Creative wins patent for portable media player interface | iLounge News


Creative wins patent for portable media player interface

In what can only be seen as a potential problem for Apple, Creative Technology said today that it has been awarded U.S. Patent 6,928,433 — which it is referring to as the “Zen Patent” — for portable media player navigation. “The Zen Patent was awarded to Creative for its invention of the user interface for portable media players, including many of the Creative Zen and NOMAD Jukebox MP3 players, and found in some competing players, such as the Apple iPod and iPod mini,” the company said in its announcement of the patent win.

“Creative’s invention for the user interface for portable media players enables selection of at least one track in a portable media player as a user sequentially navigates through a hierarchy using three or more successive screens on the display of the player,” the company explains. “One example would be the sequence of screens that could display artists, then albums, and then tracks. When the user selects an artist, the player displays a list of albums for that artist. Selection of one of the listed albums then displays a list of tracks on the album.”

Sim Wong Hoo, chairman and CEO of Creative, said the interface was invented by Creative engineers more than a year before the iPod was introduced.

“The user interface covered by the Zen Patent was invented by Creative research and development engineers in our Advanced Technology Center in Scotts Valley, California,” said Hoo. “The first portable media player based upon the user interface covered in our Zen Patent was our NOMAD Jukebox MP3 player. We shipped the NOMAD Jukebox to U.S. retail customers in September of 2000, and by November of 2000, it was already ranked as the top revenue-generating product in the U.S. in the digital audio player category, according to PC Data. By January of 2001, we announced that we had already sold 100,000 NOMAD Jukeboxes. The Apple iPod was only announced in October 2001, 13 months after we had been shipping the NOMAD Jukebox based upon the user interface covered by our Zen Patent.”

“There has been press coverage recently regarding the rejection of Apple’s patent application, published as Pub. No. U.S. 2004/0055446 for a user interface in a multimedia player,” Hoo continued. “This Apple patent application was filed on October 28, 2002. A related provisional application was filed by Apple on July 30, 2002, eighteen months after our filing date for the Zen Patent and over twenty months after our NOMAD Jukebox based upon our user interface was on the market.”

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This attempt to siphon Apple marketshare is pathetic beyond words.  They have all but completely failed in the marketplace by mounting loss after loss each quarter.  Now they want to use the courts to try to stifle the competition.

Here’s how Creative lost.  PRICING, PRICING, PRICING.  They spent their time trying to out-feature Apple, driving up costs and forcing them to put out products at prices that gave them no chance at increasing marketshare.  Then came the Apple price cut and WHAMMO!  Creative was left dead in the water with prices that bled the hell out of them.

But did this force Creative to change direction and maybe pare down features that no one cared about so they can put out products at competitive prices NOOOOO.

So what’s left?  Patenting an obvious hierarchical menu scheme and litigating Apple in leui of competing.  As if that’s going to help them gain any market share.  Why not stand behind their arrogant rhetoric about Apple being “overhyped” and “lower value” and PROVE IT in the marketplace???  Nah… that’s too hard!

Posted by Frank Z on August 30, 2005 at 8:07 PM (CDT)


if they kept the scope of their hierarchial patent narrow in terms of applying MP3 players, they probably DO a legal and binding claim against all others

No, HP (actually Compaq) have prior art with the Personal Jukebox from 1998/1999. That did hierarchical mp3 playlists and organizing.

Posted by Demosthenes on August 30, 2005 at 8:26 PM (CDT)


Corporate greed and control is the real enemy in the world today and Apple is as much a part of this scheme as anyone.

Posted by Talking Madness in Los Angeles on August 30, 2005 at 8:35 PM (CDT)


It is worth noting that the patent was filed in January of 2001, before the iPod was even announced.  Patents are a part of business here, and it’s not like they’re trying to rip Apple off for something Apple did first.  True, it’s a pretty broad patent, and you can claim that others invented it first, or even that “invented” is too strong a word.  But the fact is that if the patent holds, Apple doesn’t have much of a leg to stand on—Nomad came first. 

It’s also worth noting that they haven’t announced what, if anything, Creative is going to do with this patent.  Yeah, they’ll probably do something, but who knows.  I doubt it will affect iPod users in any direct way for quite some time to come.

Posted by Brian on August 30, 2005 at 8:50 PM (CDT)


Some beer company has patented the word Canada. The USPO is the stupidest group of you-know-whats in the book.
By *meep* on 08.30.05 at 02:20 PM

Whoa, can anyone confirm this? I tried looking this up, it’s so ridiculous i thought it’d be easy, but I don’t know the name of the company and can’t find it.

As far as the heirarchal system of browsing files, if a patent is won and someone had it before them, can the patent be removed? Before my iPod I had an MP3 CD Player taht used the same format. This is bull.

Posted by andres on August 30, 2005 at 10:51 PM (CDT)


I had the first Creative Nomad Jukebox Player, than I had moved to the Nomad Jukebox 3, and now I have the 60gb ipod.

