Pandora Beats Playlist Tech Lawsuit After Judge Says Patents Are Bogus – Billboard

A federal judge says Pandora won’t have to face a patent lawsuit that the streamer called a “shakedown,” ruling that the supposedly proprietary playlist technology was so basic that it shouldn’t have been patented in the first place.

A company called Bluebonnet accused Pandora of infringing patents that allow users to generate playlists based on their preferences. But in a decision handed down Wednesday, Judge Vince Chhabria ruled that that was merely an “abstract idea” that couldn’t be locked up under patent law.

“These claims may capture the core of a good business idea,” the judge wrote. “But they are directed to an abstract idea and lack an inventive concept—and are therefore invalid.”

When boiled down, the judge said Bluebonnet’s system was really just the idea of “customizing a product according to a customer’s likes and dislikes” – something he said was hardly a novel concept: “Tailoring products to fit taste is a long-prevalent practice and one of the building blocks of human ingenuity that cannot itself be patented.”

In a statement to Billboard, a spokesman for Pandora said the company was “pleased” with the ruling: “As this case demonstrates, Pandora will not fall victim to the shakedown tactics of nonpracticing entities and will vigorously defend itself against baseless claims.”

Attorneys for Bluebonnet did not immediately return requests for comment on the decision.

Bluebonnet sued Pandora in 2020, claiming the internet radio giant had ripped off three different patents that the firm had purchased from a defunct tech startup called Friskit Inc. The patents at issue in the case cover a “playback interface” that streams media from a server to a device, a “rating system” that takes and stores user feedback, and a tool that “automatically and dynamically” generates a playlist based on the ratings.

But in Wednesday’s decision, Judge Chhabria said the patents describe broad ideas, not a “particular technological improvement” that would help to generate better playlists. He cited the fact that the original inventor “acknowledged that it did not invent streaming media, playlists or media players,” as well as a seminal Supreme Court ruling that says merely adding computer technology does not make an abstract idea patentable.

“These are functional and generic computer subsystems that merely mark out the steps of implementing the abstract idea,” the judge wrote. “The termplaylist generator,’ for example, is just a placeholder for whatever computer software or hardware performs that step.”

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