Google, Apple, Napster Sued Over Movie-Download Patent

A defunct online movie service has sued Apple Computer Inc., Google Inc. and Napster Inc. claiming patent infringement over the distribution of video over the Internet.

The patent in question, filed in 2001 and granted in 2005, outlines the business model for offering video content from various providers to consumers over the TV and the Internet, Intertainer Inc. said in its lawsuit.

Intertainer claims Apple, Google and Napster are using the patent without permission. The lawsuit, filed last week in U.S. District Court in Marshall, Texas, seeks damages and a permanent injunction.

Apple recently started selling movies through its popular iTunes online store, while Google offers a mix of free and for-pay video content and recently bought the highly trafficked video-sharing site YouTube. Napster runs an Internet music service.

Apple spokesman Steve Dowling said Wednesday the company does not comment on pending litigation, while Napster spokeswoman Dana Harris said the company was looking into the matter. A call to Google for comment was not immediately returned.

Intertainer launched in 1998 with investments from Comcast Corp., Intel Corp., Microsoft Corp., Sony Corp (NYSE:SNE - news). and General Electric Co.'s NBC. The service streamed movies over the Internet and provided movies on demand for cable services.

The company shut down its service in 2002 after filing a federal lawsuit accusing the major movie studios of conspiring to force it out of business by refusing to license films or charging higher fees in order to favor a rival, Movielink, jointly owned by five of the major studios. That lawsuit was settled last March.

Intertainer now licenses its patents to video on demand and similar companies.

Shares in Apple fell $1.04, or 1.2 percent, to close Wednesday at $83.80 on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Google shares rose $7.11, or 1.5 percent, to close at $467.59 on the Nasdaq, while Napster shares increased 19 cents, or 5.2 percent, to close at $3.82 on the Nasdaq.