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Apple Sues Creative 340

Posted by Zonk
from the tit-for-litigious-tat dept.
boarder8925 writes "Apple is counter-suing Creative, claiming it has infringed 'four patents in its handheld digital players.' The suit was filed the same day that Creative filed suit against Apple. 'Creative proactively held discussions with Apple in our efforts to explore amicable solutions,' a spokesman for Creative said. 'At no time during these discussions or at any other time did Apple mention to us the patents it raised in its lawsuit.'"
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Apple Sues Creative

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  • Quoting the summary:
    'Creative proactively held discussions with Apple in our efforts to explore amicable solutions,' a spokesman for Creative said. 'At no time during these discussions or at any other time did Apple mention to us the patents it raised in its lawsuit.'
    Waaah! Waaah! Waaaah!

    What were creative thinking? That they'd get some sympathy? Play with patent fire & you're going to get burnt.

    And frankly, I think Apple & Creative should be more worried about this patent [nwsource.com] then each other.

    Mildly interesting to see what's happened to Apple [google.com] and Creative's [google.com] stock since the two announcements (looks like Apple's lost ~4% & Creative ~2.5%).

    *Sighs* such a pity to see two companies that employ so many talented people wasting their time like this.
    • by idonthack (883680) on Friday May 19, 2006 @08:55AM (#15364735)
      The Microsoft patent article you linked to:
      Creating a surprise twist in the portable music wars, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has denied Apple's application to patent its method of using hierarchical menus to navigate through the iPod's contents.

      The basis for the denial: A similar method outlined in a Microsoft researcher's patent application, filed after the iPod was introduced but before Apple sought its own patent.
      Prior art for the lose?
    • by CrackedButter (646746) on Friday May 19, 2006 @08:55AM (#15364736) Homepage Journal
      When I read that Apple didn't discuss the patents Creative is infringing on, I thought why should they? Like any sane thing to do is show all the cards you're playing with.
      • by lbrandy (923907) on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:19AM (#15364864)
        When I read that Apple didn't discuss the patents Creative is infringing on, I thought why should they? Like any sane thing to do is show all the cards you're playing with.

        Close, but wrong. Apple was afraid.... One the patents that came up early in the discussion was Creative's patent on 'a method of meeting and talking openly about patents in an attempt to extort money'.
      • Is that why we (the hive mind) are so sympathetic towards SCO too?
      • When I read that Apple didn't discuss the patents Creative is infringing on, I thought why should they? Like any sane thing to do is show all the cards you're playing with.
        Because they could've resolved this before going to court, saving both companies a lot of time, money, and face. Instead, their stock is down 4%.
      • Well, if they're going to court, they had better. Despite what you might have seen on tv, the idea of surprising the opposing side in court is not tolerated. Litigants have a duty to give a lot of information to the other side unasked, and to respond to what are often quite broad requests for information that made by the other side. The courts want both parties to know all the facts so that there are no surprises, and hopefully a sufficiently predictable outcome so that they settle or at least stipulate to
        • When (if) they go to court, then yes, disclosure would be an issue. During a closed door negotiation that does not involve the courts, disclosure is at the discretion of the parties involved.

          During their "discussions" yesterday, Creative may (or may not) have attempted to hamstring Apple. Being on the receiving end of an ultimatum is never pleasant, and I, too, would likely have refrained from giving my antagonist any ground.

          But that's just me.
    • live by the sword, die by the sword.

      in any case, this was the last option for creative anyway. if they lose this case, it's over for their MP3 players.

      • by crerwin (971247) <crerwinNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:12AM (#15364824) Homepage
        Why is it over? Maybe I'm not up to date on Creative's financial situation, but for me their mp3 players are cheaper and as good or better than their Apple counterparts. I have a Zen Touch and am a little annoyed that it doesn't mount as a generic USB drive, but other Creative players do and that's my fault for not researching first.

        I'd like to get a MuVo at some point. Mounts as a generic drive, FM receiver (and recorder, get 'em while the RIAA is unaware!), etc. I have no intention on buying an iPod anything. They're good products, but expensive, overhyped, and apparently "think different" means "buy an iPod like everyone else." Meh, whatever.

