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Friday, September 18, 2009, 10:50 am PT (01:50 pm ET)

Apple, other retailers target of patent infringement suit

A newly filed lawsuit accuses Apple and numerous other online retailers for violating a 14-year-old patent claiming ownership of randomly generated encryption keys for security.

The complainant, TQP Development, owns a patent titled "Encrypted Data Transmission System Employing Means for Randomly Altering the Encryption Keys" filed in 1995. Along with Apple, the suit names Ticketmaster, Fandango, Live Nation, UPS, CVS, DHL, MetLife, Broadcast Music, eBay, Half.com, MicroPlace, Viva Group, ProStores, PayPal, and BillMeLater.

"When Apple and/or Apple's customers connect to Apple's Web site, a communication link is established between host servers and the client computer," the suit reads. "Data transmitted over this communication link comprises a sequence of blocks, and is transmitted as packets in a sequence over the communication link. Certain data transmissions (both from the client computer to the host server, and from the host server to the client computer) are encrypted according to the claimed method."

The complaint goes on to say that Apple generates, or instructs client computers to create, numerous pseudo-random key values for encryption of data transmitted. It specifically mentions the Apple Store at store.apple.com, alleging that it and "various" Web sites owned by the Cupertino, Calif., company infringe on U.S. Patent No. 5,412,730.

This isn't the first time TQP has sued a number of companies for its encryption methods. Last year, the company targeted Merrill Lynch, Bank of America, Capital One and a number of other financial institutions in a similar suit.

The latest lawsuit targeting Apple was filed Wednesday in a U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas, where patent suits are often filed for favorable rulings. It requests a jury trial, and alleges that TQP Development is entitled to "damages, costs, expenses, prejudgment and post-judgment interest" from the list of defendants.