Legal Trouble? M-audio is deep N2IT

An interesting story first popped up on Remixmag.com last week about N2It’s latest legal crusade. N2It, the Amsterdam company led by John Aquaviva, famously created and patented the original digital vinyl concept used on the first Final Scratch system. After taking on and successfully getting getting some cash out of Native Instruments, they have turned their focus to M-Audio’s Torq which also appears to infringe on their patent. All the DVS manufactures are probably in line to get a call from N2IT’s lawyers sooner or later including the biggest prize of all, Serato. Its likely that N2IT sued NI first because they were the obvious first target. Given their relationship with the original Final scratch it was an easier case to make that NI was liable for claims. Next up are the smaller DVS players like Torq, MixVibes and others while N2IT builds up enough legal precedent to go after Serato, the big fish with the most to lose in such a scenario. They will also be the first to likely fight, and possibly overturn, the patent in court.  Why do you care? Cases like this can really effect your bottom line and make it much harder for companies to make easy solutions.

Added Complexity

Some users have expressed frustration over the way Native Instruments dj software is not always fully compatible with their sound cards. For example, owning the Audio 8 and Traktor Pro does not mean that you can use them together as a Vinyl control system. You must purchase an upgrade to Traktor (Scratch) Pro in order to unlock that scratch feature. This is annoying for the customer and complicated for the company in a lose-lose situation. So why do they do it? Well, this on-going legal battle may have something to do with it.  Adding time code support in all NI dj software (including Traktor Pro) would likely mean that NI would need to pay additional licensing fees to N2IT for every copy of software raising the prices for everyone even if you don’t want to use Vinyl Control. Instead, they are probably forced to separate vinyl control, limiting the damage in patent royalties.

The Bottom Line

Patents are a good thing, they protect companies that have invested large amounts of money into their research and need to recoup those costs in the market. Without recovering the investment they cant continue to create more new ideas and creative investment is stymied. However, as ScratchWorx pointed out in their article on this subject- N2IT is not an company actively trying to sell a product or recover their investment in the market. Its also a little unclear if they were really the first to come up with this concept. Receiving a license fee from large companies like M-Audio (avid) that are making good cash off your invention makes absolute sense, as long as you don’t end up eating the hand that feeds you.

  • I bet Seratos lawers will how the judge completely ascertain the softwares source code – bring in a hole bunch of techs and just shoot tech-talk over his head until hes/or shes heard every little difference and addition they have made to N2ITs set up…hoping to stretch it out for so long he/or she figures *shit it must be different* – but with the hole idea in general, they all should have cut N2IT some royalties…

    They came up with the Concept, and figured out how to make it happen///
    well have to wait and see.., over n out – S

  • Hertzy

    RZA should sue N2it. He claims he invented digital vinyl. No joke you can hear his statement on youtube somewhere. lol

    [quote comment=””][…] Legal Trouble? M-audio is deep N2IT at djtechtools.com. […][/quote]

  • [quote post=”1344″]Point is, if the patent is public, how can you proof that you didn’t get inspiration, but you just happened to have the same idea? In general, an idea is patentable (?), only if it’s not obvius based on current knowledge, so should be quite rare that someone else have exactly the same idea[/quote]

    If the patent is valid, then all you can hope for is that nobody else can proof that you knowingly violated. You are guilty either way, even if you never heard about the patent.

  • dani

    [quote post=”1344″]If that is the case, then the patent system obviously failed, because society did not have a benefit from getting this idea into a patent, yet companies that worked out the same idea now have to pay for it.[/quote]

    Totally agree. Point is, if the patent is public, how can you proof that you didn’t get inspiration, but you just happened to have the same idea? In general, an idea is patentable (?), only if it’s not obvius based on current knowledge, so should be quite rare that someone else have exactly the same idea

  • Right the trouble in all of this is that most likely none of the companies being sued even looked at the patent. If that is the case, then the patent system obviously failed, because society did not have a benefit from getting this idea into a patent, yet companies that worked out the same idea now have to pay for it. If that is the case, then the question is why didn’t these companies do a patent search etc? See my above comments for some answers.

    Now if indeed they were aware of the patent and they did build their ideas on top of the patented idea, then of course they should be sued for ripping off someone elses idea without paying licensing fees.

    It will be up to the lawyers to proof either or, of course if the patent is upheld they will have to pay 3x the damages if they knowingly violated. And of course not knowingly violating a patent will mean they have to pay 1x the damages.

  • dani

    [quote post=”1344″]Its worth mentioning though that actually getting an enforceable patent (a non-provisional patent) takes many years and a lot of cash. So that is really not even a option for many small inventors. The provisional is easy to obtain but is very, very weak in the face of a good lawyer or a company with lots of cash.[/quote]

    True, but chances are two:
    you’re either a relatively small company with technological know how but with no production and distribution capacity, in which case you can probably afford to take the patent forward if you really believe in it; or you’re a private inventor with limited funds, in which case I would start by depositing a provisional and then seek for investors for the further steps.

