P-to-P partner accuses firms of patent violations

Altnet, a partner of Kazaa peer-to-peer software company Sharman Networks, has sent cease and desist letters to nine companies...

Altnet, a partner of Kazaa peer-to-peer software company Sharman Networks, has sent cease and desist letters to nine companies accusing them of misusing Altnet's patented file-identifying technology.

Altnet's TrueNames file-identifying technology makes it easy for file sharers to identify the files they want, but some market research and antipiracy companies have been using TrueNames to flood P-to-P networks with fake files or to track file downloads, said Derek Broes, Altnet's executive vice president of worldwide operations.

Some P-to-P software suppliers have also been using TrueNames without Altnet's permission, but Altnet is negotiating TrueNames licensing with those companies, he added.

P-to-P vendors would save money licensing Altnet's patented technology, instead of creating new ways to identify files. "It would be more efficient for them to work with us and license the technology," Broes said.

Broes denied that he was trying to protect Kazaa users from lawsuits from the recording industry. "Altnet's goal has always been to provide legitimate trading of files on peer-to-peer networks," he said. "That's the goal - the commercialization of peer-to-peer."

TrueNames is "the most efficient" way to identify files through identifying marks called hash marks in files, Broes added, but P-to-P suppliers and other companies could use other methods. The companies receiving cease and desist letters should stop using TrueNames immediately, Broes said, or face legal action. "It's a patent we have to protect."

Altnet sent cease and desist letters to nine companies on Tuesday, including BigChampagne, MediaDefender and Overpeer. Representatives of MediaDefender and Overpeer, both antipiracy firms, did not respond to requests for comments, but BigChampagne Chief Executive Officer Eric Garland denied his company was using TrueNames.

BigChampagne is a market research company which provides the recording industry with statistics on file swapping so that music companies can see what is popular, Garland said. His company has not been hired by anyone to identify P-to-P users so that the recording industry can sue them, he said.

"Each and every claim [by Altnet] is absolutely false with respect to BigChampagne," he added. "I think this represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what our company does."

Altnet's TrueNames technology is a method of identifying data based on the file's content, rather than by the file name, origin, location, address or other information that can be easily changed. 

The technology allows the identification of unique files on a P-to-P  network by assigning a unique identifier, or hash,  to data using an algorithm in a process protected by two US patents. This technique lets users of the technology track, retrieve, monitor and charge for the distribution of content.

Grant Gross writes for IDG News Service

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