Music Choice Sues Stingray, Accusing TV Rival of Patent Infringement

Music Choice, a provider of digital music services to pay-TV providers, has sued Canada-based competitor Stingray Digital Group, alleging infringement of four patents.

Music Choice — whose owners include Comcast, Sony and Time Warner — alleged that Stingray’s digital music service infringes four Music Choice patents, including patents covering onscreen technology that display music- and song-related visuals and facts. Music Choice is seeking an injunction barring Stingray from using the patented technology as well as unspecified monetary damages.

According to Music Choice’s suit, Stingray developed the allegedly infringing features after it obtained access to confidential information about Music Choice’s technology and distribution agreements as part of talks about the potential acquisition of Music Choice.

UPDATED, June 7: Stingray released a statement saying Music Choice’s lawsuit is “without merit” and that it intends to defend itself vigorously. “Although Stingray is in the process of analyzing the claims made in the complaint, including the validity of the patents asserted by Music Choice, Stingray believes that the Music Choice allegations are simply not relevant: Stingray does not use (much less infringe) the Music Choice patents,” the company said in a statement. “Given the significant inroads that Stingray has made in the U.S. market with its industry-changing technology, Stingray believes that Music Choice’s complaint is without merit and primarily motivated by competitive concerns rather than a desire to protect its intellectual property.”

The patents at issue in the lawsuit are U.S. Patent Nos. 8,769,602, 9,357,245, 7,320,025 and 9,351,045.

Customers of Stingray include AT&T U-verse, which dropped Music Choice’s channels in early 2015. The company, based in Montreal, Quebec, claims it reaches 400 million TV households in 152 countries.

Music Choice, which launched in 1991, is owned by Microsoft, Arris, Sony Corp. of America, EMI Music Publishing, Time Warner, Comcast, Cox Communications and Time Warner Cable (now part of Charter Communications). The company filed the lawsuit against Stingray in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

“Stingray must compete fairly in the marketplace without using Music Choice’s proprietary, patented technology in blatant violation of our intellectual-property rights,” Music Choice president and CEO Dave Del Beccaro said in a statement. “Stingray’s unauthorized and infringing use of technology developed and patented by Music Choice is detrimental, not only to Music Choice, but to our customers and the industry as a whole.”

According to Music Choice, its services currently have more than 47 million monthly listeners in the U.S. through Cablevision Systems’ Optimum, Charter Communications, Comcast’s Xfinity, Cox Communications, Verizon FiOS and other operators.

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