Post Media Systems, LLC, recently filed separate lawsuits against Apple Music, Pandora and Google for allegedly infringing four patents related to music streaming. These three lawsuits were filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Interestingly, Post Media Systems admits to being a Texas corporation with a principal place of business in Texas. Nonetheless, Post Media Systems chose to file this lawsuit in Illinois, where the company seemingly has no connections. Such a filing tactic tends to suggest a strategy and namely, that the attorneys for Post Media Systems believe Illinois to be a more favorable venue for the plaintiff’s case.
Post Media Systems is an obscure company. Indeed, a Google search for the company primarily, if not solely, produces results relating to the multiple lawsuits filed by the company and not any actual information about the company itself or its dealings, including the locations thereof. The company is perhaps best known for previously suing Spotify and iHeartMedia, alleging similar claims to those currently at issue. In 2016, the company named Spotify in a patent infringement suit, which was filed in Texas, but ultimately settled out of court.
According to the complaint, as well as the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Public Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR) system, Post Media Systems, LLC is the assignee and owner of all right, title and interest in and to each of the disputed patents. Such an interest includes the right to assert all causes of action and obtain any remedies for infringement of these patents. However, Post Media Systems is not the original owner of these four patents. Rather, these patents were invented by Alan Bartholomew, a software developer, who was the original owner of the patents. Bartholomew owns SoniClear, a digital recording and automated audio-transcription company. It was not until 2017 that these rights were assigned to Post Media Systems.
While, in the United States, the inventor is presumed to be the initial owner of a patent or patent application, ownership can be transferred or assigned. Ownership is key to enforceability as patent ownership grants the owner the exclusive right to exclude others from making, using, or selling an invention for a specified time period (the term of the patent). Here, there was likely a patent assignment agreement, or similar contract, which transferred Bartholomew’s patent rights to Post Media Systems. This change in ownership was recorded with the USPTO, thereby providing Post Media Systems the right to file such lawsuits.
The complaint describes Bartholomew’s upbringing in a Quaker home, where he studied music and performed with the cello and his eventual self-teaching in software development. Moreover, the complaint goes on to discuss his journey to developing the inventions taught by the four patents at issue. More particularly, the complaint explains that Bartholomew “worked in his spare time to find creative ways of combining his musical interests and software expertise.” Bartholomew sold audio and video recording software products through his company, SoniClear, but apparently seeks to retire with recovery from these three industry giants.
The patents at issue, United States Patent Nos. 7,069,310, 7,472,175, 8,725,832, and 8,959,181 issued between 2006 and 2015, for a “System and Method for Creating and Posting Media Lists for Purposes of Subsequent Playback” (and similar titles). According to the complaint, each of these disputed patents involves “a specific functionality of computers and networks to post, share, and playback media, overcoming posting and interface issues specific to different computing systems and accounts on shared networks.” Post Media Systems claims that each of these defendants directly infringes these patents “by making, using, selling, importing and/or providing and causing to be used without authority within the United States, a system directed to a specific functionality of computers and networks to share media for playback.”
Direct patent infringement occurs when the accused exercises one of the exclusive rights granted to the owner of a patent without authorization from said owner. More specifically, direct infringement takes place when a person, without authorization, makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patent invention within the United States or imports the same into the United States. As sought by Post Media Systems, the patent owner is entitled to recover monetary damages and even attorney’s fees, in exceptional cases. Despite the seemingly baseless nature of these claims, there remains a chance Post Media Systems will convince a jury otherwise and prevail.