    But I totally agree that is not easy for small players, reason more to support them when they have a patent and a big company is using it without an agreement

  • [quote comment=”18008″][quote post=”1344″]If they’re just doing it to make money, then it’s against the whole idea of a patent, i.e. to protect competition.[/quote]

    I dont get why patents should protect competition. Patents protect inventors who have developed a unique idea. Without patents nobody would be willing to invest time and/or money in new ideas. And if I am just a small company or a single inventor, you can’t require that I can be able to bring a product to the market. I will seek other companies that can do it, and ask for royalties. What’s so bad about wanting to make money from your own idea[/quote]

    I agree with that and Dj TT is a great example of this scenario. As a small group we ould never afford to bring out our own controller line or compete with the big companies. What we can do however is develop new ideas and concepts that they can utilize and the patent allows us to do that (sort of)

    Its worth mentioning though that actually getting an enforceable patent (a non-provisional patent) takes many years and a lot of cash. So that is really not even a option for many small inventors. The provisional is easy to obtain but is very, very weak in the face of a good lawyer or a company with lots of cash.

  • dani

    [quote post=”1344″]If they’re just doing it to make money, then it’s against the whole idea of a patent, i.e. to protect competition.[/quote]

    I dont get why patents should protect competition. Patents protect inventors who have developed a unique idea. Without patents nobody would be willing to invest time and/or money in new ideas. And if I am just a small company or a single inventor, you can’t require that I can be able to bring a product to the market. I will seek other companies that can do it, and ask for royalties. What’s so bad about wanting to make money from your own idea

  • Anonymous

    [quote comment=”17958″][quote post=”1344″]N2IT isn’t even offering a DVS solution at this point, which violates the entire spirit of a patent (i.e. the ability to compete). [/quote]

    I dont think thats the entire spirit of a patent. I can be a brilliant inventor without the ability to start an industrial production and distribution. I will patent my idea and hope some big company likes it, then share the profits. I dont know if this is the case, but generally speaking, i dont need to be on the market to claim protection[/quote]
    But you still need to compete. I think that if you have the ability to compete and you aren’t, then your patent shouldn’t be valid. Too many people are patenting things that could be really useful and then sitting on top of them and sticking out their tongue and saying, “Nah nah nah, I thought of it before you, so now you have to give me money!” The spirit of a patent is to protect someone who is actively seeking to compete. If all you’re doing with your patent is forcing other people to pay licensing fees, then your patent doesn’t protect your competition, it just means you’re looking for money, which violates the whole idea. I don’t know the full context of this situation, maybe N2IT can’t afford to sell their own solution, in that case, maybe their lawsuits are warranted, but only if it means that they’re ultimately going to be entering the market again. If they’re just doing it to make money, then it’s against the whole idea of a patent, i.e. to protect competition.

  • @Ean: patents do not get checked very well. In Europe they get checked a bit, in the US they don’t get checked at all beyond very basic sanity (did I just say sanity in the context of the US patent approval process?) checks.

    So in practice in the US a patent is worth nothing until it stood up in court. Then you start throwing around prior art, overlapping patents and their chronological order etc.

    Here is another fun bit, that shows us broken the US patent system is. Again the idea of patents is to share ideas, so that new ideas can be build on top of them, instead of people having to reinvent the wheel because ideas are not disclosed. If you are found guilty of knowingly violating a patent, then you have to pay 3x the damages. Meaning nobody in their right mind does patent checks in the US and if you talk about patents in front of software developers, you are in for a swift whack upside the head.


  • I know Ean but timeline is not “so clear”.

    Check the Create Digital post and comments.

    😉

  • [quote comment=”17958″]
    I dont think thats the entire spirit of a patent. I can be a brilliant inventor without the ability to start an industrial production and distribution. I will patent my idea and hope some big company likes it, then share the profits. I dont know if this is the case, but generally speaking, i dont need to be on the market to claim protection[/quote]

    excellent point- that is surely the 2nd intention of a patent to protect the inventor that cant afford to enter the market but does not want to be taken advantage of.

  • dani

    [quote comment=””][…] Legal Trouble? M-audio is deep N2IT at djtechtools.com. […][/quote][quote post=”1344″]N2IT isn’t even offering a DVS solution at this point, which violates the entire spirit of a patent (i.e. the ability to compete). [/quote]

    I dont think thats the entire spirit of a patent. I can be a brilliant inventor without the ability to start an industrial production and distribution. I will patent my idea and hope some big company likes it, then share the profits. I dont know if this is the case, but generally speaking, i dont need to be on the market to claim protection

  • [quote comment=”17955″]…
    Maybe Serato Patent is older than N2IT.

    …[/quote]

    Well, considering you cant patent the same thing this seems unlikely. thats kind of the point of a patent.


