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Creative sues Apple over iPod interface, seeks ITC injunction

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By LC Angell

Contributing Editor
Published: Monday, May 15, 2006
News Categories: Apple

Creative Technology has filed a lawsuit against Apple, claiming that the iPod’s interface is infringing on the company’s “Zen Patent.” Creative also said today that it has filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission requesting that the federal agency launch an investigation intro whether Apple has “violated Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 through its importation and sale after importation into the United States of iPods and iPod Nanos that infringe U.S. Patent 6,928,433, which Creative refers to as the Zen Patent.” Further details on both of Creative’s legal actions below.

From Creative’s announcement of the complaints:

As relief, Creative is seeking an exclusion order and cease and desist order against Apple Computer Inc. The orders sought would prohibit Apple Computer Inc. from engaging in sales, marketing, importation or sale after importation into the United States, or other infringing activities in the United States with regard to the infringing iPod and iPod Nano products.

Creative also filed a lawsuit today against Apple Computer Inc. in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California that seeks an injunction and increased damages for Apple Computer Inc.‘s willful infringement of the Zen Patent.

The United States Patent Office issued the Zen Patent to Creative on August 9, 2005 for its invention of the user interface used by most portable digital media players, including many of the Creative Zen and NOMAD Jukebox MP3 players and competing players such as the iPod, iPod Nano and iPod mini.

Working at Creative’s Scotts Valley, California facility, Creative’s engineers invented the user interface covered by the Zen Patent to address the challenges of convenient organization and access of songs on high-capacity portable digital media players. Creative subsequently implemented its now-patented interface on its NOMAD Jukebox player, which was announced and presented as a functioning prototype at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January 2000. The user interface covered by the Zen Patent has since been implemented in a variety of Creative players, the most recent being the award-winning Zen Vision:M.

Creative was awarded the “Zen Patent” for portable media player navigation in August 2005. The company said it was considering legal action against Apple a month later, and then Creative CEO Sim Wong Hoo said he would go after any company that he thinks violates the patent. “We will pursue all manufacturers that use the same navigation system,” he said. “This is something we will pursue aggressively. Hopefully this will be friendly, but people have to respect intellectual property.”

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Comments

21

“We will pursue all manufacturers that use the same navigation system.” says Sim Wong Hoo

Umm, let’s see, they pretty much stole the iPod Video’s design with the Zen Vision M AND claim that the interface is theirs?

WHAT on Earth is he smoking?

Posted by Colin on May 15, 2006 at 3:06 PM (PDT)

22

The only th9ing that thi says to me is the creatife is “Timmy’s Lemonade stand” taking on “minute maid” come on! its like asking disney to stop making cartoons! I dont think I like the new iPods i like the iPod videos i think better. i lost my nona and i think on the raod so Im in the market for a new en!

Posted by LawnBoy on May 15, 2006 at 3:09 PM (PDT)

23

wow. i used to be a fan of creative (because you have to admit, their products have lots more features and are better for people who dont want to buy from the iTMS)...but know i’ve drunk from the kool-aid and am in love with my ipod and apple. i think this will hurt creative more than help…or maybe i am crazy

Posted by haha on May 15, 2006 at 3:18 PM (PDT)

24

Comment 15 = genius

Posted by sebby on May 15, 2006 at 3:18 PM (PDT)

25

@ Moses:

I already have a patent on sarcastic humor regarding technology companies that sue each other.  Can you please send me $9.95 for your joke?

Thank you.

Posted by Sue Happy on May 15, 2006 at 3:43 PM (PDT)

26

I so hope this blows up in Creative’s face, mostly for wasting so much of US tax dollars and time.  It really makes me angry as this is so clearly petty.  From their point of view they have nothing to lose, but we do, so the decision to pursue this should have severe consequences.  Gosh, what a coincident that URGE is starting this week too, pathetic.

Posted by slider on May 15, 2006 at 5:27 PM (PDT)

27

Heh. Better luck making apple sell sex toys than stop making ipods.

ViBerator

Posted by RedApp on May 15, 2006 at 5:59 PM (PDT)

28

oh creative, have fun going bankrupt. i’ll be waiting.

Posted by Noah Gomberg on May 15, 2006 at 6:54 PM (PDT)

29

It’s strictly business. Apple is a business just as Creative is a business. The goal of publicly traded businesses is to be profitable to its shareholders. I’m sure Creative has consulted their attorneys regarding their rights and I’m sure they are the ones who said to go ahead and sue. So those of you who think you know what’s going on with these companies and dont think that Creative stands a chance, keep in mind that they are coming to the decision to sue not based on how much of a fanboy they are, not based on what they read on a forum, and not based what you think, but based on the fact that they have the potential to make money from this because legal experts have told them that they probably do.

Posted by the4starish in San Diego on May 15, 2006 at 7:22 PM (PDT)

30

NTP versus RIM all over again.  NTP was successful in extorting RIM.  Creative must feel they can do likewise.

Sad.

Posted by Navec245 on May 15, 2006 at 7:50 PM (PDT)

31

It will be another interesting case to follow, after Apple “defeated” Apple Music (Beatles)...

