Apple, Samsung and SanDisk hit by MP3 patent claim

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Apple, Samsung and SanDisk hit by MP3 patent claim

Portable heavyweights accused of violating design patent.

Apple, Samsung and SanDisk have been slapped with a patent infringement lawsuit over the companies' portable media players. 

A recently filed suit in a Texas district court claims that portable media players from all three vendors use a patented technology owned by Texas MP3 Technologies.

The patent was obtained by Texas MP3 Technologies on 15 February, the day before the complaint against Apple, Samsung and SanDisk was filed, according to Patent Office and court documents.

Originally filed by two Korean inventors in 1997, the patent claims to cover many of the basic aspects of a portable MP3 player.

The filing describes a "portable audio device suitable for reproducing MPEG encoded data [which] includes a plurality of inputs, a data storage, a display, an audio output, at least one processor, and a battery".

Texas MP3 Technologies lists a post box in the Texas town of Marshall as its principal place of business. The company does not operate a website and has no publicly listed phone number.

The firm's attorney did not immediately return a request for additional information.

It is possible that Texas MP3 Technologies was set up for the sole purpose of the legal case. Courts in Eastern Texas have a reputation for ruling in favour of patent filers, causing many cases to be filed in the State.

The suit alleges that the Samsung YP, SanDisk Sansa and Apple iPod all wilfully violate the patent. Texas MP3 Technologies is demanding unspecified damages as well as punitive damages for wilful patent infringement.

Apple's iPod is the world's best selling MP3 player, claiming 67 percent of the US market.

SanDisk accounted for more than 14 percent of all digital music players sold last holiday season, according to data from analyst firm Current Analysis. 

The suit came to light after a US court ordered Microsoft to pay US$1.5bn to Alcatel-Lucent for violating its copyrights relating to digital music players.  

Microsoft was found to have infringed on copyrights in the development of its Windows Media Player software.

Apple, Samsung and SanDisk told that they do not comment on pending litigation.
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