  • Maybe Serato Patent is older than N2IT.

    We will see…

    I said “DVS are old fashioned” yet?

  • [quote comment=””][…] I do not think companies like Rane would break laws[…][/quote]

    lol! where do YOU live? i wanna come over!!!

  • ToS

    Well, whole world is upside down.

  • @Ean: You probably wanted to say ” infringe on their patents” and not ” infringe on their copyright”.

    The issue in the patent law is that often times its close to impossible for people to even find patents that might be relevant to what they are working on. Without this, the idea of patents becomes idiotic. The idea of patents is to encourage full disclosure of non trivial inventions, so that instead of people wasting time to come up with the same idea, they can build “on the shoulder of giants”. Now this system sort of works in the pharma industry, where its very expensive to bring something to market and where its very easy to categorize patents (what does it treat, what are the ingredients etc.).

    The other issue with patents is that its very hard to determine how to ensure that the government granted monopoly is not abused to extract unjustified amounts of money for the invention or to stifle innovation (which would be the opposite of what patents are supposed to achieve).

    In practice big companies build up large patent portfolios. When they get sued, they then just tell the company sueing “look buddy, you are infringing on 5 of our patents, so lets cut a deal here”. However a new kind of company has emerged. These are companies without real products and without a product, you cannot infringe in patents, and therefore you cannot get counter sued. Worse yet, these so called “patent troll” companies are usually not the original inventors, these companies hunt for patents that are cheap to scoop up and then let their army of lawyers deal with the rest. In this case it seems that its atleast the original inventor that is sueing.

  • Kornais Francois

    They will lose if they battle against Rane.. I do not think companies like Rane would break laws and do not study their rights before making Serato. Seems N2It will have to pay some money for their lawyers and court fees. Seems an obvious loss in the first round.

  • DJ Kenton

    [quote comment=”17913″][quote comment=””]”…said time-code signal controls…”[/quote]
    Would this be a loop hole in the patent if you were to develop your own signal, as it is stating a said time-code signal?

    [quote=””]…placed on the turntable…[/quote]
    Does the patent include the CD Control?[/quote]

    As far as I understand it is vinyl only. But I may be wrong.

  • Jason J

    [quote comment=””]”…said time-code signal controls…”[/quote]
    Would this be a loop hole in the patent if you were to develop your own signal, as it is stating a said time-code signal?

    [quote=””]…placed on the turntable…[/quote]
    Does the patent include the CD Control?

  • Anonymous

    This is why intellectual property laws are fucked. I think patents should exist, sure (it sucks to have someone bigger and with more money than you steal your idea), but they shouldn’t enable someone to patent such a broad idea, wait a while, and then sue all these new companies for infringement. N2IT isn’t even offering a DVS solution at this point, which violates the entire spirit of a patent (i.e. the ability to compete). This isn’t a case of, “Oh, these big, bad companies stole our idea and we can’t compete,” it’s, “Hey, we need money, and we have a massive patent that will probably make us tons of cash!”

  • Miss pinky is also a potential target but hopefully they will leave the small open source guys alone. from what I understand its really the fundamental concept of vinyl control through a tone signal that is under patent. This encompasses everyone.

    Here is an abstract from the patent:

    “A disc for use in an apparatus for signal processing, wherein the disc during its use is placed on the turntable and is provided with a groove which can be followed by the pick-up element, and which comprises a time-code signal wherein during use of the disc the said time-code signal controls the digital audio source”

  • mtvstinks

    [quote comment=””]Seriously, Ean, do you just have a massive box of LEGO in the TechTools studio? :D[/quote]

    My Understanding of the M-Audio DVS system is that it uses MS Pinky’s time code. Is this correct? How might that factor in?

    from http://www.mspinky.com/Developers.html

    One example of an application that was created using Ms Pinky’s MPVT object is the product “Torq” from M-Audio. Two other great examples of DJ-oriented applications that feature Ms Pinky’s vinyl control are djDecks and Deckadance. To see how Ms Pinky’s vinyl control can be used for the purposes of video scratching, check out the Neuromixer and Grid2 applications, both created using Max/MSP/Jitter.

  • kidfromkibbly

    Seriously, Ean, do you just have a massive box of LEGO in the TechTools studio? 😀

    • Calkutta

      man,i hope this gets cleared up.i remember when ‘final scratch’ came out.me and my friends were making crazy scratch records with illegal samples and super ill tomes.before that,we were at the mercy of whatever dirtstyle or others were using.i dont remember anything like this before final scratch,and im 39 years old and have been scratching since my teens.not that im an ‘authority’,i jus think its only fare to give the true creator,whoever he or she is,there legal share of the product.i hope they bring turntables to court and kut shit up like crazy to demonstrate ‘turntablism’ to the judge.that would be a first.anyway,i hope this gets cleared up and scratch dj’s can always make their own crazy records without a $ 3000 record cutter.
      my 2 cents.
      calkutta