        Sure, everyone loves Apple and will defend them vehemently when they get sued over a patent, yet we all like to forget when they've done the same. To me they're just another corporation trying to make a buck.
        • Re: Apple, I agree. To me, they're just another company. It saddens me when people vehemently defend Apple like they are friends with Steve Jobs himself...

          Anyway, I'm pretty happy to see these ridiculous lawsuits. In fact, the more the better. Eventually we'll have to rethink WTF we're doing in this country, or we'll topple under our own weight.

        • I'm of the opposite opinion, the Creative Zen Micro I have has a broken headphone jack, due to bad design (Letting the headphone jack move enough to seperate from the board.) I later found out that in order to get warranty service I will have to pay labour and provide proof of purchase. This was a gift from my ex, so small chance I'll be able to get the reciept and smaller chance that the labour charged will be worth it in the long run (I want to be able to put the damn thing in my pocket, it's supposed to
        • It's not about which player is better or which player has what feature. In the consumer's mind, it's simply about which ones they *want*. The marketing makes them *want* the iPod, so they buy it. As long as it isn't total shit, they'll continue to buy the coolest product that will make them look cool.

          I went to CES a couple of years ago and saw all these Japanese/Chinese manufacturers with there cool new MP3 players. They have a billion buttons on them, names like "X Tech 2000". It was sad. They all

        • I don't know exactly what player you're referencing, but for example, the Creative Zen Vision:M 30GB and the Apple iPod 30GB are both $299 (ignoring Apple edu & corporate discounts, even). And that's not even getting into the software side of the equation.
        • I agree 100%

          They're good products, but expensive, overhyped, and apparently "think different" means "buy an iPod like everyone else." Meh, whatever.

          OT, but that reminds me of my favorite King Missle line - "I want to be different, just like everybody else..."

        • by Thrudheim (910314) on Friday May 19, 2006 @11:58AM (#15366041)

          It seems to me that Apple, in contrast to the opinion of some, has priced the iPod very competitively. Creative is losing a ton of money by trying to maintain slightly cheaper prices for its competing lines. In some cases, actually, the iPod is priced just the same or slightly less. It is a losing battle for Creative because they do not have the economy of scale that Apple has with the iPod, so they lose money at these prices while Apple does well. In this case, Apple has a Dell-like supply chain.

          This article, from over a year ago, says it all: "Creative Responds to iPod Price Drop." [betanews.com] Apple took the offensive by cutting prices, and it has continued this strategy. As an analyst in the article says, "Apple has left little room for other music vendors to compete on price." Creative followed that strategy nevertheless, and the results are very clear: Creative cannot sustain a price battle with Apple and stay in business. Their third-quarter sales fell to $225.7 million compared to $333.8 million for the same quarter the previous year. Their net loss for the quarter was $74.7 million. For the past three quarters, it was $105.4 million.

          Simply put, Creative is in serious financial trouble. The recent legal action against Apple smacks of a desperate strategy to use their trump card -- their GUI patent -- to shore up their finances. Their problem is that this patent is being challenged and there is a very good possibility that it will not stand. A hierachical system for organizing a music library is just too obvious to be the intellectual property of any one company. Apple has the legal team to drag out the process as long as possible. Their countersuit is just the first step in this process.

    • by tinkerghost (944862) on Friday May 19, 2006 @08:58AM (#15364758) Homepage
      MS Patent [nwsource.com]
      How do you pass the Novelty portion of a patent review when there is a product doing it on the market?
      The inventors - Apple - gets denied a patent on their product because a competitor patented the process AFTER the product was on the market? What monkey do they have running the USPTO?
      • You're right - its utterly insane.

        Its kinda like Apple getting patents on the ipod even tho' the Zen came before it!
      • by ajakk (29927) on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:59AM (#15365143) Homepage
        In the United States (and definately not Europe), there are several ways that the public use of a product can be prior art to a patent. First, if the prior art conceived of before you conceived of your invention, then you cannot get a patent on it (who came up with the idea first). Second, if the invention was publicly used more than one year prior to the date of your patent application, then you are barred from getting a patent (regardless of who invented it first). Thus, in the case of Microsoft, they could argue that they conceived of the invention before Apple did, and that they iPod was not in public use (or on sale) more than one year before they filed their patent application.

