Patent holder sues Apple over video compression technology

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A new lawsuit takes aim at nearly all of Apple's entire product line, alleging that products ranging from QuickTime to the Mac Pro violate patents related to video file compression.

The lawsuit was filed Monday by a patent holder named Multimedia Patent Trust in a U.S. District Court in the Southern District of California. Also named in the suit are Canon, LG, and TiVo.

The complaint cites four U.S. patents granted to a number of different inventors between 1990 and 1996. All four inventions granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office are related to digital video compression techniques. The patents are:

Apple is specifically accused of violating the first three (the '226, '377 and '878 patents) with hardware it makes that plays video. In addition to hardware, the suit also names a number of Apple's software products, including Final Cut Studio, iTunes and iLife.

"These Apple products can encode and decode video in compliance with a variety of standards promulgated by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), including MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Part 2, and H.264," the complaint reads.

"The ability to encode and/or decode video images in these formats are included, via Apple's built-in QuickTime system, in Apple's laptop computers, desktop computers and other computing devices."

Multimedia Patent Trust states that it informed Apple of its alleged violations on March 15, 2007. It said that the Cupertino, Calif., company "refused to take a license and continues to infringe" on the patents.

Multimedia Patent Trust is attempting to convince the court that Apple should be entitled to pay a "reasonable royalty on all video-capable products sold by Apple that embody an apparatus claimed by those patents." It asserted that the company and its existing licensees have suffered "irreparable injury," for which the company is entitled to injunctive relief and damages.