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Friday, September 01, 2006, 10:00 am PT (01:00 pm ET)

Apple settles iTunes software interface lawsuit

Apple Computer has settled a lawsuit filed by a Vermont-based business owner who claimed the iPod maker stole his software interface design and used it to create iTunes.

The terms of the deal, which were reached following a 15-hour negotiating session, were not disclosed, according to the Burlington Free Press.

As first reported by AppleInsider, Contois Music Technology in June of 2005 asked a Federal Court to stop Apple from distributing its iTunes jukebox software and requested that it be awarded damages over an alleged patent violation.

Specifically, the suit alleged that Apple's iTunes software interface design infringed on Contois' six-year old design patent (US Patent No. 5,864,868) entitled "Computer Control System and User Interface for Media Playing Devices."

In the 10-page suit, lawyers for Contois said that David Contois, the owner, conceived of and developed a computer interface for playing music on an internal or external computer-responsive music device, which he then exhibited at the 1995 COMDEX trade show and the 1996 NAMM music industry trade show.

According to the suit, persons who were at the time employed by or later became employed by Apple were present at both trade shows and viewed Contois' software. The suit charged that Apple later "copied" the invention and used the design ideas in the interface for iTunes.

Specifically, Contois documented 19 interface aspects of the iTunes software that it claimed were in direct violation of Contois' patent. Those areas included iTunes' menu selection process to allow the user to select music to be played, the ability of the software to transfer music tracks to a portable music player, and search capabilities such as sorting music tracks by their genre, artist and album attributes.

"We're glad to get back to teaching music and selling musical instruments," Dan Contois, a brother of David Contois, told the Burlington Free Press. "The terms are confidential. We can't discuss them."