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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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  • Last August? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by thecampbeln (457432) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @02:32AM (#15340445) Homepage
    Ok, I know that patents can take a while to get thru the maze that is the US patent office, and I also know of submarine patents [wikipedia.org], but does Prior Art mean anything anymore?
  • by dilvish_the_damned (167205) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @02:33AM (#15340450) Journal
    a patent granted last August.
    I hate patents as much as the next guy who isnt recieving royalties. But I am guessing the patent in question might have been applied for years ago. How long does this process take?
  • by El Cubano (631386) <roberto.connexer@com> on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @02:37AM (#15340459) Homepage

    ... for the interface in its Zen media player, a patent granted last August.

    I thought that patent protection had changed. Instead of 17 years from issuance, it is now 20 years from first application. I am pretty certain I read about that change taking place in order to stop people from milking the system by filing an application and then repeatedly ammending it, effectively lengethening the period of protection.

    So the bigger question is, "When was the application filed?"

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @02:53AM (#15340513)
    I think it's telling the Creative Nomad navigation referred to has been renamed the 'Zen Patent' (their current line) by Creative. Along with going only after Apple at this point (other makers have similar navigation), it seems like sour grapes to me. Creative CEO Sim Wong has repeatedly shown he has no idea how to manage this space, publically bad mouthing Apple, while Creative sales slide and profits sink. Finally when Creative decides to do TV spots, this is what they come up with??? http://www.creative.com/tvc/ [creative.com]
  • The Actual Patent (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @03:01AM (#15340546)
    After a little searching, I believe this is the patent.

    United States Patent 6,928,433
    Goodman , et al. August 9, 2005
    Automatic hierarchical categorization of music by metadata

    Abstract

    A method, performed by software executing on the processor of a portable music playback device, that automatically files tracks according to hierarchical structure of categories to organize tracks in a logical order. A user interface is utilized to change the hierarchy, view track names, and select tracks for playback or other operations.
    Inventors: Goodman; Ron (Santa Cruz, CA); Egan; Howard N. (Capitola, CA)
    Assignee: Creative Technology LTD (Singapore, SG)
    Appl. No.: 755723
    Filed: January 5, 2001
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @03:16AM (#15340593)
    I'm posting AC because I don't want anyone to get into trouble. Anyways, this is the story I heard.

    Jobs had the creative pres in his office. Apple was going to have creative make the original ipod. Conversation went something along these lines.

    Jobs: We like the idea of the nomad jukebox, but it's really ugly.
    Creative pres: Apples suck.
    Creative apple lover: Boss you just told jobs apple sucked!

    A few months later the peon got fired, then rehired to work the booths at fry's electronics. He had a really good position at creative before this, but supposidly inside creative it is a very PC (personal computer, not politically correct) enviroment. Basically anyone even breathing the word Apple gets the shaft.

    True story, might have gotten some facts wrong but it pretty much sums it up.
  • Re:Sad (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Decker-Mage (782424) <jack_of_shadows@yahoo.com> on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @03:39AM (#15340652)
    {Sigh} In this case, I'd rather see Creative given a collective wedgie. In case you didn't know, the patent involved here has to do with the playlist. The way the playlist is implemented in both players is the only obvious way I can see to do it and thus falls into the patent domain of an obvious technology which means the damn patent shouldn't have been implemented in the first place. BTW, under the Creative patent every player on the desktop is also in violation but they don't have deep pockets nor are they likely to cough up much to prevent an injunction. Frankly, if Creative were really interested in protecting their patent they should have gone after M$ and Real a looooong time ago for their violations. Creative was smart in that regard. M$ would have bought them out of petty cash and Real would have simply further broken their already horrible piece of crap software (which might not be a bad thing). I don't believe Apple has the cash laying around to just do a hostile takeover.
  • by dilvish_the_damned (167205) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @03:53AM (#15340681) Journal
    Oh I dunno, there have been recent patents granted for what amounts to symbolic links, user ID via cookies, one click purchasing, and some less obvious and more fantastic things like hyperdrives (or some such nonsense).
    The patent office used to have time to use their heads and also verify minor details like facts. A patent granted used to cary a lot of weight due to this function the patent office performed.
    Now it simply carries weight.And we allow it for no particular reason other than history.I would say in this case the hacking of the system has become the norm, and some people even call it 'good bussiness'.
    All the while we look to find our own cache, I am working on my "middle click to purchase" patent right now. Its ingeneous, but far to complex to explain right here. I am up to 43 pages what with the diagrams.No one will see it comming. Certainly not the patent clerk who reviews it.
    Anyhow, live long and all that. Be carefull where you use the middle button. I got dibs.

