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Apple and Amazon accused of patent infringement over video streaming services

By Kenneth Lowe | Jan 21, 2014

An Ohio-based company is suing two technology giants and a pair of movie production companies, claiming the tech companies' widely-used video streaming services infringes on its patents.

Red Pine Point LLC filed four separate suits Jan. 15 against Apple Inc., Amazon, The Weinstein Company and Magnolia Pictures in Chicago's federal court, alleging that video downloading services provided on Amazon's Kindle Fire and Apple's iPad make movies available to customers before they can be seen in theaters in violation of two of its patents.

The infringement claims involve one patent on downloading a feature-length film to a "handheld portable electronic device" before it has been released in theaters, and another dealing with displaying an advertisement urging consumers to buy a feature-length film before it is available in theaters or on DVD.

As an example of the alleged patent infringements, the suits referenced downloads and advertisements of "Bachelorette," a 2012 comedy released by the Weinstein Company, and "Best Man Down," another 2012 wedding-themed comedy released by Magnolia Pictures.

One of the patents, which is dated Apr. 16, 2013, details a "multi-functional handheld portable cellular device" that "plays a feature-length movie on the display," before the movie's public release date.

The other, dated Aug. 27, 2013, details a method of soliciting sales of such movie downloads by "playing, at plural different internet locations, advertisements to purchase a feature length movie" before the movie is available on DVD.

Both patents were included as exhibits to the suits, which note that they were invented by Phillip and Robert Lyren and that applications for the patents were filed in 2006.

Red Pine alleges that Apple made "Bachelorette" and "Best Man Down" available for download prior to their theater release dates on its iPad devices, while Amazon made the two movies available on its Kindle Fire devices.

In its suits, Red Pine asserts that Apple and Amazon's distribution methods infringed on its patents, which stipulate a method "wherein a private release group of the general public" purchases the movie for viewing before its theatrical release date.

"Before an individual may purchase 'Bachelorette' from Apple and view the movie before the release date, that individual must become a member of Apple, and thereby become a part of a 'private release group,'" Red Pine contends in its suit against Apple and The Weinstein Company.

The suits argue Red Pine's patents help distributors better manage the uncertain costs of promoting and distributing films, a method that has "posed a number of challenges and missed opportunities."

"Promoting a movie in order to drive box office sales is expensive and time-consuming... The target audience for 'Best Man Down' is not the same as the target audience for 'Avatar' or 'Titanic,'" the suit against Apple and Magnolia Pictures argues.

The patents at issue aim to mitigate those risks by testing the waters with films before they reach theaters.

"By segmenting the movie distribution market and determining which movies' potential at the box office does not warrant the same promotional effort, companies may distribute movies like 'Best Man Down' to hand-held devices like the Kindle Fire for viewing before 'Best Man Down' is publicly available for viewing in theaters or on DVD," Red Pine asserts.

In its four suits, Red Pine seeks a judgment that its patents have been infringed upon and an award of reasonable royalties, as well as pre- and post-judgment interest.

The company is being represented by Chicago lawyers Joseph J. Siprut and Melanie K. Nelson of Siprut P.C. and Matthew M. Wawzryn and Stephen C. Jarvis of Wawrzyn LLC.

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