Gracenote.com, a company that licenses digital-music management technology, filed a lawsuit yesterday against Toast publisher Roxio, alleging patent and trademark infringement, as well as breach of contract.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in San Francisco, hits Roxio just as it is spinning off from its parent company – storage-access maker Adaptec. Roxio is preparing to begin trading on the Nasdaq on Monday.

Until a license agreement that expired on April 22, Roxio directed users of its CD-burning software to Gracenote's CDDB database, which contains data on 11 million audio tracks and 880,000 titles.

On track Gracenote's database and server software allows users recording or listening to digital music to match particular tracks with the artist, album or song title. The service gives digital music-files recognizable names rather than the generic "Track 1" or "Track 2", so that users can know what song is playing and can create bespoke CD jackets.

Roxio's software allows people to download audio, video and photographs off the Internet and burn them onto CDs.

In the version of its software released since the licensing agreement expired, Roxio directs users to an alternative music-recognition database operated by an open-source group called Freedb.org. This, Gracenote says, illegally uses its database technology. Attempts to reach the operators of Freedb.org were unsuccessful.

"There are 1,800 commercial licensees of ours who pay to access our database, including AOL, RealNetworks and MusicMatch," said Dave Marglin, general counsel for Gracenote. "Roxio is trying to get for free what other people pay for. It's our valuable intellectual property that's underlying all this."

Roxio's director of legal affairs Bill Growney said: "Roxio believes this unfounded claim was made by Gracenote in response to our selection of their competition as our preferred provider. Gracenote has apparently made this claim in a weak and ineffective attempt to damage Roxio's reputation."

Gracenote, which boasts that it is the industry standard of digital-music recognition, is helping beleaguered Napster filter copyrighted songs from its peer-to-peer service. Gracenote's database is used by 1 million people each day, the company says.