Apple sued over DVD playback patents
Mon 12 Sep 2016
U.S.-based rights holder Nissim Corp is suing Apple, claiming that the company sold devices with unlicensed DVD playback functionality.
The suit was filed on 7th September in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, using Nissim Corp’s established boilerplate for pursuing companies which it contends have neglected their licensing duties in this regard.
The functionality in question is the invention of Nissim Corp’s President & CEO Max Abecassis, a Florida resident who contributed to the DVD playback feature-set in the 1990s, and chiefly concerns the use of ‘Seamless Play’, primarily used in slipstreaming varied video segments into coherent output, for the purposes of providing differently-rated versions of a product, ‘director’s cuts’ or other user-requested permutations of standard playback.
Nissim’s current licensees include many companies which, unlike Apple, actively contributed to the DVD specifications via the DVD consortium in the 1990s, such as Sony, Toshiba, Hitachi, Mitsubishi, JVC, and Pioneer. Non-contributing licensees include Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett-Packard, LG, Lenovo, Sharp, and Dell.
Another allegedly unlicensed feature which Nissim Corps claims Apple took advantage of before all but abandoning the optical drive is the controversial User Control Operations switch, which prevents the user from skipping playback or fast-forwarding through it. So if you ever wondered who was behind this frequently-criticised feature, now you know.
The patents listed in the suit include No. 5,434,678, ‘Seamless Transmission Of Non-Sequential Video Segments’; 5,589,945, ‘Computer-Themed Playing System’; 5,913,013, ‘Seamless Transmission Of Non-Sequential Video Segments’; 6,151,444, ‘Motion Picture Including within a Duplication of Frames’; 6,208,805, ‘Inhibiting a Control Function from Interfering with a Playing of a Video’; and 6,643,207, ‘Playing a Variable-Content-Video Having A User Interface’.
Apple has continued to devolve its laptop and desktop product range away from internally-fitted drives, increasingly offering the external USB SuperDrive as a ‘legacy’ extra for the age of Netflix and cloud storage.
A similar Nissim Corp lawsuit against ClearPlay, begun in 2004, was ultimately thrown out on appeal ten years later. ClearPlay was itself the subject of controversy for providing the capability of ‘auto-censoring’ movies, a control method ratified by the George W. Bush administration with The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2004.