim to many (most) of the playback codecs for mp3. I think they own patents on encoder binaries as well. What I don't understand is why so many companies (MS and Apple included) are in their pockets when they could just use the open source encoder binaries and playback codecs. Then again mp3 patents (or any other patents) is a subject i'm versed in so we'll just wait and see what the experts have to say ;)

315.12.2006 10:07

so sisvel developed and pateneted the .mp3 format and playback codecs?
No. Thomson/Fraunhofer owns MP3. And, they didn't "develop" anything. They claim to have purchased some other patent rights that are required along with a Thomson license. In other words, this (unidentified) patent existed before the MP3 patent. For example, it is possible that someone got a patent for "lossy digital audio compression", and if that patent hasn't expired it would cover almost all audio compression formats... You can get patents for broad-general ideas like that. Otherwise, people could steal your idea by changing some silly little thing.

416.12.2006 9:45

DVDdoug nothing like claiming a idea you have not built or made yourself merely claiming it in the hopes some cooperation stumbles across it years down the road...

516.12.2006 11:26

Free money yeah. I hate companies that do stuff like this

616.12.2006 14:10

Maybe I should patent "Using legal action to pursue financial gains through frivolous lawsuits". Then I can collect on Sisvel!

716.12.2006 18:38

It's worth a shot. Might as well; it's what they're doing. I mean, they just patent stuff to make money later. I say go for it. Make you some cash money, eh?

816.12.2006 19:28

I just thought, why doesn't the entire music industry switch to OGG or FLAC? Because they're open source, they could just add whatever DRM they feel like, no? Also, could they not force you to use Winamp or Amarok to convert your music avoiding license fees entirely from the hardware? How about you buy a "GeneriX Music Player", then you download the "GeneriFree Converter Pack" required to transfer files. Because the software is free and not bundled with hardware, the license is free, right? Then the software converts your MP3s to OGGs on the fly while transferring batch files. It could be completely transparent to the end user.

916.12.2006 20:23

Sorry Doug, but you cannot copyright or patent a concept. Your exmaple of Sisvel copyrighting/patenting the concept of "lossy audio compression" is incorrect, the patented definition of MP3 is not a concept but rather a set of defined ALGORITHMS backed by research data...Sisvel didn't just make up this lawsuit and Thompson were the senior research and funding partner of the Fraunhoeffer Institute. Sandisk new this long before the made their products and just hoped noone would care. Too bad for them and for every long term Sandisk consumer in the future. They should have opted for non MP3 pro based libraries....

1016.12.2006 22:51

@DR34MER "They should have opted for non MP3 pro based libraries..." How do you know they didn't? How does Sisvel know? Have they reverse-enginered a sansa player? No. "Sisvel believes SanDisk had not secured the proper patents". Emphasis on *BELIEVES*.

1117.12.2006 5:04

Well I guess we'll need to see how far the injuction holds and what the longterm effects are. And yes, "believes" is the key word. Just as it would be if you thought someone had impinged on your rights...."Proven" becomes the next relevant word and until SanDisk can dispute the belief of the other party with some proven facts then the injunction will hold. Personally, I hope it does and all portable music manufacturers move on to Vorbiss, OGG is a much nicer, much more freely licenseable codec.

1217.12.2006 8:59

What irks me is that companies are allowed to harass opposition, rivals, and whoever they please, without even presenting any evidence against them. What's more, they can get AUTHORITIES to do it for them! "I don't like them. Sic'em, cops!"

1317.12.2006 17:40

According to the licensee list shown at Sisvel’s website, it seems Microsoft hasn't conducted the license with Sisvel. Since MS's OS/AP can play MP3-format music, I wonder why so far MS hasn't been sued or seized?

1418.12.2006 6:03

^^ microsoft is so powerful that some unknown italian company could take them on. remember the monopoly suits against MS. well, life goes on ans MS is still making a lot of money.

1518.12.2006 6:06

italian company could take them on
i meant "couldn't"

1618.12.2006 9:36

Admitting that sometimes patents have been 'infringed upon,' my first gut feeling is shame on the German court for allowing this without due process first. All of this 'stuff' just causes the cost of techy items to skyrocket. Also, I admit I like SanDisk and their products.

1718.12.2006 10:09

Ha ha ha! Hey Mommy... The man used the words "due process" and "German courts" in a sentence like they belonged together! What a funny man.

1820.12.2006 0:48

More 'corporate criminals' trying to cash in. I hope they lose this case and have to pay all costs!

1920.12.2006 15:56

Generally, the burden of proving infringement is imposed on the plaintiff (patent holder). But in this case, it seems anybody providing MP3 players will be presumed to constitute infringement and the accused party should make efforts to show the operation of his players is substantially different from Sisvel’s patents. German juridical system really makes me confused!

2030.12.2006 18:53

I wish someone had told me SanDisk's MP3 players were so cool. I'd have bought a few. I guess I should run out & buy a handful before they become illegal. ...or is this all a clever marketing scheme?

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