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Creative considers legal action over patent violation

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By LC Angell

Contributing Editor
Published: Thursday, September 1, 2005
News Categories: iPod

Apple may soon come under legal pressure from Creative Technology now that the Singapore-based company has been awarded a patent that it says the iPod infringes upon. Creative has already openly accused Apple of violating the patent, which covers the way users navigate music selections on a portable device, and the company told The New York Times that it is considering every option available to defend the patent, including possible legal action.

Craig McHugh, president of Creative’s United States operations, said yesterday that Apple was the only company identified so far that was in violation of the patent, though Creative was investigating others. “We are looking at all our alternatives right now,” McHugh said. “We have always been very vigorous in our defense of our patent portfolio.”

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Comments

21

Whether I’m a patent expert or not doesn’t really matter.  This patent will not hold up in court.  Too many instances of Prior Art exists.  Creative’s “idea” is not novel.

As one of many examples, iTunes’ method of organizing audio files was in existence way before Creative’s patent application.  It shouldn’t be too hard for Apple to prove that the iPod interface is an extension of the iTunes file system.

Get ready to lose some more money, Creative.

Posted by The Raven on September 1, 2005 at 3:41 PM (PDT)

22

bashing everyone who thinks patent shouldn’t have been given as a apple hugger is totally unfair. I, for one, just talked about how patent suit would not go Creative’s way and some of you are starting to imply me as a apple hugger.

some of us really might have been apple apologist, but labeling everyone who thinks apple should not have problem in court as apple hugger is rude, IMO. I do not care if apple wins the suit or not for one, as long as my ipod keeps working. if they lose and my ipod starts cracking down, well, i will just have to get used to new interface. I was pretty miffed when Apple trademarked “made for ipod,” and I have made several comments bashing Apple for their mishaps before.

disagreeing with someone’s opinion is one thing, disparaging someone’s statement as being a hugger is another.

Posted by make Trades Fair on September 1, 2005 at 5:09 PM (PDT)

23

This is cut and dry

If Apple infringed on Creative’s patent, then they’re wrong. This has nothing to do with who’s bigger and who’s the bully. The law is the law. An arbitrator or court will likely help decide whether it’s true…

Posted by Adam White on September 1, 2005 at 5:25 PM (PDT)

24

If anything, this will make creative’s business go down and apples up.

If apple has a new interface, everyone will want it and buy more ipods.

Posted by Joe on September 1, 2005 at 5:32 PM (PDT)

25

If Creative feels so strongly that they are being copied ... why didn’t they say so in 2001 when the iPod was launched????

Posted by Derrick on September 1, 2005 at 6:19 PM (PDT)

26

@Adam White

It’s cut and dry, alright.  If they decide to take on Apple, Creative will lose because this patent will be deemed invalid by a court.  With all the Prior Art floating around out there, infringment will be nearly impossible to prove.

Posted by The Raven on September 1, 2005 at 6:23 PM (PDT)

27

First off MS and Apple had heirarchial menus of file systems like 10 years ago… I think OS7 allowed for them. I know that in 1997 I played an mp3 file through my powerbooks speakers from the apple menu!!! Apple menu—-> music—> artist—> Pink Floyd—>Money. (so screw you creative!!, I had a portable MP3 player with your same nav system two years before you!!!! and I’m sure hundreds other had because it was built into the frickin OS 10 years ago!!! What is the difference between a powerbook and smaller computer (ipod, rio, creative) Apple could also simply state, hey the ipod is not and MP3 player it is a portable computer… heck I even have linux running on mine.

Posted by john blame on September 1, 2005 at 6:47 PM (PDT)

28

Some of the people here are right, in the end…....Creative will loose.  Apple won’t pay royalities, fines or any of that.  Sure, they might’ve gotten ‘sloppy’ and filed their pattent application late, but they’re definitely smart enough and slick enough to get out of a mess such as this.

Posted by Huskerz85 on September 1, 2005 at 6:56 PM (PDT)

29

Damn, you are right I was actually playing mp3s and other sound files on my powerbook way before creative came out with their 5 pound nomad. Why couldn’t my 10 year old powerbook be considered a portable mp3 player.(it’s portable and plays mp3, ogg, wav and pretty much every other sound file out there) Not only did I also have mp3’s stored in my apple menu I had about 20 movies categorized as well and notes and such.  What a bunch of crap, now that I think of this. Infact I think there were also a bunch of other mp3 players apps that I had downloaded in 1998 or earlier that also had similar file structures.

Posted by MACZILLA99 on September 1, 2005 at 7:30 PM (PDT)

30

Isn’t the Lounge’s founder/editor Jeremy Horwitz also a lawyer? Couldn’t he clear up any legal questions about patent problems?

Posted by andres on September 1, 2005 at 7:41 PM (PDT)

31

I don’t know about the rest of you, but me personaly, I can’t stand Apple! Come on, they suck. Every day when I’m   listening to my favorite play list on my iPod I long for the day when I had to carry a CD player and a phonebook sized case to hold some disks. Or, how ‘bout before that, when I had my cassette walkman and my one favorite mix tape that sounded fine for the first dozen or so listens and then sounded more and more muddy untill my walkman got hungry for some magnetic tape and ate my mix. I know, I know, I could accomplish the same with a “Zen whatever” but as it stands my 60 gig iPod is full and is only able to hold less than a quarter of my music collection. Yes a zen jukebox xtra would hold just as much music but I’m OK with paying the xtra $100 to also be able to hold the couple hundred photos I have on there.  Some of you seem to like to throw around the term “FANBOY” but it makes me wonder what you’re doing on an Apple iPod “FANBOY” web site. And you wonder why so many people posting here defend Apple???? By all means you should feel free to go pick up the newest Creative Zen whatever. I hear they come with a bonus. Preloaded with a windows virus, or do you have to pay extra for that?

