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Tuesday, December 15, 2009, 06:25 am PT (09:25 am ET)

Patent suit takes aim at Apple's iTunes, MobileMe, QuickTime

Apple and 17 other companies were named in a new lawsuit filed this week over two patents related to accessing computer software from remote systems.

BetaNet has targeted Apple, along with Microsoft, IBM, Adobe, Kodak and others, over alleged infringement of two patents. U.S. Patent No. 5,222,134, awarded in 1993, is entitled "Secure System for Activating Personal Computer Software at Remote Locations," while No. 5,103,476, of 1992, has the name "Secure System for Activating Personal Computer Software at Remote Locations."

The complainant has accused Apple of selling software to remote computers through iTunes, Aperture, QuickTime and MobileMe. BetaNet believes these products from Apple are in violation of its patent.

"(Apple is) using, selling and offering to sell computer software via a process that provides a program file — including a loader segment and a registration shell portion — to a remote computer having a display," the complaint reads. "The program file contains a first executive control program, representing a limited version of the program file. License transaction information is entered into the registration shell portion, and that information is transmitted from the registration shell to a separate registration program provided in a registration computer."

It continues: "The registration program merges the license transaction information with the second executive control program — representing a complete version of the program file to — to generate a unique overlay file. The unique overlay file is transmitted from the registration program to the registration shell, and contains the second executive control program. The overlay file is installed on the main program file, thereby allowing complete operation of the program file."

Other software specifically mentioned by BetaNet in the suit is Adobe's Creative Suite, Acrobat and Photoshop; Carbonite's online backup tools; Intuit's Quicken, QuickBooks and TurboTax; Microsoft Office, OneCare, Windows Server and Silverlight; McAffee VirusScan; and the Rosetta Stone foreign language suite.

Apple is the frequent target of patent-related lawsuits, and the iTunes software in particular is often attacked. Some recent iTunes-related patent suits dealt with information distribution and online billing methods.

The latest suit from BetaNet was filed in a U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division. Patent lawsuits are often filed there for favorable rulings.

In its annual Form 10-K filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in October, Apple said it was then defending itself from more than 47 patent infringement cases, 27 of which were filed during the 2009 fiscal year. Those suits prove costly to defend, and sometimes Apple comes out on the losing end of a large payout. Earlier this month, a Texas patent suit resulted in a 21.7 million ruling against Apple.