E-Data sues Getty Images and Corbis

Digital media company E-Data files a patent infringement lawsuit over the downloading of data onto "tangible objects," the latest moves in its effort to protect its intellectual property.

Digital media company E-Data announced on Tuesday it had filed patent infringement lawsuits against Getty Images and Corbis, the latest companies that may eventually be forced to pay licensing fees to directly sell their products over the Internet.

The two suits in a U.S. District Court are the latest in a string of litigation the company has engaged in since the early 1990s, seeking to protect intellectual property for distributing digital content via the Internet and loading it onto some other material or device for reproduction.

"We're moving forward in enforcing our rights under the patent laws. That's part of our global strategy," said Gerald Angowitz, special assistant to E-Data chairman Bert Brodsky. "We would like to reach a licensing agreement with the parties, rather than litigate for the sake of litigation. But failing that, we do intend to pursue our rights."

The company alleges Getty and Corbis infringed on its patents by electronically transferring stock photos and images to customers at a remote location, where the material was purchased and reproduced. E-Data's patent covers the downloading and recording of data, including photos, text and video, from a computer onto a tangible object--a tape, a CD, even a sheet of paper.

The patent, granted in 1985, covers the transmission of information to a remote point-of-sale location, where it is then transferred to a material object. U.S. courts have held that saving information such as a song onto a computer's hard drive, and then selling the information on such objects as a disc or store kiosk would be covered under the patent.

Similar issues fueled a lawsuit against Microsoft and several music services. E-Data sued several music services, including Microsoft's over its European music download service, late last year, alleging the companies infringed on its patent. But in January, the companies reached a settlement.

With its U.S. patent having expired in January of last year, E-Data has until December 2008 to file any retroactive claims against companies it believes infringed on its patent when it was still in effect. As a result, E-Data is seeking to file its U.S. lawsuits as soon as possible, Angowitz said.

In Europe, E-Data's patent does not expire until 2005. As a result, the company has shifted its litigation attention to Europe. It currently has a lawsuit against Corbis and Getty in the Netherlands and United Kingdom courts.

Representatives from E-Data and Corbis were not immediately available for comment.

While Corbis and Getty are the latest lawsuits E-Data has filed a suit against, Angowitz said they are by no means the last.

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