A Texas shell company, Smart Audio Technologies, has filed a suit claiming Apple’s iPod Nano and other devices violate its patent for random song playlists.
The suit comes just six months after a jury found Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) violated the playlist patent of another Texas entity, Personal Audio LLC, and ordered the tech giant to pay $8 million. Apple is appealing that decision.
The new case turns on US Patent 6185163 which appears to cover the ‘random’ function common to MP3 players:
A method is provided for altering a play list of a Random Access Player without interrupting the generation of output by the Player.
The patent was issued in 2001 and since obtained by Smart Technologies which, according to Texas state records, was formed last year.
While these type of “patent troll” lawsuits are filed everyday against Apple and other technology companies, this one is notable because Smart Technologies is represented by a new law firm founded by Joseph Farnan Jr., a former federal judge who worked in the same Delaware court where the lawsuit was filed.
Farnan is not the only one to quit the bench to represent patent plaintiffs. Last year, the judge who helped create East Texas’ famous ‘rocket docket’ left to join the patent law firm run by his son.
Patent litigation has become huge business in recent years and has attracted major investments from private equity firms.
A Texas-based attorney for Smart Technologies, Steven Geiszler, declined to comment on which investors are behind Smart Technologies.
Playlist patents are becoming a major nuisance for tech companies. In November, Personal Audio LLC filed a suit claiming Amazon’s Kindle products violated the same patent that it used to obtain the $8 million jury verdict against Apple.