        The law that describes what qualifies as prior art is 35 U.S.C. 102 [bitlaw.com].

    • by God'sDuck (837829) on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:19AM (#15364868)
      Mildly interesting to see what's happened to Apple [google.com] and Creative's [google.com] stock since the two announcements (looks like Apple's lost ~4% & Creative ~2.5%)
      coincidental, not necessarily causal...the entire Nasdaq/Dow, as well as Europe and Japan, have been plunging for the last week.
    • Creative's BS soundcard driver install process, and Apple's general loutishness drove me away from both companies. Why would I support someone who made me jump though hoops just to get the 'drivers only' installed for my soundcard? Why would I buy an over-priced, under-featured music player just because the 'interface is awesome!'? It's not so awesome...not the Apple Price Premium awesome, that's for sure.

      This should be fun to watch.

    • such a pity to see two companies that employ so many talented people wasting their time like this.

      I would hardly call it wasting time. The potential benefits from a successful patent lawsuit far outweigh the risks involved. You can quite literally put your competators out of business and gain a monopoly. In a very real sense, patent litigation is worth throwing everything and the kitchen sink into.
    • Play with patent fire & you're going to get burnt.

      Patent nuclear war. (Nookular war)

      Maybe we will get to witness mutually assured destruction?

      Will it spread to become a global war? Every company with a related patent sues Apple and/or Creative. Apple and/or Creative countersues for some other patent. A third wave of companies see the second wave of companies attempting to profit from patent infringement suits, and realize that the second wave companies infringe on one of their patents. T

  • by idonthack (883680) on Friday May 19, 2006 @08:51AM (#15364714)
    Everybody who does anything is vulnerable to this kind of attack, and the only way they can realistically defend themselves is to have a large patent library of thier own to countersue. Patents are supposed to help small inventors make it big, but all they're doing is letting large companies fight while squashing smaller competitors.
    • by jcr (53032) <jcr@NoSPAM.mac.com> on Friday May 19, 2006 @08:55AM (#15364738) Journal
      Patents are supposed to help small inventors make it big

      Whatever gave you that idea?

      A patent is supposed to be a deal between the inventor and the public: the inventor discloses his invention, in exchange for a limited period of exclusivity. Whether the inventor makes any money on it or not is beside the point.

      -jcr
      • by gid13 (620803) on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:18AM (#15364858)
        I suppose I would slightly disagree with both of you. The purpose of patents, from the standpoint of the people who set up the whole patent system (the government) is to encourage innovation by allowing inventors a chance to make money exclusively for a short period. Basically to balance the rewards between the inventor and the public. It's a nice thought, but...

        I agree that patents suck, and yes, I agree that cases like this are part of why they suck. Society wastes time litigating that could be spent on productivity. Worse examples of why patents suck include the NTP vs RIM case (basically NTP doesn't do anything except sue, all 5 of their patents were issued temporary rejections, and due to the uncertainty of the patent status, RIM was essentially forced to settle because of the potential for almost limitless losses), Amazon's 1-Click Shopping patent (can we say "non-innovative"?), and the Eolas vs Microsoft case (this will fuck over all browsers from IE to Safari to Firefox to Konqueror while forcing Microsoft to seek defensive patents, and while giving Microsoft the excuse to use horrifying patent tricks like this themselves against OSS). As far as I'm concerned, the entire patent system (along with the copyright system, but that's another story) needs to be rethought or removed entirely. It is no longer benefiting the public, and as such the public should force their government to make a new set of rules.
      • by BFaucet (635036) on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:22AM (#15364892) Homepage
        Either way it was intended to promote innovation, not stifle it.

        I really don't see how having a hierarchial menu could easily be avoided. Hierarchies have probably been the most common organizational structure for centuries. To patent it on portable audio devices sounds about as sensical as patenting plugging headphones into portable mp3 players.

        There should be a "No shit, dingbat." clause in the patent requirements.
      • I concur. Although I know nothing about the patent process (so this may be partially in effect as far as I know), companies shouldn't be allowed to sit on a "good idea" for years without using it, if they ever do. That would be slightly similar to the company making Tamaflu deciding "Ok, this hasn't hit critical proportions yet, so let's not sell it yet. Let's wait till it starts killing quite a few people, and selling the vaccine for $2000 a pop". Although that would be a case of waiting for the right
    • the only way they can realistically defend themselves is to have a large patent library of thier own to countersue.

