San Francisco - The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is challenging a bogus patent on Internet music files that could stifle new innovations in online music distribution.

Seer Systems was awarded this illegitimate patent for a system and method for joining different musical data types together in a file, distributing them over the Internet, and then playing that file. But in a reexamination request filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today, EFF and the law firm Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder show that descriptions of this technology were published a number of times before Seer Systems made its claim—including one in a book written by Seer's own founder and the named inventor of the patent, Stanley Jungleib.

"Mr. Jungleib extensively publicized techniques for music distribution in his book, and he did not seek a patent until after the methods entered the public domain," said EFF Senior Intellectual Property Attorney Michael Kwun. "Patenting technology that has already been publicly disclosed and widely adopted opens the door to lawsuits against legitimate innovators who are creating new products in good faith."

In fact, Seer Systems has already sued Beatnik, Inc., a company creating music software for mobile devices. Beatnik and Seer later entered into a settlement, which means Beatnik may well have paid money for a license to an invalid patent. Enforcement of the illegitimate Seer patent also threatens to compromise at least two public media standards, MPEG4 and XMF.

"The United States patent system is meant to encourage, not stifle, innovation," said Paul Grewal of Day Casebeer. "We are confident that the Patent Office will take a close look at these meritless claims by Seer Systems."

Day Casebeer attorneys Renee DuBord Brown and Andy Chan were also instrumental in researching and drafting the reexamination request. Students from the Cyberlaw Clinic at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard Law School provided assistance by drafting the prior art description that EFF posted on its website. The Seer patent being challenged is U.S. Patent No. 5,886,274.

The challenge to the Seer patent is part of EFF's Patent Busting Project, which combats the chilling effects of bad patents on the public and consumer interests. So far, the project has killed one patent covering a system and method for creating digital recordings of live performances. Four more reexaminations are underway by the USPTO due to EFF requests.

For the full reexamination request:*/

For more on the Patent Busting Project:


Michael Kwun
Senior Intellectual Property Attorney
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Paul Grewal
Day Casebeer Madrid & Batchelder

Related Issues