Warner Music, Universal Music sued for patent infringement by Blue Spike over MQA encoding process

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Major record labels Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group have been hit with infringement lawsuits over four patents related to encoding and distributing digital content.

As reported by Bloomberg Law, the lawsuits were filed by Texas-based Blue Spike LLC against WMG in a New York court and against UMG in a California court.

The plaintiff holds “over 100 patents ranging from forensic watermarking, signal abstracts, data security, software watermarks, product license keys, ASLR, deep packet inspection, license code for authorized software to bandwidth securitization,” according to its website.

The cases against the two music giants is in relation to their partnership with MQA Ltd., which owns the MQA technology, an audio compression format used in transferring high-quality audio to devices in a small file.

Blue Spike claimed that the companies violated its intellectual property “when performing the MQA encoding process”.

WMG entered into a long-term licensing deal with MQA in May 2016. That deal was aimed at increasing fans’ access to hi-resolution music globally.

“MQA makes hi-resolution music easy to stream or download to any device. Music fans will love it when they hear it,” Craig Kallman, chairman and CEO of WMG’s Atlantic Records division, said at the time.

UMG signed a similar agreement with MQA in February 2017, with UMG’s Executive Vice President of Digital Strategy Michael Nash stating that MQA’s technology “is among the best solutions for streaming hi-res audio, and one that doesn’t ask music fans to compromise on sound quality for convenience.”

Apart from the two major record labels, MQA also inked partnerships with subscription-based music, podcast and video streaming service Tidal, Alibaba-owned Xiami Music, and independent label body Merlin.

The partnership allowed these companies to produce their audio in MQA format, a lossy hi-res compression format that supports expansion up to 24 bit/192kHz, while others use FLAC, an open-source lossless format, or ALAC (Apple Lossless Audio Codec).

Other forms of lossy compression formats include mp3 or m4A and AAC, the standard download format for Apple devices.

Blue Spike alleges that WMG and UMG violated its IP when performing “a method for protecting a digital signal by creating a predetermined key and manipulating the digital signal using the predetermined key” when they teamed up with MQA.

The plaintiff said the patents in question “resulted from the pioneering efforts” of Scott Moskowitz, Blue Spike’s founder, who describes himself as a “passionate American inventor and entrepreneur” on LinkedIn. He launched the firm in 1997 after working as an undergraduate intern for Sony Corp. in Japan.

“The inciting incident that launched the company was the theft and reclamation of the founder’s personal property,” according to Blue Spike’s About page.

Fast forward to 2022, and Blue Spike is seeking an award of damages from the alleged infringement of its patents “to compensate Blue Spike for [UMG/WMG’s] past infringement of the patents in suit, and any continuing or future infringement.”Music Business Worldwide

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