No doubt Creative got the patent first… but I think Apple also submitted theirs, but later than Creative.

On the surface, yeah, it looks like Creative is the “big sore loser” trying its last dying futile attempt at trying to strike back at Apple… but I am quite sure Apple is long aware of the patent and that Creative has openly say they will sue, so I am quite sure Apple “has done their homework” and am prepare for this…

In the end I think it is all about MONEY, Creative just want to calve some money out of Apple, since they are unable to beat Apple by coming out with a better popular digital music player.

And I am one from Singapore that I will not support Creative. Cheers

Posted by howwow in Singapore on May 15, 2006 at 8:47 PM (PDT)

32

I love my iPod to death, but the reality seems pretty simple to me.  The patent seems to fairly clearly cover the iPod interface.  Apple either has to find a way to get the patent invalidated, or they will likely lose or have to settle.  You can consider Creative to be evil for doing it, but patents are a part of the business.  If Apple had the patent, I’m pretty sure they’d be filing the same suit.  Look at their “Made for iPod” program. 

I also don’t feel quite as much anger towards Creative as I do towards NTP or SCO, which are just patent holding companies that don’t actually produce anything.  Having enough of an idea to get a patent granted isn’t anywhere near as hard as putting the upfront R&D, production, and marketing costs that a company that really produces the device has to risk to bring something to market.  These patent companies just sit around hoping someone will make a product covered by their patents so they can cash in…not bearing in mind that a lot of patented technology fails to be worth anything.  Creative at least was an active player in developing and promoting the market, so I can’t feel as much animosity towards them.

I don’t support a lot of how the patent system works, but it is what it is, and I can’t really fault companies for using it.  I hope the two companies can work something out and avoid a lengthy and costly legal battle, but this is a common part of the business.

Posted by Brian on May 15, 2006 at 9:10 PM (PDT)

33

Once again…

HOW can you patent a Heirachal File System????

Posted by Cameron T. on May 15, 2006 at 9:14 PM (PDT)

34

this is bull***, so they just won a patent on purpose in order to sue Apple?

It’s time to face the truth, Creative, you are out of this market.

Posted by Jae on May 15, 2006 at 9:45 PM (PDT)

35

I’m ashamed to be a Singaporean….what a dumbass.

Posted by Ken on May 15, 2006 at 9:57 PM (PDT)

36

Everybody here knows that iPod is majorly superior to any Creative product. If Apple SOMEHOW lost the case, and was forced to stop selling their iPods, I know that I, as well as many others, would definitely not buy a Creative product. I would just wait for the next generation iPod to come out =D

Creative sucks, perioid.

Posted by Chris on May 15, 2006 at 10:11 PM (PDT)

37

lol

yeah, i work at bestbuy, i sell the damn things… not gonna happen

Posted by Kim Chee on May 15, 2006 at 10:20 PM (PDT)

38

@ Steph

Creative didn’t have the first MP3 player. The first flash player belongs to a small company named Eiger Labs and their MPMan F10, released in 1998. The first hard drive based player was Compaq’s Personal Jukebox, released a year later.

As for the suit…

I thought that Creative had lost the point when they started to out iPod the iPod (e.g. the Zen Micro, Micro Photo, Zen Touch, Zen Vision: M). Now this suit is a new low. After this, I’m glad I chose the iPod mini instead of the Zen Micro.

Posted by hoshieBIOTpod on May 15, 2006 at 11:14 PM (PDT)

39

I think it is simply an attempt by Creative to cash in on the massive profits they are losing to Apple.  Creative doesn’t really want to knock Apple out of the game.  They simply intend on scaring Apple sufficiently into settling out of court for a nice fat sum.  Tack onto that the possibility of cashing in on the patent in the form of royalty checks for each iPod sold and creative makes a tidy little profit. 

Thus creative succeeds in finding a new method of profiting off of player sales.  If Creative can’t make money selling a competitive product, they can just make their money off the iPod instead.  Somewhat of a warped “can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” mentality.

I can’t imagine Apple losing this one, however stranger things have happened.  One thing is for sure.  There is little chance that the sale of iPods being banned.  No American judge would cripple the profit making potential of an American company.  Look at Microsoft anti-trust lawsuits.  Americans don’t hurt other Americans.  Be thankful that this lawsuit is not occurring in another country where there is less of a desire to protect an American company’s interests.

Posted by TimB on May 16, 2006 at 12:02 AM (PDT)

40

I actually think Creative have a damn good chance of winning this case. Yes, it’s a stupid patent that probably should never have been granted in the first place, but the fact of the matter is that it was granted and therefore, the owner has every right to enforce and defend it.
As #19 said, the patent was only awarded in 2005, not submitted in 2005.
I wouldn’t want to be the judge to get this case because it looks like a bit of a no-win situation. There’s going to be a lot of unhappy people no matter which way the decision goes.
I’ll be following this case with great interest.

Posted by saveferris91 in Melbourne, Australia on May 16, 2006 at 12:23 AM (PDT)

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