Shazam App Lands Apple, Others in Legal Hot Water

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One of the original “wow”-inspiring iPhone apps, music recognition software Shazam, is now responsible for some legal trouble for Apple. Tune Hunter, a company that claims to hold the patent on the technology that Shazam uses, filed suit against the app’s developers, as well as Apple, Gracenote, Napster, Amazon.com and Samsung, among others. It’s actually almost easier to list major players in the electronics industry they didn’t file suit against.

The patent (no. 6,941,275, to be specific) describes “a music identification/purchasing system, specifically to a method for marking the time and the name of the radio station in portable device such as a key holder, watch, cellular phone, beeper or the like which will allow the user to learn via internet or regular telephone the name of the song, artist and/or music company by matching the stored data with broadcast archive.”

That description does indeed sound like Shazam’s functionality. If you’re not familiar with the app, it works by comparing an audio clip recorded via your iPhone’s microphone to an online music database, and then returning a song, artist and album name if it recognizes the track. Besides the iPhone version, there’s also one for Google Android, RIM’s BlackBerry devices, and even web-based apps like Facebook. Oddly, those three companies somehow escaped being named in the suit, despite the iPhone’s inclusion.

Tune Hunter is looking for damages and an injunction against further infringement (which would basically halt the distribution of the Shazam app). What they most likely want, though, is a nice fat settlement from the combined coffers of the heavy hitters they cite in their suit.

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