Patent Troll Sues Netflix, Claiming It Owns The Idea Of Downloading Videos

While it took years for Netflix to finally decide to offer the option of downloading videos for offline viewing, it’s not like the company hadn’t thought about the concept. Now Netflix and others are being targeted by a patent troll who claims to have a patent over the basic idea of downloading video from the internet.

The company doing the suing is called Blackbird Technologies, as Ars Technica reports. Blackbird doesn’t actually make, do, or sell anything of its own; instead, it simply buys up every patent it can and then sues anyone doing anything even halfway similar to one of them. In short, they are your absolute classic patent troll outfit.

Last week, Blackbird filed lawsuits against Netflix [PDF], Soundcloud, Vimeo, Starz, Mubi, and Studio 3 (Epix), because all of those companies have some kind of app through which you can download some content for watching while offline.

This particular patent, no. 7,174,362, comes from an earlier era of technology. It was filed in the year 2000, and got about halfway to what we think of now as on-demand content: It’s a set-up that allows you to order some kind of content through a website, which would then be burned to a writeable CD and mailed to you through an entirely automated process.

You can see, at least, a conceptual relationship there: data from online gets turned into a form you can use offline, and take with you. And as Ars notes, anyone filing a patent for a system to ship CD-Rs to people in the year 2000 almost certainly had to be aware Netflix existed.

But although, as Ars surmises, the writer likely took inspiration from Netflix’s operations, instead of the other way around, this particular patent has met with success in landing settlements before. An earlier patent trolling company that owned it in 2011 successfully used it to reach settlements with Target and DirecTV, among others.

Patent troll sues Netflix over offline downloads [Ars Technica]