Doctor Sues Microsoft Over Zune’s “Buy From FM”

Doctor Edward Yavitz, a ophthalmologist from Illinois, has filed suit against Microsoft, alleging that the “Buy from FM” feature built into Zune devices—and later extended to the Zune HD—infringes on patents he was granted way back in 2002. The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin, asks for a permanent injunction barring Microsoft from selling Zunes or other devices with infringing technology, plus triple damages and court costs.

The suit could potentially have wide implications for Microsoft—Microsoft introduced its “Buy from FM” feature to the Zune in 2008, and extended it to the Zune HD. The feature is also expected to migrated to Microsoft’s forthcoming Windows Phone 7 Series smartphone platform.

Yavitz holds a number of patents related to ophthalmology, although the two patents in question here—6,463,649 and 6,473,792—are clearly related to radio broadcast technology. Yavitz’s complaint reproduces letters to Microsoft he sent in 2006 in which he pitches—with a fair number of grammar errors—the idea of “Buy by FM” technology. Yavitz claims to have followed up with a second letter a few days later, with both letters emphasizing the concept was already patented.

Yavitz claims he never received a response from the company, but two years later the feature appeared in the Zune, with elements mirroring Yavitz’s pitch to Microsoft. “This feature remains prominently touted as the first feature of the Zune MP3 players on the Microsoft Web site,” Yavitz’s complaint states. “Despite using Dr. Yavitz’s patented proposal and adopting it as a centerpiece of its Zune strategy, Microsoft never responded to Dr. Yavitz and never attempted to secure a license on the patents.”

Microsoft has not commented publicly on the suit.

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