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Friskit alleges Real Networks is a patent violator

Seeks injunction, damages

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Update Little-known US technology company Friskit has alleged Real Networks and its Listen.com subsidiary have infringed its intellectual property, and this past Friday filed a complaint with the US District Court of Chicago seeking redress.

Friskit describes itself as "a technology licensing company focused on enabling consumers to conveniently find, personalise and play streaming media over a network". The company owns three patents, all issued since May 2002, which all centre on techniques to seek out, incorporate into playlists and access streamed media on a network. Friskit has been dubbed in the past the 'Napster of streaming', allowing users to find the streams they want from anywhere on the web.

Friskit claims that Real's RealOne Player Plus and Listen.com's Rhapsody service make use of such techniques without its authorisation. Its complaint seeks a permanent ban on the provision of both services, not to mention "potentially millions of dollars" in damages.

The patents in question are 6,389,467, entitled 'Streaming Media Search and Continuous Playback System of Media Resources Located by Multiple Network Addresses'; 6,484,199, 'Streaming Media Search and Playback System for Continuous Playback Through a Network'; and 6,519,648, 'Streaming Media Search and Continuous Playback of Multiple Media Resources Located on a Network'.

Real acquired Listen.com in April for $36 million, and has since integrated Rhapsody into its RealOne service as RealOne Rhapsody. Yesterday, the company claimed that it had seen a 45 per cent increase in subscriber demand for streamed media during June, not to mention a 100 per cent increase in the CD burning activity. These increase coincide with Real's move to offer CD burning for 79 cents a track.

Real and Listen.com have yet to respond to Friskit's complaint. Should they choose to defend themselves in court, their defence must surely rest on prior art - did Listen.com provide the services Friskit claims to own before Friskit won its patents?

Update

That's the question we asked earlier today, but we're indebted to reader Owen Smigelski for pointing out that what matters are the dates when the patents were filed, not when they were granted.

Owen is a lawyer with San Diego-based intellectual property law firm David R Preston & Associate, and notes that the filing dates go back to 2000, knocking back Listen.com's prior art search by a couple of years if they themselves weren't already offering the services described by the Friskit patents. ®

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