Wednesday, February 15, 2006

EFF ATTACKS CLEAR CHANNEL'S '729 PATENT: Yesterday, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) announced they have filed a reexamination request on US Patent 6,614,729, titled "System and method of creating digital recordings of live performances." The patent is assigned to Instant Live LLC, which is part of Clear Channel Communications.

In the past few years, fans leaving some concerts have discovered that instead of getting a poster or T-shirt, promoters are offering a live recording of the show they just attended as a souvenir. This practice has blossomed into a lucrative business, and like everything else in commercial music, Clear Channel has now positioned itself as a gateway for the entire industry.

Accordingly, the EFF has designated the patent as one of the "10 Most Wanted" on their Patent Busting Project (never mind the fact the Clear Channel has single-handedly transformed the entire radio industry into a vapid, homogeneous musical wasteland - there, I said it).

The '729 patent has only 5 claims. Claim 1 recites the following:

1. An event recording system, comprising:

(i) an event-capture module to capture an event signal and transform it into a primary event file that is accessible as it is being formed;

(ii) an editing module communicatively connected to the event capture module, wherein the editing module accesses and parses the primary event file into one or more digital track files that can be recorded onto a recording media; and

(iii) a media recording module communicatively linked to the editing module for receiving the one or more digital track files, the media recording module having a plurality of media recorders for simultaneously recording the one or more digital track files onto a plurality of recording media.

The prior art found by the EFF deals with a company called Telex, and their EDAT digital mastering hardware/software toolkit, which EFF claims discloses the feaures of claim 1, and predates the filing of the patent application by more than 1 year. The EFF is working in conjunction with Theodore C. McCullough of the Lemaire Patent Law Firm and with students at the Glushko-Samuelson Intellectual Property Clinic at American University's Washington College of Law, in the effort to revoke the patent based on this and other evidence.

A copy of EFF's reexamination request may be downloaded or viewed here.

The prosecution history of the '729 patent can be downloaded or viewed here.

As a side note, it appears that the EFF overlooked US Patent 6,917,566, which is a continuation of the '729 patent, and has somewhat similar claims. Also, Instant Live also filed another continuation (11/119,182) back in April of 2005, which also has a similar claim scope (known in patent parlance as "milking it"). Interestingly, the '566 patent has one reference to the Telex system, although the citation merely cites the company's general web page. Even if the EFF knocks out the '729 patent, the industry will continue to be vulnerable to Clear Channel's '566 patent and possibly the '182 application that is pending in the USPTO.

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