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Observer Says Patent Reexamination Likely Choice in Affinity Labs Suit

Texas-based firm has previously accused car audio companies, auto manufacturers, electronics companies and Apple Computer of violating a number of its patents

We’re learning more about the company behind the latest patent lawsuit and gaining insight about how the legal process may play out.

An intellectual property attorney familiar with the Affinity Labs of Texas’ lawsuit against Clear Channel Radio and its iHeartRadio platform says he strongly suspects the broadcaster will ask the United States Patent and Trade Office for a reexamination of the patent at the heart of the suit.

We’ve reported that Clear Channel does not comment on ongoing litigation.

Affinity Labs claims Clear Channel is in violation of its Patent 7,970,379, issued in 2011, which pertains to how FM audio signals are streamed to a wireless device and then displayed on such a device. The suit was filed in United States District Court for the Western District of Texas in March.

Affinity has previously accused car audio companies, auto manufacturers, electronics companies and even Apple Computer of violating a number of its patents. The company has aggressively defended its patents concerning digital audio.

However, Affinity’s legal targets have been very effective so far in challenging, through reexaminations, three patents in the same family as the ’379 patent, said Scott Daniels, an intellectual property attorney with Westerman, Hattori, Daniels & Adrian, LLP. “In each instance, the PTO has rejected Affinity’s claims, though Affinity still has the right to reply and perhaps overcome those rejections. I strongly suspect that there will be a petition for inter partes review of the ’379 patent, perhaps based on the prior art already cited in the pending reexaminations,” Daniels said.

One point in Affinity’s favor according to Daniels, is the company maintaining at the PTO “continuation patent applications” in the same patent family. “That gives Affinity the option of adding new claims to those pending continuation patent applications,” Daniels said.

He pointed out that Affinity filed a lawsuit earlier this week against Samsung Electronics accusing the cellphone manufacturer of violating patents the Texas-based company holds.

Affinity officials have not yet responded to an email from Radio World seeking comment on the lawsuit.