      And that's true only if the other party also has an actual product on which you can sue. If you're being sued by a patent troll with no real products or services, you will have to settle or try to get the patent invalidated in court.

  • So wait (Score:2, Insightful)

    by iknowcss (937215)
    If it was filed the same day, why are we finding out today? Is it more news-worthy that Apple is being sued or that Apple sues? My guess is the former.
    • Simple. Creative has been publically saying since at least December that they were planning to sue Apple for patent violations, and when they actually filed the lawsuit they put out a press release about they want the attention. Apple isn't making a big deal about their countersuit, since they've got a new sleek black laptop to get attention.
  • Tiny violins (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ravenscall (12240) on Friday May 19, 2006 @08:54AM (#15364729)
    So, Creative tried to play the patent bully game with Apple, and Apple turned the ship and broadsided them.

    Serves them right. Get back to making products and selling them to make a profit.
    • Get back to making products and selling them to make a profit.

      That's a silly response. They still are, it's their lawyers that are suing apple, not their employees.
      • Re:Tiny violins (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Ravenscall (12240)
        You obviously do not understand a term called "Corporate strategy".

        Of course Creative is still making stuff. Only an idiot would assume they are not. They, however as a company, decided to sue apple to either 1) quash competition and make more money, or the more likely 2) have apple pay them a settlement and negotiate a juicy licensing deal.

        This strategy has obviously backfired, as apple had aces in hand, and now will just cost both companies money instead of one profiting at the other's expense.

        My commen
  • More, more, more (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Britz (170620) on Friday May 19, 2006 @08:55AM (#15364731) Homepage
    Please, let the patent cold war already erupt into a huge patent suing everyone vs. everyone. I know you wouldn't like to see the lawyers take a couple billions away on this, but that will be the necessary sacrifice to make everybody see how bad trivial/software patents really are.

    As soon as Sun sues Microsoft, Microsoft sues IBM and IBM sues them all I will sit back and have some popcorn (btw. do lawyers companies have stock options?).
  • In other news.... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    ...the patent lawyers win again...
  • HA (Score:5, Funny)

    by schabot (941087) <<s.chabot> <at> <gmail.com>> on Friday May 19, 2006 @08:58AM (#15364754) Homepage
    **SNAP!**
  • Well I never... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by adpsimpson (956630) on Friday May 19, 2006 @08:58AM (#15364756)
    Creative proactively held discussions with Apple in our efforts to explore amicable solutions,' a spokesman for Creative said. 'At no time during these discussions or at any other time did Apple mention to us the patents it raised in its lawsuit.'

    Fact number 2: At no time during the discussions were Creative proactively suing Apple.

  • Tiring (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:01AM (#15364769)
    Can we just the Your Rights Online section to Who's suing who?
  • Bet you... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by gowen (141411) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:01AM (#15364772) Homepage Journal
    ... they settle out of court, sign mutual patent cross-licensing, and then carve up the media player market between themselves.

    There's enough their for all to wet their beaks.
  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:02AM (#15364773)
    Creative needs to be more innovative and come up with products that sell like Apple's, otherwise they will just try creative lawsuits to make a profit.
    Apple apparently has very good lawyers, people that try to sue them for a piece of the pie usually lose.
    No more half-baked ideas on how to sue Apple, just get back to your core products and innovate!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:05AM (#15364788)
    Apple sues...

    I mean,

    Creative sues...

    crap.
  • by MMC Monster (602931) on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:07AM (#15364798)
    There is a reason for defensive patents. Creative won't forget that again.
    • I'm surprised Creative didn't already know this, considering the huge patent portfolio they have on anything down to trivial algorithms for use in sound processing, with the intent of preventing anybody else playing in the sound card market.
      Hopefully, the thing they may learn from this is NOT to sue everyone who appears defenceless, as a fair few of them, that may otherwise have let matters lie quietly, turn round and bite them hard.

