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Lawsuit claims Apple's iTunes video content violates patent

A new lawsuit takes aim at Apple's delivery of movies, TV shows and other videos through iTunes, alleging that the service is in violation of a patent owned by Multi-Format Inc.

The New Jersey company is the owner of a patent granted in 2003, entitled "Multi-format audio/video production system." The company filed a lawsuit last week, alleging that the iTunes store and devices that connect to it to download videos are in violation of at least 20 claims within that patent.

"Apple has made, used, sold, offered for sale and/or imported products which enable the downloading and viewing of video programs, including, but not limited to, the personal computers, including the Power Mac G5, iPhone (including 3GS and 4G), iPad, iPod classic, iPod nano, iPod touch, Apple TV and iTunes products, throughout the United States," the complaint reads.

The patent, first filed for in 1998 is credited to inventors Kinya Washino and Barry H. Schwab. It describes the reprocessing of video to fit a certain aspect ratio or framerate to ensure that content will play on a specific device.

"An audio/video production system facilitates professional quality image manipulation and editing using an enhanced general-purpose hardware," the patent reads. "A program input may be translated into any variety of graphics or television formats, including NTSC, PAL, SECAM, and HDTV, and stored as data-compressed images, using any of several commercially available methods such as Motion JPEG, MPEG, etc."

The lawsuit claims that by allowing its customers to download and view video programs, Apple is in violation of the patent. It asserts that Multi-Format is entitled to a "reasonable royalty" in return.

The civil suit was filed in a U.S. District Court in the North District of Illinois.