  • by daBass (56811) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @04:16AM (#15340726)
    At least, that is my theory.

    I really doubt this is a money-grab-patent-trolling attempt, rather it is more likely Creative wants access to iTunes as settlement. That means being able to use Creative's players in iTunes and also the players being able to play FairPlay protected content.

    If that is what Creative is gunning for, then I hope they get what they want as it would be a good thing for all of us.
  • Re:The Actual Patent (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Decker-Mage (782424) <jack_of_shadows@yahoo.com> on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @04:16AM (#15340728)
    A jihad against lawyers wouldn't be a bad idea either.

    Actually I came across that once in a Science-Fiction novel: "First Citizen". by some statistical quirk, a whole bunch of lawyers turned up dead in various ways on April 1 of that year. The notion took with the public and ever after April 1 was no longer April Fools day, it became Lawyers Day whereupon open season was declared on lawyers for that one day. Sounds like a good idea here!

  • Re:Sad (Score:2, Interesting)

    by The Grassy Knoll (112931) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @06:23AM (#15341013) Homepage

    >all consumer cars have four wheels

    Not necessarily!

    How about the Reliant Robin [wikipedia.org]?

  • by Moraelin (679338) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @06:45AM (#15341066) Journal
    Creative innovated too. Show me who did they copy the original SoundBlaster from, for example. I also think technically they invented the HDD-based MP3 player, _before_ Apple.

    And more importantly the tended to offer products that offer a good bang-per-buck balance. Yes, it's easy to do the "bah, but <insert pro card costing 500$> sounded better or had lower latency" sneer, but from a more pragmatic point of view, Creative did an outstanding job of bridging the gap between pro equipment and the utter crap everyone else was selling.

    It's pretty telling that even though virtually any modern motherboard comes with some Realtec or some such sound solution, people still buy SoundBlasters. Because invariably those on-board solutions sound like crap. The signal-to-noise ratio is invariably crap, and often they tend to squeak too whenever anything happened on the bus. Pretty much they amplify any noise and EM interference in the system together with the signal. And having actually tried some, let me assure you that the sound boards based on those Realtek, Cirrus Logic and whatnot chips don't sound any better.

    I even went and bought an USB soundcard/headphones combo from Plantronics in my misguided days of trying to boycott Creative, and, honestly, for all the hype about USB being better because of not picking up EM stuff inside the computer, it actually sounded the worst. It was more of a white noise generator than anything else. _And_ it offered _nothing_ except a DAC on the USB bus. There was no way to get any effects out of it, in games or otherwise. There was not even any way to hook it to anything else (e.g., to speakers). Looking back in retrospect, it was just a waste of money, as eventhe lowest end Creative cards cost a lot less and I already had better headphones too.

    And a lot of those supposedly better-than-Creative sound cards were just a case of fanboyism and Amiga persecution syndrome. E.g., I've actually had an Aureal Vortex based card -- you know, _the_ one that got everyone up in arms along the lines of "waah!! Creative killed Aureal Vortex!! They're evil!!" -- and frankly it wasn't half as great as it sounded on paper. All that reflection processing and whatnot, sure, sounded like a major technical achievement. In practice most of the time it just made it impossible to tell where the sound is coming from, or WTH did they think it reflected on over there to sound actually louder from there than the original sound. I.e., from the perspective of a gamer who lived or died by hearing the enemy's footsteps or gunfire, it actually was a bigger disadvantage than those no-frills DAC-on-a-card cards.

