Apple iTunes, Sony PlayStation Network targeted in suit

South African inventor alleges that iTunes and PlayStation Network are in violation of his patent

A South African inventor has claimed in a U.S. federal court that Apple's iTunes and Sony's PlayStation Network infringe a patent relating to a "data vending system" issued to him in 2004.

In lawsuits filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, Benjamin Grobler alleged that Apple and Sony have infringed U.S. Patent No. 6,799,084 by making and offering infringing data vending systems such as iTunes and the PlayStation Network, and that the companies are inducing their customers' infringement by using these systems, according to Grobler's attorneys.

Sony and Apple did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawsuits.

The invention provides among other things a data vending system, including a data depot for storing digitized or analog music, video, games, information, and computer programs, and a data dispensing device in communication with the data depot, according to a record of the patent with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

It also provides for a uniquely identifiable recordable data carrier, described as a recordable device like a removal hard disk or flash memory, configured for recording data from the data dispensing device, and a database for keeping a record of the data recorded by a user onto the recordable device, at least a part of which is stored remotely from the device.

The invention aimed to address the issue of copyright infringement in which copying usually takes the form of unauthorized copies being made from an original or authorized copy. It also wanted to allow authorized end users to recover lost or damaged data without having to purchase again an authorized copy from the copyright owner or a licensed vendor, and also allows for the deletion of the data after a certain period if it is downloaded under a rental scheme.

The complainant has asked the court among other things for a judgment that Apple has infringed and continues to infringe the claims of the patent, besides a claim for damages to be decided at the trial. A copy of the complaint against Sony was not available in the court records.

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