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Creative Sues Apple 423

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the who-says-we-aren't-a-litigious-society dept.
E IS mC(Square) writes "Looks like Apple's legal problems are not yet over. ZDNet reports that Creative has sued Apple over their iPod interface. From the article: 'Creative Technology said Monday that it has filed two legal actions against Apple Computer, charging the popular iPod infringes on its patented technology. ... In both cases, Creative says that the iPod and iPod Nano infringe on a patent the company has for the interface in its Zen media player, a patent granted last August.'"
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Creative Sues Apple

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  • Sad (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @02:32AM (#15340444)
    It's sad, but it's becoming a predictable reality that corporations prefer to litigate rather than innovate. It's especially true of companies who are circling the drain. (SCO, anyone?)
  • Re:Last August? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OverlordQ (264228) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @02:33AM (#15340447) Journal
    The key word there is granted, not submitted.
  • Re:Sad (Score:2, Insightful)

    by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @02:33AM (#15340451)
    "It's sad, but it's becoming a predictable reality that corporations prefer to litigate rather than innovate."

    It's also sad that corporations would rather imitate rather than innovate. Hard to say which is worse, really.
  • Wha...? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mizhi (186984) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @02:36AM (#15340458) Homepage
    I haven't followed MP3 player chronology very closely. Didn't the iPod come out before the Zen player?

    And if this patent was granted last August, why wait until now to sue?

    Seems to me that creative is just ticked they got trounced in a market they originally had been doing well in.
  • Re:Last August? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by thecampbeln (457432) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @02:37AM (#15340461) Homepage
    I know, hence my mention of submarine mazes (or whatever I said, I can't remember ;)

    But really, I must agree with another poster (AC or no) [slashdot.org]: "...it's becoming a predictable reality that corporations prefer to litigate rather than innovate."

  • by popo (107611) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @02:42AM (#15340480) Homepage

    I firmly believe the only way for us to be free of the insanities of the patent system
    is going to be for things to get so unbearable for the big players ... that *they*
    start clamoring for reform.

  • by Penguinoflight (517245) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @02:45AM (#15340491) Homepage Journal
    because that worked oh so well for copyright.
  • by Mydron (456525) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @02:51AM (#15340506)
    Instead of 17 years from issuance, it is now 20 years from first application. So the bigger question is, "When was the application filed?"

    It's pretty safe to say it was filed less than 17 years ago.
  • by Pendersempai (625351) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @03:03AM (#15340554)
    Corporations are the ones with enough resources to attract legislators' attention when they start to suffer, and corporations almost never get sued for copyright infringement. Patent infringement, on the other hand...
  • Re:Sad (Score:4, Insightful)

    by DeadPrez (129998) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @03:06AM (#15340558) Homepage
    It depends on your definition of imitate. For example, I don't mind that all consumer cars have four wheels.
  • Re:Last August? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @03:07AM (#15340561)
    You really should read the case history here before assuming it lacks merit. Creative DID innovate and it was (rather blatantly) stolen.

    Hell, Apple even stole the name "Nano" from Creative. They launched the Zen Nano 5-6 months before Apple even had a press release introducing their forthcoming Nano.

    Given slashdot's general Apple lovefest, though, I doubt many will call this what it is: Microsoftian behavior.

    Innovate or get the hell out of the way, but don't steal so damn blatantly.
  • by mveloso (325617) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @03:15AM (#15340591)
    To see why this patent is invalid, do the following:

    * substitute 'classes' for 'tracks'
    * substitute 'methods' for 'names'
    * substitute 'computer' for 'music playback device'

    And suddenly you have the classic Smalltalk object browser. This patent will be whacked in court, just like the uncrustables patent was denied by the USPTO. The USPTO said that uncrustables were basically big breakfast ravioli. Unfortunately, the examiner wasn't well-versed enough in the computer field (ie: he probably doesn't even know how to spell Smalltalk), so granted this one.

    Applying the same old cookie cutter to a new kind of dough isn't a valid patent, even if the examiner thinks it is.
  • Re:Sad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @03:23AM (#15340616)
    "It depends on your definition of imitate. For example, I don't mind that all consumer cars have four wheels."

    No no, of course not. But we all shake our pitchforks when the debate about Microsoft vs. Apple vs. Xerox comes up.
  • by sane? (179855) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @03:27AM (#15340626)
    That is what I found, although mention is made of two patents. Maybe its just a followup patent that companies usually file to carve out a bigger segment of patentspace?

