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Thursday, February 11, 2010, 08:20 am PT (11:20 am ET)

Apple hit with streaming media patent infringement suit

Apple and its rival Microsoft are both the targets of lawsuits from an Israeli technology group, which has alleged that both companies infringe on patents it owns pertaining to streaming media.

Specifically, the suit takes issue with Apple's HTTP Live Streaming technology, which Emblaze believes infringes on its own media streaming methods that were first introduced in 1998. The company was granted a streaming related patent entitled "Apparatus, method and a computer readable medium for generating media packets" on Oct. 6, 2009.

"(The) patent is infringed by Apple's HTTP Live Streaming Application intended for use in Apple's iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad devices as well as in Apple's Mac OS X Snow Leopard operating system. The notice to Apple also offered a license under Emblaze's technology," a company statement reads.

Apple debuted the HTTP Live Streaming standard in iPhone 3.0 in 2009. The Cupertino, Calif., company has provided the QuickTime Streaming Server for the last decade, but that format has run into issues as it is often blocked by firewalls. But the new HTTP streaming technology allows simple real-time streaming of content and can offer multiple versions of clips in different formats which could automatically switch based on bandwidth availability.

The company has also investigated new streaming technology that would make compression in video files less visible to the human eye. Such technology could mask artifacting that often appears when video file sizes are reduced.

The Emblaze suit also targets Microsoft's IIS Smooth Streaming technology, which is employed in Silverlight, its Web-based competitor to Adobe Flash. Emblaze says its "Live Streaming" technology allows users to send live or pre-recorded audio and video to other devices. The technology allegedly conserves data, does not require a devoted server, and allows reliable streaming through firewalls.

"Emblaze has made substantial investment into research and development to build a rich portfolio of intellectual property over many years. While we are happy to license our technology to third parties, we will vigorously defend our rights and our competitive position," said Naftali Shani, chairman of Emblaze.

As a major corporation, Apple is unsurprisingly bombarded with lawsuits. Last October, the company noted that it was then defending itself from more than 47 patent infringement cases, 27 of which were filed during the fiscal year. The company said that responding to claims, regardless of merit, consumes "significant time and expense."