Patent Dispute Goes After iTunes

It just wouldn’t feel right getting through a month without another lawsuit. Apple (s aapl) is in the firing line this time from Online News Link, which claims Apple infringed on patent No. 7,508,789. Ah yes, good old 7,508,789: “the transmission of digital information through a broadcast channel and bi-directional channel.” Or something.

The complaint from California-based Online News Link specifically targets iTunes. The complaint, filed Oct. 8 in the Texas Eastern District Court, claims:

Defendant Apple infringes, either directly or indirectly, through its operation of iTunes and the email and Web-based products, systems, and services offered via iTunes.

Patent No. 7,508,789 describes a system that allows quick search and retrieval of broadcast information via the Internet. It was awarded to Online News Link as recently as March 24.

It’s sometimes hard to know for sure what these complaints are really about, particularly since the descriptions in patents can often be so cumbersome and, too often, frustratingly generic. Here’s an excerpt, courtesy of AppleInsider, of the patent description:

The amount of information delivered is preferably sufficient to satisfy the needs of a large number of subscribers so they do not have to obtain additional information using the bi-directional channel. The broadcast information is stored on fast storage media located at subscriber sites.

Well, to me, that sounds like every commercial online media service that’s ever existed since the late ’90s. But what do I know?

Apple isn’t alone, though, and enjoys some big-brand company in this new lawsuit. Online News Link’s complaint claims some other very big players have committed the same egregious infringement. Dow Jones, Forbes, Morningstar and several others are listed defendants.

ONL adds in its complaint, “Each Defendant has purposefully and voluntarily placed one or more of its infringing products, services, and systems into the stream of commerce,” while MacNN reports that ONL “is asking for a jury trial, with the aim of recouping costs and damages. Many such cases are settled out of court.”

ONL’s complaint adds:

Each Defendant has committed and continues to commit acts of patent infringement, directly and/or through agents and intermediaries, by offering for sale, selling, and distributing certain infringing products, services, and systems in Texas and, particularly, the Eastern District of Texas.

AppleInsider’s Neil Hughes suggests the decision to file the suit in the Eastern District of Texas is of particular relevance, since “complainants often file [there] in hopes of a favorable outcome.”

So, clever legal acumen? Or just very sneaky? I guess it depends on your point of view. I tried to find some information on Online News Link and found no official web site, no business description, just the company registry on the California Business Portal, and endless references to this complaint filing. But I won’t say patent troll if you won’t.