Google, Apple and Napster are being sued over their online video businesses by a company that stopped offering internet video years ago. Intertainer holds a patent that it says is being infringed by some of the tech world's biggest names.
The company now only consists of two people, according to press reports, but it will seek to assert its patent rights in a Texas court after filing an action on 29th December. It had applied for a patent covering internet video distribution, and that was awarded in 2005.
Intertainer was founded in 1996 to distribute films over the internet and won investment from Sony, Microsoft and Intel. It stopped that business in 2002.
The company holds nine patents, and the current action is based on US patent number 6,925,469, which covers the distribution and management of digital media files.
Intertainer is seeking an injuction and unspecified damages from the three companies and it is thought likely that it will pursue further suits if this one is successful. Intertainer founder Jonathan Taplin told the New York Times that the company would now begin a patent licensing business.
"Intertainer was the leader of the idea of entertainment on demand over internet platforms before Google was even thought up," he said.
The choice of a Texas court is likely to have been influenced by the reputation that some Texas courts have for handing out patent-related judgments favourable to patent holders.
Intertainer did not file the application for the patent in question until 2001, five years after the company was founded and after some companies were already offering video and audio material for download. That delay in filing could complicate the company's claims.
Google owns YouTube, which leads the world in internet video. The site offers short clips of often amateur-produced content for viewing on computers and was bought by Google for shares worth $1.65 billion last autumn.
Apple owns and operates iTunes, the world's biggest legal music download service which is also moving into the business of selling video downloads.