Creative wins patent for MP3 player interface


This was a bit of a surprise to me, but I guess that's how patents go, sometimes...
BBC said:
"The first portable media player based upon the user interface covered in our Zen Patent was our Nomad Jukebox MP3 player," said Creative CEO Sim Wong Hoo.

"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."

In its press release, Creative said Apple had filed for a patent for a user interface in a multimedia player in late 2002, but its application had been recently rejected.

Creative is looking to take a slice out of Apple with its new products. It recently introduced a new version of its Zen model which has a colour screen and can play video.

"We consider it a dead certainty that Creative will go after Apple for royalties or some other type of compensation for what Creative will assert is infringement of its patents, currently and in the past," analyst Phil Leigh of Inside Digital told the Reuters news agency.

But Mr Leigh added that Creative was likely to have a hard time to get anything out of Apple as the appilicability of patents was often difficult to prove.
MacUser UK said:
'Before this invention, there was no intuitive and efficient way to deal with the large number of tracks that could be stored on a high-capacity player, explained Creative chairman and CEO Sim Wong Hoo.

However it is not clear whether the company will be able to claim a share of Apple's substantial iPod earnings or even wether the patent will stand up to legal examination. According to patent lawyer Randy Gard patent rejections are common while Apple could still file its own patent.

Still, there must be a few red faces among Apple's legal team, as this is the second time this month that one of its rivals has secured an iPod-related patent. Microsoft - in the guise of employee John Platt - having been awarded a patent for a menu-based media player. Apple is appealing that patent, partly on the grounds that Microsoft has patented something that Apple had already invented.
MacWorld UK said:
Creative Technology is "evaluating all alternatives" now it has won its patent for digital-music user interfaces.

The patent, issued by the US Patent & Trademark Office, covers the hierarchical display of music information on digital-music players that Creative claims can be found not only on its devices but also on Apple's iPod and iPod mini.

The hierarchical menu system employed by the Creative players is immediately familiar to anyone who has handled an iPod or an iPod mini. What's more, said Creative, the interface was first used in a shipping product more than a year before Apple's iPod hit the shelves, and the patent was filed long before Apple filed its own patent for the iPod.
Look at what's happened since this release was let loose...

Most tech sites / News sites with tech sections are reporting it!
Most headlines carry the word 'Creative' - then stories are all about Creative...

Creative know they can't action this patent in any way - this is just a great way to get people to their site AND - more simply - to even recognise them as a MP3 player manufacturer.

It wouldn't be only Apple contesting the patent. It would fast become -

Apple / Samsung / Phillips (insert portable player manufacturer here)

And Creative don't have the clout to fight the entire industry.

They'll reap what 'noise' they can make because of the award in the short term (the next couple of days!) - and then it'll all die down... and nothing will come of it...
Actually, Creative was really first with this kinda interface. There's not much Apple or other players can do here...
Too bad the creative players didnt work properly. A mate had the first nomad hdd player, it was horrible.

I dont think much would come from this, if it does then its just going to be a massive legal battle which will go on far beyond the life span of the mp3 format!
I don't think so. Creative _has_ the patent. Now they can basically simply ask for licensing costs. Apple would have to pay them for every iPod sold. They've got the patent, they make the rules, ne?
fryke said:
I don't think so. Creative _has_ the patent. Now they can basically simply ask for licensing costs. Apple would have to pay them for every iPod sold. They've got the patent, they make the rules, ne?

If they do try that then i doubt they will receive any payments without a fight.

I read to day that Creative have singled out Apple as an example of a company they will go after. However, and like I said before - they will have to go after pretty much the entire industry - as it effects everyone. Afterall just about every player uses Artist > Album > Song etc etc...

Creative just don't have the financial clout to go after the entire industry.

It will only take one company (it'll more than likely be Apple) to dispute the patent and get it reviewed. At which point I imagine it will be retracted or revised in some way that leaves Creative with some sort of patent that pertains to ether...
Creative, AFAIK, is not entirely money-less. And the patent is _quite_ clearly on Creative's side. Apple can't make prior use or anything applicable, shouldn't take too long in court. I mean: I'm all for Apple's profit, no doubt - but in this case, it's very clear to me that Apple is using something that Creative has patented.

"Creative just don't have the financial clout to go after the entire industry." - They actually only need to address Apple. Once Apple has to pay a license fee for every iPod sold, Creative surely has more than enough money to go after the little rest.
I can picture Apple Goons meeting with Sony Goons and perhaps iriver goons planning a fight with Creative.. :)

Im not too worried. Apple is popular because they make a better product, so whilst the ipod interface rocks I am sure they can come up with something even better if they really where pushed.
The fact is that under current patent law, it is possible to get a patent on just about anything. However, it is all but impossible to enforce these patents. More than half of patent infringement cases that reach court are dismissed. Many more patent infringement cases never even make it to court.

Often, in cases like this, companies choose to share patents as opposed to bickering over an expensive settlement. For instance, Apple might offer to share the rights to a number of useful patents that they hold in return for the written agreement they are allowed to use this patent. Its a lot cheaper and better than a protracted legal battle.