Goods of each player:
Creative Players:
- The Sound is much, much better;
- It’s easyer to modify how you play music (you can add new songs/albums for the “now playng”, delete songs/albums,chenge the onder that the songs will be playng, and much, much more…
- The batterie life is much better

Reasons I bought a Ipod, and what its good on it:
- easyer navegation (find music…) - the way you manege music is better on creative, but to find them is better on Ipod.
- ability to see artist under genre, on creative you can’t see that, only albums under genre, than songs (I think that this is a part that creative had not pattented..)
- Album Art Viewing (I love this) - there is no creative player with album art viewing with 60gb or more.
- Possibility to add IR or RF remote.

I wold go easy to a creative player again, just ask someone that had one before.

Posted by Billy Gun on August 31, 2005 at 12:16 AM (CDT)


There are some really dumb comments here - people thoughtlessly accusing Creative of trying to ‘leech’ iPod profits by having filed a patent application for their navigation design about a year before the iPod was even released. Also, it’s completely unreasonable to expect a company to not want to protect a saleable GUI. As far as Creative are concerned, Apple and the iPod are currently the biggest competitor and biggest threat to their business. This is backed up by the fact that only a few weeks after they filed their patent, Apple too filed another, similar patent. Had Apple been awarded the patent, would you all be complaining that Apple is sucking profits from Creative? Why not, Apple is by far the more successful player in the MP3 market. If Apple wants to continue using the navigation system and Creative wants royalties (I have no idea how these things work), Apple has the money. iPods are still selling. Money is being made (and how).

An another note, Creative players do not sound better to me, Billy Gun. They sound good, but not better. They also support fewer formats. Vision excepted, the battery performance of Zen players is poorer, too. It’s ironic to mention the Vision, considering how similar its GUI is to that of iPod Photo/Color.

Posted by jdbartlett on August 31, 2005 at 1:24 AM (CDT)


“No, HP (actually Compaq) have prior art with the Personal Jukebox from 1998/1999. That did hierarchical mp3 playlists and organizing.”

Interesting…I’d forgotten about that player. Didn’t Compaq actually buy out another company (Remote Solutions) for that technology?  More importantly, did they go as far as to protect themselves by filing for a patent?  I never played with the PJB myself (wasn’t a believer in MP3 or like formats at the time), but from a couple of the reviews I recall reading the consensus of those was that the actual implimented menu system was A MESS. I think I recall one saying that you couldn’t even see the artist name on the LCD, though I could be wrong about that; it WAS almost 6 years ago.

As for the prior art issue: well, if Remote Systems’ (Compaq) menu DID work, perhaps there’s an argument that Creative didn’t deserve the patent. But if it could be demonstrated that Creative’s design work started prior to the PJB-100 being released to the public, then it comes down to whether or not Remote Systems sought to protect their design first by filing first, and whether anyone with them, Compaq or later HP followed through on the filing. The fact that Creative got the patent, I’d guess that never happened.

Posted by flatline response on August 31, 2005 at 2:19 AM (CDT)


I see a lot of folks here having a misconception on the ‘heirarchical menu’ patent claim by Creative, saying that there were many prior menu systems pre-existing. However, take a moment to whisk thru the patent & you’ll see that the key phrase is *by metadata*.

Folks, I’m sure you will agree that you can stomach Creative’s patent any day compared to   Pat#5443036 ‘Ways of exercising a cat’.
Humans have created a monster out of the patent system!

Posted by spinvalve on August 31, 2005 at 2:41 AM (CDT)


... ok folks.. I digress, but I can’t help but to share this here. I’m still ROTFLMAO!!

You must read pat#6055910 “Toy gas fired missile and launcher assembly”. The abstract is enough to make your day!

Posted by spinvalve on August 31, 2005 at 2:54 AM (CDT)


Like a number of posters here, when it came to HD DAPs, I started out with Creative Nomad players first, then on to iRiver, then migrated over to the iPod almost immediately after the H140 (40GB 3G first for me). Sonically, I’ve always preferred the Creatives and the iRiver over any of my Apple DAPs, and if it hadn’t been for my clumsiness with the iRiver (my iRiver didn’t like much bangin’ an’ thumpin’, as I found out) I’d probably still be over on the Dark Side.  But the ease of using an iPod from the start was very appealing, the cleanliness of docking beats stray USB cables anyday, the screen and display design was to me far nicer than my last Creative, a Nomad Zen, or that of the H140, even though the Apple’s battery life was pathetic (but found out only after purchase).

I still use my Zen occasionally; as cumbersome as it’s menu system is, it’s still easy enough (for me) to navigate, even there’s no way that I or anyone else could ever confuse it for the iPod’s. It does have some niceties though that none of my Apple DAPs ever had…continuous scrolling (no stopping at ‘z’), the ability to search (if a bit clumsy), the ability to see all of the main ID3 info on the screen—song, artist, album info all scrolls if too long unlike the iPod, where only the song title scrolls across (though the Zen’s screen is pathetically small).

Horrible buttons and that cheezy thumbwheel, though, that Zen has; the physical controls were the ergonomic pits. BUT being able to swap out the 20GB HD for a larger, standard 40GB laptop drive was indeed cool, and pretty easy to do, even if that flexibility forced the Zen to be uncomfortably big and wide.

