A major intellectual property/patent infringement suit has been brought in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware against the corporate owners of numerous groups, including Beasley Broadcasting, CBS Radio, Cox Radio, Cumulus, Entercom, Greater Media and Townsquare Media—a total of 900 stations are tallied in the suit (see the top right of this page for the suit and the patents).
Why? Mission Abstract Data, LLC (d/b/a DigiMedia), the purported patent owner, claims that their radio stations are infringing on two of its patents by employing “all-digital, computer-hard-drive-based systems for music storage and delivery at FM and AM stations.”
The suit was filed by Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro LLP, which represents DigiMedia. The firm did not return calls seeking comment.
The patents (5,629,867 and 5,809,246) referred to were granted to Robert J. Goldman of Long Beach, NY in 1997 and 1998. Both are entitled, “Selection and Retrieval of Music from a Digital Database.” This, of course, describes what most stations are using today for their on-air and automation systems.
The DigiMedia law suit claims it has the “exclusive right to make, use, sell and offer the inventions [of the two] patents and has the right to sue and to recover for past, present and future infringement of the claims [of the two] patents.”
The first thing we wondered was why no equipment/software vendors were named (i.e. Broadcast Electronics, Harris, Scott Studios, RCS) in the suit. Many of the named groups are using these systems that DigiMedia claims the rights to. There is no reference in the suit to wrongfully issued licensing agreements or to the specifics of the equipment being used or the vendors who supplied it. We also note that Clear Channel, the largest radio group of all, was not named in the suit. In fact, given their claim, why aren’t thousands more radio station owners named?
The suit asks for a permanent injunction from the defendants infringing on the claims; Awards of damages with interest for the alleged infringement; costs and attorneys fees; and a post-judgment accounting of damages established by DigiMedia after the trial.
On the surface, it appears both asserted patents will expire on May 13, 2014.
Here’s the exact language of one of the patent claims asserted in the suit:
“1. A music transmission system, comprising: a computer memory storing a database comprising a plurality of pieces of music; a computer system, attached to the computer memory, for defining a predetermined sequence of music to be transmitted by the music transmission system over a communications link; means for retrieving said predetermined sequence of music from said database; and a communications network between said computer system and a remote music source for access to music not stored in the database.”
Will the group owners go to the patent office and apply for the patents to be struck down/thrown out? That process is called re-examination. They could go to the patent office and show any software or publication (even a product manual describing that process) that showed this basic technology existed more than one year before the filing.
“Given that any publication or prior public use of this concept at least by Jan. 25, 1993 [a year before it was filed] would absolutely invalidate this claim, it leaves the world to wonder whether DigiMedia’s patents could survive a validity challenge in court.” Jim Lennon, Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice patent attorney, tells RBR-TVBR. Other sources indicate the technology claimed to be “invented” in this patent was already in widespread use by 1992.
For example, RCS’ Andrew Economos must have had a patent in this arena well before that. The RCS website says its all-digital studio system debuted in 1988. Prophet Systems (bought by RCS in 2007 and both now owned by Clear Channel) was founded in 1989 by Ray & Kevin Lockhart of Ogallala, Nebraska to develop a system that would run their radio stations). Scott Studios was also an early entrant.
RCS had no comment, but Dave Scott, founder of Scott Studios, and current CEO of DaveScottCompanies.com, noted: “I have not studied every aspect of the patent application, nor am I sophisticated in the nuances of Patent Law. However, my feeling after my first reading of the 5,629,867 patent is that Robert J. Goldman’s claims about the state of the art in January, 1994 were way behind the times. Many of his statements about practices in the radio industry are misleading, if not false.
I question whether Robert J. Goldman’s 5,629,867 patent applied for in January, 1994 should have been granted.
I know for a personal fact that my Scott Studios Corp. was making and had sold dozens (if not hundreds) of radio studio automation systems with music on hard drive capabilities prior to his 1994 application.
It is true that his description of radio studio equipment in 1994 as relying on playing compact discs manually or perhaps with a CD juke box reflected the reality at the majority of the universe of the 14,000 radio stations. It did not reflect the products available from Scott Studios as early as 1992.
Although I believe my Scott Studios was first to widely merge both computerized music schedules and commercial logs and was the first to do the dubbing of station music libraries to hard drive free with purchase of the hard drive studio automation system, and first to combine those with a user-friendly touchscreen controller, I believe Tim Valley’s AudDisk was first to deliver automation with music on hard drive prior to 1992. Their product line was then sold to Gentner in Salt Lake City but not aggressively marketed. There also was a product in the late 80’s or very early 90’s (prior to 1992) from Compsonics with music on hard drive for radio. And 360 Systems’ DigiCart was available prior to 1992 playing music from hard drive as well as removable large capacity Bernouli discs.”
The radio groups we contacted could not comment on pending litigation.
RBR-TVBR observation: Lucky Beasley – first alphabetically so they’re stuck as the name of the lawsuit. Given the age of the patents and the amount of automation equipment that has been sold, we wonder why has it taken DigiMedia so long to assert its claims? Those claims seem rather dubious, since multiple products were already on the market when the patent applications were filed.