    Face it, this is an obvious menu system based on obvious metadata. The problem here is it should never have been granted a patent in the first place. The patent office has become mired in money making scams in recent decades and the whole system has fallen into disrepute. It serves nobody well.

    • The small inventor has no way of using a patent to protect them since costs are high and costs of protecting the patent are even higher. Any reasonably sized company can grind them into dust in the courts.
    • Companies actually creating virtually anything find there is some spurious over-general patent somewhere that they infringe in putting one piece of plastic next to one piece of metal; so there is an orgy of cross licencing and costs associated. This all takes time and reduces the pace of innovation
    • The public aren't served by ideas being freely available and built upon, because most of the ideas are obvious, the patent tries hard to make it impossible to understand, and if you ever use the information you get slapped with an injunction.

    Oops, sorry, there is one group of people that do well, the lawyers. Strange that.

    Face it. We need a year zero in IP, a fundamental reexamination of why we give any protection at all, and how much is the right amount. We need to accept that all IP to this date is on very shaky ground and that the simplest approach is to wipe the slate clean. Above all, we need to make it a criminal offence for a company to attempt to buy laws. How many of our problems can be traced back to corporate/politician corruption? Maybe the best solution is to extract a written guarantee from anyone standing in the midterms that they will ensure IP laws are scaled back? Make it an issue.

    A jihad against lawyers wouldn't be a bad idea either.

  • by Shihar (153932) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @03:31AM (#15340638)
    I can't speak for Creative's past as I know nothing of it. I can say that my Creative Zen Vision:M is one slick ass MP3 player that pounds my iPod into dust. A Creative Zen plus Rhapsody's all you can eat MP3 service is one kick ass combination. Personally, I think that this shows simply that competetion is good and can serve as a swift kick in the ass to get companies into gear and make decent products.
  • Re:Sad (Score:3, Insightful)

    by localman (111171) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @03:34AM (#15340646) Homepage
    Seems easy to say which is worse. Imitation is great... it means we get various refined versions of a new idea and people can choose. The public usually benefits. This is what progress is all about: incremental improvements building on the ideas of others.

    Litigation on the other hand is just a way to squash competition without benefiting anyone but the litigant. It's a crap business tactic and a sign of a company who fears they can't add to the mix.

    And FYI I'm no Apple fanboy... I think iTunes DRM sucks and they should drop it entirely or at the very least open it up so it's a standard.

    Cheers.
  • Ooh... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Jaxoreth (208176) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @03:49AM (#15340672)
    The genius of Creative's MP3 player is that it gives you that great column view, but it fits in your pocket, so you don't have to deal with the awkwardness of people jealously eying your NeXTstation.
    So... can I have your NeXTstation once you get an MP3 player?

  • Re:the SCO scheme (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nefarious Wheel (628136) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @04:04AM (#15340699) Journal
    If you have a good case, pound on the law. If you have a weak case, pound on the witnesses. If you have no case, pound on the table.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @04:07AM (#15340708)
    Creative mp3 players sucks. I had a Zen, interface useless, ended up throwing it out.

  • by FirienFirien (857374) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @04:13AM (#15340722) Homepage
    Usually years, somewhere around 3-4 on average. Stick a random number between 5,500,000 and 7,000,000 (1996-2006, ish) into the USPTO numsearch page [uspto.gov] and compare the granted date (top right) to the date of filing (usually the last line in the third info-section) if you want to have a play.

    It takes such a long time because they have to be reviewed by patent examiners, compared to prior art to make sure they're not infringing, which includes referring to patents not in the patent referral list (you'll see in a lot of patents that the inventor compares and contrasts his application with previous patents, to clarify the differences). It usually has to be sent back and corrected, sits in a waiting queue whenever it's in the patent office's hands, suffer any delays the submitter wants or has; the list goes on. It's a tedious process that I think we saw an article about last week, since the workload of patent reviewers is simply too high; it all contributes to major delays. Compare with older patents - the few around 4M I checked took between a year and two years.
  • Re:Wha...? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kegon (766647) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @04:21AM (#15340738)

    Didn't the iPod come out before the Zen player?

    OK, picture this: I have an idea for a music player and submit a patent application. A larger company launches a product based on a similar idea 4 months later. My company takes 6 months to get the product ready and launch. Maybe the large company filed their own patent just after mine but it's still in the patent application process waiting to be assessed like mine.

    why wait until now to sue?