Even though I haven’t (mostly) regretted the switch to Apple, I’m not even remotely in love with their gear, either; for instance, staticky, plastic headphone jacks just don’t cut it for me.  But their implimentation on the hierarchial menu interface is about as good as it gets (aside from not scrolling past ‘z’ and the lack of choice when wishing to display something other than song titles when browsing playlists). It’ll be a bloody shame if Creative starts their lawyers in on Apple…and from what I’m seeing on Google News, it sounds like it’s already starting up.

Posted by flatline response on August 31, 2005 at 2:59 AM (CDT)


“I see a lot of folks here having a misconception on the ‘heirarchical menu’ patent claim by Creative, saying that there were many prior menu systems pre-existing. However, take a moment to whisk thru the patent & you’ll see that the key phrase is *by metadata*.”

I’m not sure where the distinction is; from what I read, the metadata the Creative’s filing describes is still data contained within the individual music file, even if it’s not the actual musical data, per se.  ID3 tag data technically qualifies as metadata, since it’s data about data (i.e., the music itself).  From what I understand of Remote System’s design it used (or tried to) the same ID2/3 metadata as well, hence giving some credence to the ‘prior art’ argument.

Posted by flatline response on August 31, 2005 at 3:14 AM (CDT)


You Apple apologists are as pathetic as the Bush/GOP apologists.  If the ruling had been against Creative & in favor of Apple, you would all be encouraging Apple to sue the hell out of Creative.  You all have absolutely no objectivity whatsoever.

Posted by IH8repugnicans on August 31, 2005 at 8:35 AM (CDT)


The whole world should be like the European Union countrys. No software patents.

Posted by anonymous on August 31, 2005 at 10:07 AM (CDT)


You Apple apologists are as pathetic as the Bush/GOP apologists.  If the ruling had been against Creative…

I COMPLETELY AGREE. Stop crying, you are not gonna pay the stupid royalties. Grab your FFFFING iPod and enjoy your music.

Posted by MLo on August 31, 2005 at 3:35 PM (CDT)


“Vision excepted, the battery performance of Zen players is poorer, too. “

Ummm…hate to burst your bubble jdbartlett, but does your ipod get 24 hour battery life like the Zen Touch does?  Yea, didn’t think so.  My ipod doesn’t either.  In fact, battery life and sound quality are two big things Creative has going for them.

As for all the hooplah, I agree.  Most of the apple fanboys would be frothing at the bit if the other ruling had occured, wanting to punish Creative for infringing on Apple’s copyright.  Since the shoe is on the other foot, they are furious that Creative DARES to have a copyright for something they created prior to the Apple.  Creative surely should have known before the iPod came out that Apple was going to come out with something ‘better’.

It’s business. Creative is protecting an asset. Same way that Apple is consistently (and ruthlessly in some cases) protecting theirs.

Posted by jj on August 31, 2005 at 9:23 PM (CDT)


Didn’t Compaq actually buy out another company (Remote Solutions) for that technology?

Compaq Research designed it. The reference design was OEM’d to the Korean company HanGo (Remote Systems), who did not actually design the player, but marketed and sold it. In this, the relationship is Compaq/HanGo is like PortalPlayer/Apple, with a lot more design input coming from Compaq.

The original UI sucked. But it was improved a lot, and much of it open-sourced. Development continues today.

One cool thing is that the PJB was designed to enable gapless playback of MP3s from the outset. Very slick.

HP/Compaq hold a bunch of patents relating to power management/caching in spinning disk mp3 players.

One interesting nugget is that in 2000/2001, Compaq Research designed a successor, the PJB 2 using 1.8” Toshiba drives, However, the parent Compaq company declined to produce the device.

There were some smart people in Compaq Research - being the first people to design and manufacture such a large-capacity player, in 1999/2000 they invented PodCasting (knoan then as “PocketDJ”), conceived of as personalized, user-recommended mixes and radio streams delivered to subscribers and downloaded on to the device.

Compaq Management passed on the PodCasting idea as well, which goes a long way to explaining why Compaq is no longer around today. Unfortunately, it got swallowed by HP, which also lacks in the clue department.

Some of the Compaq Research people left early and went to PortalPlayer, helping to create the reference designed that Apple implemented and tweaked into the first iPod.

Posted by Demosthenes on September 1, 2005 at 1:17 AM (CDT)


Hey guys, what about the iPed case?  Apple’s threats alone made those guys change their product name.  I don’t even think that was close to infringement…it was more like parody which is completely legal.

Like many have already said…Creative was in the game before Apple.  Let them have their patent…it will likely have no effect on the consumers.

Posted by Talking Madness in Los Angeles on September 1, 2005 at 2:05 AM (CDT)


“Ummm…hate to burst your bubble jdbartlett, but does your ipod get 24 hour battery life like the Zen Touch does?”

I don’t know how that’s supposed to burst my bubble. I didn’t say anything about iPod’s battery life. It’s like you didn’t read my comment at all but where somehow offended by it…

Creative products sound poor to me.

Posted by jdbartlett on October 22, 2005 at 2:23 PM (CDT)

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