Roxio, CD-R Industry Under Legal Fire from Optima

Claiming that industry-accepted, association-endorsed CD burning technology in use by several hardware and software companies is infringing on its own 1997 patent, Optima Technology has sued rival Roxio in an attempt to enforce its patent protections.

The suit, filed in federal court in Orange County, California, late last week, could have implications beyond Roxio, a CD-burning software company and parent of the new Napster online music service.

Optima claims that CD recording technology endorsed and used by companies that make up the Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA) — Roxio, Apple, Sony, Microsoft, Pioneer, Toshiba, HP, JVC, Verbatim and others — is infringing on its “recordable CD-ROM accessing system” patent.

“As you can see, it’s very much of an industry-wide situation,” Optima attorney Robert Lyon told TechNewsWorld.

One at a Time

Lyon, a partner at the law firm of Holland & Knight, confirmed Optima’s position that nearly all OSTA members — which constitute the majority of the CD recording industry — are infringing on Optima’s patent.

“There’s a large number of people in the industry using the OSTA 1.5 UDF protocol, which is — based on our position — what the patent covers,” he said.

However, the attorney added that Optima intends to “take one case at a time.”

“We believe that when we prove that Roxio is infringing, others might be more interested in a license than in litigation,” Lyon said.

First Target

When asked why Optima chose to bring suit against Roxio first, Lyon cited several reasons.

“They were quite prolific in using [the technology],” he said, adding that the companies had been in talks to possibly avoid litigation.

Lyon said that other reasons for pursuing Roxio, which spun the CD-burning business from hardware seller Adaptec, included that it was one of the main suppliers of the burning software. Both Optima and Roxio headquarters are located in California.

Roxio Response

Roxio, which recently has been focused on the relaunch of the new Napster and challenging Apple’s successful iTunes online music service, responded to Optima’s claims by calling them “utterly without merit.”

“At Roxio, we respect the legitimate intellectual property rights of others but in this instance there is no argument that the claims set forth in the patent read on any Roxio products,” the company said in a statement.

“We intend to aggressively defend ourselves in this litigation,” the statement added.

Hard To Handicap

Yankee Group senior analyst Mike Goodman told TechNewsWorld that while it appears the technology targeted by Optima for patent protection is in wide use, the issue remains unclear.

“It’s difficult when you talk about underlying technology that on the surface seems to be the entire industry,” Goodman said. “Patent suits are real difficult things to figure out.”

While he speculated that changes made by Roxio might have prompted the suit by Optima, Goodman added that it is also difficult to discern why and when a company defends its patents.

“Some do it early and often, and others wait,” he said.

Previous Patent Case

The suit against Roxio is not the first time Optima has taken legal action to enforce patent and trademark protections on its software. In July, the company announced a confidential settlement of a federal suit brought against “a key CD-R software manufacturer” in California.

“The company, a key Macintosh software company, was caught earlier this year violating essential software patent and trademarks belonging to Optima Technology,” said a company statement.

To resolve the infringement, the unnamed company was forced to pay Optima an undisclosed financial penalty, acknowledge Optima’s copyright, patent and trademark, and agree not to challenge or participate in a challenge of Optima’s intellectual property rights.

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