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E-Data Brings Patent Push Back Home

E-Data Corporation Tuesday said it is suing Getty Images and Corbis, two digital stock photography providers that let users browse, license and download images online. The company said it is seeking damages for patent infringement.

The Port Washington, N.Y.-based E-Data said it owns a patent on downloading media from a computer to another device or object, such as CDs, DVDs and MP3 players. The patent covers a process, rather than a specific technology method. It's one of a spate of so-called business process patents covering basic Internet activities that are causing consternation in the e-commerce industry -- one that could potentially drive up the cost if computers and Internet use for everyone.

"We don't believe anything we do infringes on their patent, and we intend to vigorously defend our position," a spokesperson from Getty Images told internetnews.com.

Executives at Corbis were not immediately available for comment. The company is majority owned by Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.

E-Data recently settled European litigation with Microsoft, Tiscali, HMV, and On Demand Distribution for music downloading services it claimed infringed on the European patent, while suits against Getty and Corbis are pending in the UK and Netherlands.

U.S. patent No. 4,528,643, known as "the Freeny patent," expired in the U.S. in 2003, but still has almost a year before it expires in Europe. The company focused on licensing the patent abroad, and now has turned its attention back to the domestic scene. While it can no longer demand licenses, it can sue for damages caused by infringement in the last six years.

E-Data executives and attorneys did not respond to requests for comment, but according to a company statement, they believe the patent covers the downloading not only of photographs and music but also news articles from a computer onto almost any tangible object, including a sheet of paper.

"The company believes that this patent is the basic building block of an emerging global market for information, music, books, films and other products digitally distributed through electronic systems, networks or kiosks, including the Internet," the statement read. With more than 30 domestic licenses under its belt, E-Data warned that it's analyzing other businesses, and it won't hesitate to sue.

If that is the case, E-Data would rather you refrain from printing this article unless you already have one of their licenses.