Posted by jacki-o-nasty on September 1, 2005 at 8:44 PM (PDT)

32

Very strong threat from Creative. Didn’t Creative begin as a humble shop in Singapore selling pirated Apple][ computers? Apple should have gone after them then!

Posted by iObserver on September 1, 2005 at 10:12 PM (PDT)

33

It’s funny and sad reading all these comments about how Creative is evil, and how Apple will win out in the end. I certainly don’t like the idea of Creative going after anyone and everyone, and it does feel galling that such a patent award APPEARS after-the-fact, but Creative DID file its patent request long before Apple did theirs. They can’t help if the approval process takes as long as it does and that the award occurred when it did, which just so happens to occur after all the success of the iPod. The patent office judged their application as being valid, and did award the patent to them. All the gut reactions in the world doesn’t change that.

As for Apple winning out in the courts…well, the burden of proof will be on them that Creative really was undeserving of the patent. Funny how THAT argument will go, since Apple themselves thought they deserved the patent to begin with.  Any ‘prior art’ defense seems hypocritical at best given their own application, but I suppose justification might there. It probably all comes down to throwing out that Compaq Research UI (thanks to Demosthenes for the 411) and seeing if it sticks in court.

However, I suspect that the burden of proof will still be stacked against Apple, just as the prior art argument in the MSFT vs Eolas/UC Berkeley browser plug-in proceedings have so far been only partially successful for Redmond to date (but the final decision in that case is a LONG way from being over).  However, the irony will be that IF Apple argues and wins on a prior art argument, then ANYONE could conceivably use a VERY iPod-like menu syste (hey, it’s ‘prior art’, after all).

Regardless, there’s still one certainty: the LAWYERS involved are all going to get very rich by the time this one’s through.

Posted by flatline response on September 1, 2005 at 11:16 PM (PDT)

34

If Creative can actually enforce their patent this could be EXACTLY like Rambus’s mafia tatics in the PC RAM industry. After reading the general description of the patent, it appears they could sue anyone making an mp3 player with a screen since there really isn’t a practical alternate method! 

I suppose Apple could always make a 60 GB ipod shuffle….

Posted by Takeo on September 2, 2005 at 2:08 AM (PDT)

35

I wonder what they did to the people (dept or team) at Apple who were responsible to make sure they received their patent first, thus avoiding this whole issue in the first place.

Posted by nosticky on September 2, 2005 at 6:10 AM (PDT)

36

In this market patents are accumulated by companies generally as defensive plays, to stop the other guy from suing you. Kind of mutually assured destruction. Because most companies generally end up with a broad swathe of patents in their domain, they are able to threaten and cajole competitors into a standoff.

I’ve written quite a few tech and business process patents in my time, and many of those were for technologies or methods where we *knew* that one or more competitors already existed or were writing similar proposals. The art is to frame it sufficiently so as to be novel enough to get approved, or at least not to be rejected out of hand. Even the fact of having an application in process is often enough to deter competitors from trying to squeeze you legally. And you can always amend the thing during the approval process.

The cross-patent agreement between Tivo and ReplayTV is a classic example. Both companies signed an open-ended agreement to licence each other’s patents extensively, and so avoid damaging court battles.

What makes the Creative issue different is that Apple rushed the iPod to market by buying off-the-shelf designs. Now, this made good commercial sense, in that it was able to bring out the iPod a good 12-18 months ahead of schedule compared to developing it in-house. Where it proved more problematic is that it now makes it difficult to obtain exclusive patents to defend the platform, because so many of the components of the iPod are already covered by incidental patents owned by other companies. Basically, Apple finds itself exposed, and quite vulnerable.

Posted by Demosthenes on September 2, 2005 at 6:55 AM (PDT)

37

“As for Apple winning out in the courts…well, the burden of proof will be on them that Creative really was undeserving of the patent. Funny how THAT argument will go, since Apple themselves thought they deserved the patent to begin with…”

WRONG.  The burden is on Creative to prove that Apple violated the patent.

Posted by The Raven on September 2, 2005 at 9:32 AM (PDT)

38

Raven-

You’ve taken Flatline’s comment totally out of context.

Posted by Talking Madness in Los Angeles on September 2, 2005 at 1:01 PM (PDT)

39

What baffles me is WHY Creative went after Apple first (jealousy, maybe?). Apple’s iPod’s interface is light years ahead of anything else on the market and bears little resemblance to the interface used by Creative and everyone else!

Posted by ahMEmon on September 2, 2005 at 3:55 PM (PDT)

40

Adam, this is NOT so cut and dry. Creative (which is anything BUT creative), DOES NOT have a patent. They have a vague, poorly-written ATTEMPT at a patent, that for some reason a retarded idiot of a judge has declared “legitimate.” I disagree with the judge, because I have read the patent and it is, as I said, VAGUE and POORLY-WRITTEN. Unfortunately, Apple may have to pay, but this judge should be locked-up because he or she is a certifiable idiot.

Posted by Jack on September 2, 2005 at 6:14 PM (PDT)

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