Suits accuse A&E, FX, Tribune Media and Shazam of patent infringement

By Andrew Thomason | Jan 7, 2015

A Belizian company has filed a spate of lawsuits against American television networks and broadcast companies, as well as at least one internet startup.

A Belizian company has filed a spate of lawsuits against American television networks and broadcast companies, as well as at least one internet startup.

Global Interactive Media Inc. filed nearly identical patent infringement suits last month in Chicago’s federal court against A&E Television Networks LLC, FX Networks LLC, Tribune Media Co. and Shazam Media Services Inc.

The litigation stems from three patents Global Interactive asserts it holds. The first patent was filed in 1997, and the two subsequent patents have been continuations of that one, including the most recent patent, filed in 2005.

The patents consist of a rough outline about how to provide consumers with more information about a broadcast at the same time the consumers are engaging with that broadcast. Global Interactive's patents describe, among other things, a method where user input generates broadcast program information synchronized with said program, all with the help of a “data processor”.

In the two suits involving FX and A&E, Global Interactive claims the two networks violate its patents by putting their programing schedules on the internet.

The act of putting the schedules, along with descriptions of the individual shows, on the internet checks all the boxes on a method detailed in Global Interactive’s most recent patent, the suit alleges. The plaintiff further contends that FX and A&E violate similar methods outlined in its two other patents when they make program listings and descriptions available online.

While FX and A&E are broadcasting information about shows on their own channels, the suit against Tribune Media Co. describes a different operation. Tribune Media Co. owns Zap2it, a website and television channel, that, among other things, provides television listings, descriptions and local movie showtimes.

Zap2it grew out of an earlier service that published television listings online in the early 1990s. Zap2it, as it is know today, was released in 2000.

In its suit against Zap2it, Global Interactive cites the same issues as it does with FX and A&E, namely publishing television show listings and descriptions online. Like the two major television networks, the suit accuses Tribune Media Co, via Zap2it, of violating methods for getting data about broadcasts to consumers outlined in three of their patents.

The plaintiff's complaint against Shazam Media Services makes a slight break from the other three cases it filed Dec. 19, chiefly because its main product is an app for smartphones named Shazam.

When activated, the app will give users data, such as the name and artist, about songs playing within earshot. So, for example, if a person hears a song in a store and likes it, but doesn’t know anything about it,  she can use the app to identify it.

Global Interactive claims Shazam violates two of its patents in virtually the same way as the defendants in the other lawsuits. Specifically, the plaintiff claims how the user interacts with Shazam and is given a description of a piece of media being broadcast is an illegal duplication of its patented method.

In all four lawsuits, Global Interactive is asking for a “reasonable royalty” from the defendants, along with the highest pre- and post-judgment interest rate legally allowed.

Chicago-based attorneys Matthew M. Wawrzyn and Stephen C. Jarvis of Wawrzyn LLC filed the suits on behalf of Global Interactive Media.

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