Microsoft sued for ZuneHD “Buy from Radio” feature

An ophthalmologist in Wisconsin is accusing Microsoft of wilful patent infringement for its Buy from Radio feature. 

The suit, filed in U.S. District for the Western District of Wisconsin earlier this week, alleges that Microsoft’s Zune music player’s "Buy from FM" feature infringes a pair of patents that were granted in 2002.

He claims her contacted Microsoft with the idea of tagging music heard on the FM radio and allowing purchases via a WIFI hotspot in 2006, and was then ignored by Microsoft, only to see the idea appear almost unchanged in 2008 with the release of the first Zunes.

In his suit, Yavitz asks for a permanent injunction against Microsoft selling the Zune with the allegedly infringing technology, along with treble damages, and court costs. He also said that his patents are broad enough that other broadcast technologies such as HD radio do not undercut the validity of his patents.

"I came up with the [patents] before there was even an iPod," Yavitz said, adding that his patents have another ten years to run.

Microsoft officials declined to comment on the suit or its merits but Yavitz said it’s possible that Microsoft is now more open to negotiation with Windows Phone 7 Series devices, which will include Zune-like features, including an FM radio.

"Windows Phone 7 has the potential of turning every phone into a Zune," Yavitz added. If the new phones take off, they could bring in a lot of income, which would make the two patents that much more valuable. Yavitz’s suit also alleges that the feature is implemented in Zune HD devices, which shipped last September, replacing earlier versions of the player.

With all the talk of patent trolls and patent wars, its often easy to forget sometimes patents protect the little guy with a bright idea.  Did Microsoft steal this idea, or was it just extremely obvious? Let us know your thoughts below.

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