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.”