    Who said they waited ? Sometimes these things take a long time: patent granted, gather evidence, decide whether you can find enough money to go to court and if you're going to risk losing, find a suitable lawyer who knows something about the technology, put together your arguments, etc.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Haeleth (414428) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @05:59AM (#15340951) Journal
    Right, so when can Apple sue Windows for making a GUI file system for their OS?

    In 1988 [wikipedia.org], since you ask.

    So, we know from that lawsuit that Apple believes that an interface can be legally owned, and that litigation is an appropriate way to resolve a situation where a more successful competitor is using a similar interface to your own.

    How does the saying go again? "Live by the sword..."
  • Creative=Screwed (Score:3, Insightful)

    by tootired (91527) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @05:59AM (#15340953) Homepage
    Forget about the obvious Apple patents on the same interface ideas. Forget about the fact that the creative interface has been in a state of flux for over five years.

    Forget about the fact that the iPod's interface has remained constant (and nothing like the patent in question) since inception.

    Just sit and laugh at the marketing retardation that is Creative. Right now they manufacture and sell TWENTY-FOUR mp3 player models. Each model has multiple sizes as well. Haven't they heard of brand dilution?

    It's a business's duty to thrive by any means necessary, but i think they may have bit off more than they can chew with the Apple fight and with their overcrowded mp3 lineup.

    Sorry for the spelling and grammar, been at work for 21 hours. Only 13 more to go :)

  • Re:Browsing data (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jcr (53032) <jcr&mac,com> on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @06:05AM (#15340968) Journal
    the column view even goes back to the Apple Lisa

    It's earlier than that. Mark Miller invented the Miller-column browser when he was working on the Xanadu project in the late 1970's.

    -jcr
  • by 0rganicM0lecules (582831) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @06:40AM (#15341058)
    Becauase there are a lot of John Carmack fanboys.
  • Re:sweet (Score:5, Insightful)

    by vought (160908) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @07:26AM (#15341158)
    But Im all for Creative getting a little justice out of this. Apple is a computer company then they come along and act like they invented portable media.

    Nice to see your idea of justice is based on...how a company "acts".

    You know what? Apple did a better job of making stuff people want. Creative, for all their supposed groundbreaking innovation, didn't have the magic combination of marketing savvy, features, and product design that made the iPod popular.

    The iPod wasn't a runaway hit because Apple stole Creative's heirarchically-organized system for obvious navigation or whatever - it's because Apple took all the pieces - jukebox software, .mp3 device, new legal music software source - then designed, packaged and marketed them all together successfully.

    Apple helped create the market - it's not clear that the 80% of the .mp3 player market buying iPods would have bought any other kind of music player. Because of Apple's music platform, the unique and appealing iPod designs (not just small and/or light), and the healthy aftermarket of accessories, the .mp3 player scene is a lot healthier now than it would have been without the iPod. Millions of people who never would have bought a "Zen" DID buy iPods, and because of it will at least be aware that there are such devices as well as competition for the iPod.

    Creative should be thankful Apple has grown the market for .mp3 players, but like most businesses in this workaholic's valley, they can't see past this contrived slight of their intellectual property to the larger advantages of a market Creative could never have built on it's own.
  • Re:sweet (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @08:07AM (#15341276) Homepage Journal
    Creative should be thankful Apple has grown the market for .mp3 players, but like most businesses in this workaholic's valley, they can't see past this contrived slight of their intellectual property to the larger advantages of a market Creative could never have built on it's own.

    Alot of people (including me) think that Creative's complaint is without merit, but we feel that Apple deserves.... a certain lack of sympathy for playing hardball in the intellectual property games themselves.
  • Re:sweet (Score:1, Insightful)

    by glesga_kiss (596639) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @08:10AM (#15341281)
    You know what? Apple did a better job of making stuff people want.

    Em, no. Apple did a better marketing job. The people don't want DRM, they don't want iTunes upgrades removing features. They do want to pay an extra 25% just to have the white headphones and look trendy.

    The iPod was not sold on it's technical merits.

    it's not clear that the 80% of the .mp3 player market buying iPods would have bought any other kind of music player.

    IMHO, most would not have have. They would have never heard of the new portable devices had Apple not marketed them. These people are not reading slashdot or engadget.

  • Re:sweet (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bperkins (12056) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @08:19AM (#15341305) Homepage Journal
    Wow you're right.

