Long Island, N.Y.-based E-Data filed lawsuits this week against 14 companies alleging they owe back royalties on its "Freeny Patent," which covers the process of downloading content from a computer to other devices, such as MP3 players and CDs.
Among those companies being sued is Amazon.com, The New York Times Company and Hallmark Cards.
U.S. patent No. 4,528,643, filed by Charles Freeny Jr. in 1983, makes claims on a method for "reproducing information in material objects utilizing information manufacturing machines located at point of sale locations."
The patent expired in the U.S. in 2003, but E-Data is claiming that some of the computer and Internet industry's biggest players owe back licensing fees, prior to the patent's expiration date.
E-Data still has rights to the European version of the Freeny Patent for another year, where it has been hitting up various international firms for back royalties.
The company is backed by leading intellectual property law firms Simon, Galasso & Frantz in the United States and Howrey Simon Arnold & White in Europe.
While the patent holder has already settled with software giant Microsoft Corp. and several other companies for their music download services, Amazon and others have joined a laundry list of companies currently in litigation with the patent holder, including Cinemark USA, Regal Entertainment Group, Getty Images, the Thomson Corp., International Data Group, Movietickets.com, Ticketmaster, Marcus Theaters Corp., Fandango, Franklin Electronic Publishers and NewsBank.
In what is considered the company's biggest licensing agreement to date, E-Data recently reached an agreement with Apple Computer over Apple's iTunes music download service.
In most cases, E-Data is seeking payment for each time a consumer downloaded digital content from a network over the past six years.