Spotify goes to America, gets sued!

29 Jul 2011

European digital music service Spotify, which in recent weeks launched in the US and has close collaborative ties with Facebook, has already become embroiled in a patent suit over the creation and business execution of a digital music service.

Spotify is being sued by a company called PacketVideo Corporation for allegedly breaching its patent for a “device for the distribution of music information in digital form”. The patent in question was filed in 1995 by Swiss Inventor Rolf Brugger – long before Napster came along and Apple brought out its iPod and iTunes – and broadly describes a mechanism for distributing music digitally.

PacketVideo is an early pioneer of streaming audio but is only understood to have acquired the patent in question in recent years.

Where is this all going, patently speaking

The technology industry is built on patents. But it is clear the patent legal battles in America are reaching ridiculous proportions and instead of protecting innovation it is clear this activity will ultimately kill or stifle innovation.

European or Asian firms that want to break into the North American market or bring their technology to Silicon Valley where it can be finessed, matured, repurposed for growth and attract investment, must be thinking twice because of the exploitation of patent laws.

Spotify has more than 10m songs on its database. Users can choose a free-of-charge advertising-backed service or pay a subscription to hear their music without viewing or listening to ads.

Napster co-creator and Facebook’s first president Sean Parker is an investor and managing partner at Spotify.

In recent weeks, it began to emerge that Facebook and Spotify were working together on music integration features that would enable Facebook’s 750m users around the world to stream and share music.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years