Netflix queues are hot topics of conversation among my friends, even the non-film geeks. Everyone wants to talk about how long their queues are, what's at the top, and what has been unavailable recently. The latest version of the online queue is pretty fancy; you can rate DVDs, see how your "Netflix friends" rated them, move the DVDs up and down the queue with ease, and so forth.

Netflix is obviously proud of its queue technology -- to the point where the company filed a complaint in court Tuesday against its rival Blockbuster. Netflix has been awarded a couple of patents related to its online rental services; the most recent patent was issued earlier on Tuesday to cover the company's subscription-rental model. Almost immediately after the patent was granted, Netflix accused Blockbuster of infringing the patent and "willfully and deliberately copying Netflix's business methods," according to an article about the legal complaint.

If a court sides with Netflix, Blockbuster might have to change the way the company rents movies online, or pay hefty royalty fees to Netflix. Perhaps Blockbuster will reconsider whether the flat-fee system like Netflix is a real improvement over Blockbuster's old return-date/late-fee structure. On the other hand, I know from a high-tech job I once held that patent violations can be tricky to prove and disputes can take years to resolve. Sometimes they're resolved by one company in the dispute buying out the other, but I can't imagine the two competitors merging quite yet, can you? [via Blue Glow]