    And so on.

    Yes, I know it's slashdot and it's good for your karma to sneer at any corporation -- as long as it's not Apple --, not to mention to rehash variants of the same "alas, the only way to get ahead is to be a monopolist" fatalism and defeatism. But I'll go ahead and say that they (A) innovated plenty, and (B) at least in the sound card market, actually offered good bang/buck.

    Where they lost it in the MP3 player market was being utterly clueless about user interfaces and, again, they got beaten in the bang/buck arena. Where Apple got ahead wasn't being the only ones who innovated, but in having an all around good product and placed just right. There were plenty who had ideas before Apple, believe it or not, and there were plenty who had one extra gimmic or advantage over the iPod. Where they failed was invariably having more disadvantages to make up for that. Some were a LOT bigger than an iPod (I still remember some, e.g., Archos ones which were bigger than a 3" hard drive!), some were actually a lot more expensive in the name of some gimmick noone needed, some had a crap user interface, and so on.

    Creative's players, for example, tended to be both bigger _and_ have a crap interface, and some had other faults too. It wasn't lack of innovation, it was simply a combination of a flawed perception of the market and flawed execution.

    Basically let's st
  • Re:sweet (Score:2, Interesting)

    by saleenS281 (859657) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @09:17AM (#15341636) Homepage
    and that rectifies them of stealing a patent how? There's a lot of things I could do "better" than other companies that own patents, but that doesn't absolve me from the crime of stealing their patent.
  • Re:sweet (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @09:54AM (#15341930)
    If anyone should get rich off of the iPod interface design it should be the makers of the original Diamond Rio. Take a look at one if you can find it, they're the same with the exceptions of a NiCad battery and hard drive. The Rio used Flash card storage and a single easily changed double A battery.
  • iTunes DRM (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jdbartlett (941012) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @10:26AM (#15342160)
    I don't want to start a flamewar over this, but why does the iTunes DRM especially 'suck'? As a consumer, I agree that DRM is generally a bad thing, but as DRMs go, FairPlay is pretty friendly:

    You can play your track on up to five computers (and as many iPods as you like) at any one time.

    You can cancel computers individually or reset your DRM account if you hit the 5 computer mark and are unable to play your music on a new computer. (Handy if you didn't get the chance to deauthorize your computer due to system failure).

    You can burn CDs of the music you buy.

    The underlying format, AAC, sounds good even at 128kbps. Not OGG good, I'll admit, but good enough for personal use.

    Also, how can a DRM be open? An open DRM would be unprotectable, which sort of defeats the point! It'd be nice if the Big Boys were that dumb. Maybe you mean licensed, so other media players could play FairPlay protected files? Right now, the only system I have that can't play iTunes purchases (without circumventing the DRM) is Linux.
  • by podperson (592944) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @11:54AM (#15342878) Homepage
    The patent was applied for Jan 5 2001, the iPod came out in October 2001, but iTunes (which has a substantially similar UI) came out Jan 9 2001. I'd be surprised if Apple didn't have internal iPod prototypes substantially earlier than the release date.

    This all assumes it's a valid patent, isn't obvious, and is sufficiently similar to the iPod's UI (which I doubt). It's not like Creative's players were lauded for usability.
  • It's called iTunes (Score:3, Interesting)

    by willy_me (212994) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @01:02PM (#15343428)
    iTunes was out before the Nomad and does exactly what Creative's patent describes. In fact, the iPod's interface is simply an extension of the interface found in iTunes. The reasons for this are obvious.

    The question here is: Is a specialized portable computer any different from a personal computer with respect to the patent in question?

    Willy

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