Universal Music Group (UMG) and Warner Music Group (WMG) are officially facing patent infringement lawsuits from an entity called Blue Spike, which claims defendants infringed its intellectual property “while performing the MQA” . [Master Quality Authenticated] encoding process” to bring high resolution audio to fans.
Blue Spike LLC (along with Blue Spike International and Wistaria Trading) has just filed a complaint in federal court (New York for the WMG trial, California for the one involving UMG). One of the substantially similar actions names defendants Universal Music Group itself, UMG Manufacturing & Logistics and Universal Music Publishing Group, the other being filed against parties including Warner Music Group and Warner Records.
Meanwhile, the lawsuits describe Plaintiff LLC as a Texas-based company that owns a number of patents invented by a certain Scott A. Moskowitz. Blue Spike’s website details the history and nature of the company’s operations with an “about” section of over 750 words.
The detail-focused site also points out that the entity owns north of “100 patents ranging from forensic watermark, signal summaries, data security, software watermarks, product license keys, ‘ASLR, deep packet inspection’, etc.
Finally, regarding the substantive details associated with the two cases, the legal text states that Blue Spike International operates out of Dublin, Ireland, and “has recently been acquired by Blue Spike Inc., a Florida company.” Wistaria, for its part, “is a Bermuda company with a place of business” in Hamilton.
For the sake of (relative) brevity, each of the 19-page actions centers on the alleged infringement of four patents:
#7,664,263 – “Method for Combining Transfer Functions with Predetermined Key Creation,” invented by Moskowitz and published by the USPTO in 2010, the suits claim.
#8,265,276 – Also “Method for Combining Transfer Functions with Predetermined Key Creation”, invented by Moskowitz and published by the USPTO in 2012, according to the complaints.
No. 7,813,506 – “Systems and Methods for Enabling Open Access to Data Objects and for Securing Data within Data Objects”, invented by Moskowitz as well as a certain Mike W. Berry and published by the USPTO in 2010, according to filings.
#7,647,502 – “Optimization methods for inserting, protecting, and detecting digital watermarks in digital data,” invented by Moskowitz and published by the USPTO in 2010, according to legal documents.
The allegedly infringed patents describe inventions “in the field of digital information protection”, according to the lawsuits, and the “pioneering efforts” of the individuals responsible spurred “the development of commemorated data protection systems, methods and devices in the mid-2000s.”, according to the text.
“At the time of these pioneering efforts,” both the UMG and WMG lawsuits assert, “the most widely implemented technology to address the difficulty of protecting intellectual property was copy protection. However, the industry has widely recognized the need for superior IP protection technology because the cost of developing copy protection technologies was high and did not sufficiently reduce piracy.
The inventions detailed in the referenced patents represent “a means of solving at least this need”, claimants claim, citing as evidence of purported advantages over the prior art, including improved “authentication management, verification and authorization with steganographic protocols to achieve efficient results, reliable and secure exchange of digital information.
With respect to the specific infringement claims against the defendants, however, the defending parties, as initially mentioned, allegedly used inventions described in the patents while partnering with MQA to make hi-res music available to fans. (UMG announced a tie-up with MQA in February 2017, while WMG did so in 2016.)
Warner Music reportedly learned of the patents at “conferences, organizations and industry events where Blue Spike’s patent portfolio was discussed” many years ago, in addition to a “business proposal for August 2000 to incorporate Blue Spike’s patented watermark technology”.
Universal Music, in addition to allegedly discovering the patents at conferences and events decades ago, reportedly took over the technologies involved via a 21-year pact with Blue Spike. “By way of example, in the years 2001-2003, UMG and Blue Spike entered into and conducted business pursuant to an agreement whereby UMG licensed certain software from Blue Spike,” the appropriate lawsuit states.
Finally, it is claimed that UMG and WMG “acquired knowledge and/or knowledge” of the patents (and, in turn, of their alleged infringement) via the lawsuits that Blue Spike brought against Spotify, Pandora, SoundCloud and many others. ‘others. As of this writing, the defendant labels do not appear to have publicly responded to the complaint.