Man sues Apple, Microsoft and Sony for patent infringement

By Andrew Thomason | Dec 10, 2013

A New York man has filed at least three patent infringement suits in Chicago's federal court against some of the biggest names in consumer electronics and software.

William Grecia brought complaints against Apple, Microsoft and Sony on Dec. 6 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois through his attorneys, Matthew Wawrzyn and Stephen Jarvis of Wawrzyn LLC.

The suits claim the tech giants violated Grecia’s patent that protects digital content from being pirated. Grecia filed his patent on Jan. 11, and was awarded it on Sept. 10, according to his suits.

The patent pertains specifically to digital rights management, or DRM, which intends to prevent the unauthorized use of digital music, movies, books and other content.

DRM has worked in the past by having the providers of content maintain computer servers to constantly check if their content is being used by authorized users. Generally, rules and restrictions about where content can be used are determined when the content is first accessed by users.

Traditional DRM schemes allow for a set number of copies. For example, one for a user's laptop and one for a user's desktop, something that can cause trouble if a user buys a new computer and has already used all of his or her copies of the content.

Grecia claims his patent provides a way to make DRM use easier, especially across multiple platforms, while still preventing piracy of content.

The suits assert that Grecia’s patent relies on a relatively new encryption code and procedure that links DRM content to a username, email or other token that isn’t necessarily tied to a specific computer.

“With this invention, a consumer of digital content may enjoy the content on a multiple number of the consumer’s devices and share the content with the consumer’s friends and family, all while protecting against unlicensed use of the digital content,” according to one of Grecia's suits.

Grecia uses the iCloud electronic storage offered by Apple as an example of the company’s infringement on his patent. iCloud allows users to access content stored in the iCloud account across multiple platforms by logging in with an Apple ID and a password.

Grecia’s claims against Microsoft and Sony follow along the same argument.

In his suit against Microsoft, Grecia points to the ability to purchase applications from the Windows Store and use them across cellular phones, tablet computers, laptops and desktop computers as an example of the software giant’s alleged patent infringement.

Grecia, in his suit against Sony, claims the ability to sign in to Sony Entertainment Network with a unique identification and access digital content across a multitude of platforms shows the company is violating his patent.

In all three suits, Grecia makes it clear that his claims of infringement are limited to just the examples highlighted.

He is seeking royalties from Apple, Microsoft and Sony for the alleged use of his patent and treble damages based on the claim that the patent infringement was willful, as well as pre- and post-judgment interest at the largest rate allowed by law.

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