    If the roles had been reversed Steve Jobs would have just been _so_ thankful that Creative "grown the market for .mp3 players." He'd be just _gushing_ about what a great bunch of guys they were.

    He might even loan them his reality distortion field device.

    The patent case may be without merit, but we certainly don't have to feel sorry for Apple, or even be particularly mad a Creative.
  • Re:sweet (Score:3, Insightful)

    by vought (160908) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @08:33AM (#15341366)
    They do want to pay an extra 25% just to have the white headphones and look trendy.

    I didn't know being trendy obviated any and all design or technical advantages the iPod has. Wow. Become cool and suddenly you're not allowed to be smart anymore. It's like reverse high school, which is where ideas like this belong.

    Don't forget that before the iPod completely stole the market, reviewers lauded it for the ClickWheel, the simple interface, good jukebox software, and consistent product family design.

    The iPod was not sold on it's technical merits.

    Because people don't buy iPods based on the spec sheet. That's my point. iPods feel good; if you've used one iPod, another will feel and look almost the same. This consistency has allowed Apple to increase the rate of repeat sales and take advantage of trendiness - but it's ridiculous to discount the iPod's other advantages and write the success of Apple's products off as a 2-year-long mega-fad driven by clever marketing alone.

    It's also worth mentioning again that iPods, for all their generational differences and features all look similar, in contrast to Creative's industrial designs, which might each be from a different manufacturer for all anyone can tell.

    People buy iPods because Apple does a better job of designing and marketing them. The hardware is also pretty nice and has been lauded for it's sound quality, but as I said above, very few people buy consumer electronics of any kind based on the spec sheet. Understanding that is one reason Apple come to dominate this sector.
  • by babbling (952366) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @08:41AM (#15341407)
    Patents don't scale. There is a limited number of viable solutions to most problems. When the population gets bigger, and bigger... the likelyhood of someone having patented all of the solutions to a problem increases. The end result is that some problems are impossible to solve for 20 years unless you pay someone a license fee, that is, if they're willing to license their patent.

    The patent system will eventually make progress impossible and be removed, but it is going to impede progress for years and years before that happens.
  • Re:sweet (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @08:55AM (#15341520)
    You don't understand...

    Apple does not set the price, and doesn't get the money.
    Apple has bargained hard to get the price at 99cents. The labels wanted (and still want) a higher price, specifically, they want a variable price model which charges a lot more for new/popular tracks.

    When you buy a track off iTunes, most of the money, around 65%, goes to the labels. About another 23% goes to the credit card company, and Apple keeps the rest, which is a tiny amount.

    So you see, you're not being screwed by Apple, but by the labels and the credit card companies.
  • by XxtraLarGe (551297) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @09:32AM (#15341743) Journal
    Obviously, without the concept of and ability to protect IP, there would be little to no incentive to research and develop and thus it must exist.

    I'm not so sure of the validity of this statement. People innovate, research and develop all the time. There's freeware & open source software, Creative Commons, Grateful Dead, Fish & many other bands that allow(ed) you to record their music and trade it freely. The fact that some people may not innovate does not mean that many others won't.

  • it is very zen (Score:5, Insightful)

    by EccentricAnomaly (451326) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @11:03AM (#15342491) Homepage
    it is very zen that creative has patented the 'zen user interface'. and are now suing apple (which seems to have a good understanding of zen) for violating their 'zen patent'. such a thing is so very un-zen, that it becomes zen again. We are now watching a koan-wreck unfold before our eyes.
  • Re:ZEN iPOD (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Thrudheim (910314) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @11:11AM (#15342561)
    If you like the Zen better and hate iTunes, fine. The nice thing about consumer preferences is that everyone can be right.

    To assert, however, that buying a Zen means you don't have to put up with "DRM issues" is just plain silly. As long as you rip from CDs (or get illegal downloads) *nobody* has to deal with DRM on any player. If you really think that using an iPod requires you to use DRM, then you are not anywhere near as familiar with iPod and iTunes as you claim.

    As for my own opinion, I don't see that drag and drop via the desktop is any great advantage. Plug in an iPod and iTunes opens automatically. The iPod syncs. Done. If you prefer to drag and drop, then dragging and dropping from an iTunes library to the iPod is no different inside iTunes, except that you have the addition of easy filtering of the music library by keywords. I manage my iPod shuffle through drag and drop. Big deal.

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