  • by picz (264520) on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:10AM (#15364812)
    Patents are used as WMDs by the big tech corporations. If you have them, you can keep the others from using theirs to sue you into bankrupcy. If you don't have them, you are sitting duck.

    Sometimes the doctrine fails and it looks like a patent war between desperate Creative and Apple.

    Let's see if this ends as a minor WMD accident and a quick settlement in court, or if we will see a fullblown patent war between two of the big ones. /picz
  • Lawyers (Score:2, Insightful)

    by simonjp (970013)
    Judging by the number of lawsuits cropping up recently, the only winners seem to be the lawyers who are lapping it up!
  • patent whining ..... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nblender (741424) on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:20AM (#15364871)
    The patent process is broken. But not the way I keep seeing described. A bunch of years ago I had an idea for a computer server add-on. It was a better way of solving a problem that Dell/HP/IBM weren't addressing at the time. We designed and built these things and over a couple of years, sold about 3000 of them. We even got slashdotted. We applied for a patent because we were afraid we'd be scooped. It took 4 years before the patent was approved and granted. By that time, Dell/HP/IBM and some smaller players all made their own version of our product and we went out of business. Now our technology features prominently on their web pages. We sent a few "you're violating our patent. Lets discuss licensing." letters, and received "oh yeah? We see your patent and raise you 1000 lawyers" responses and now we haven't got two nickles to rub together.

    Now, with this new development, even if we did find a few nickles, since we're no longer an active business, we can't even go after these people because there's no rubber mallet to beat them with anymore ....

    So don't bother innovating folks. You'll just get eaten alive.

    • Have you tried talking to a law firm that works on contingency fee? If your patent is truly valid, and these guys are infringing, I can't imagine there isn't a lawyer out there that won't take your case for a percentage of whatever you win in court.
    • Now, with this new development, even if we did find a few nickles, since we're no longer an active business, we can't even go after these people because there's no rubber mallet to beat them with anymore ....

      That's when you take the consolation prize and sell out to the patent trolls for a few million.

    • I was just at a talk given by the USPTO comissioner - a lot of the talk was given to how they are addressing the problem you describe.

      Basically a big problem was that for quite a few years, the USPTO funds were being partially diverted to other programs (like social security). So they were not really able to do a lot during that time to address a growing backlog of patent applications.

      Now they are fully funded and hiring around 1000 patent examiners a year, with a new program to help train them that's a li
  • ...The RIAA sues Apple (because the RIAA has been suing left & right and because Apple seems to be a target lately). They don't even need a reason, they could probably say "Just because...". Then Apple counter-sues the RIAA "because they're doodieheads".
  • Is anyone else sick of all this crap?

    The reason Creative is in trouble is because the Ipods sell TONS more, because kids see an Ipod, and they want an Ipod themselves. They don't want a 'cheaper' Creative model. Hell, my Palm does 10x more than an Ipod, and I still hear "Well, my Ipod is cooler!"

    Kids do not care about functionality or price, they care about what is cool. Trust me on this - I see it every day.

    Honestly, I'm just sick of companies wasting money suing each other. Maybe if they would waste t
  • by oztiks (921504)
    The day a large corporation falls at the hands to a patent infringement case will be a day to remember.

    At the moment its just like this big school yard fight and they give each others black eyes by hurling stones in the playground. Though, at the end of the day its the lawyers who are making the real money... the corporations just get the satisfaction of temporarily wounding a competitor.

    The real loss is when companys get downsized as a result to these legal games and hardworking employees cop it in the ass
  • by guidryp (702488) on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:44AM (#15365045)
    This is the same Creative that used patent extortion against ID software. These guys are one step removed from SCO. I launched my personal boycott of creative products that day.
    http://3dgpu.com/archives/2004/07/28/john-carmack- on-creative-patentn/ [3dgpu.com]

    Anyone using dubious patents to extort as a buisness model deserves to get crushed. I wish ID had played hardball against these slimeballs.

    • Wait... am I reading that right? Did Creative really have the balls to patent the z-fail algorithm and sue John Carmack? An algorithm more commonly known as "Carmack's Reverse?" I don't see why they gave in... this would've taken one whopping day in court for Carmack to kick them to the curb.
  • by Churla (936633) on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:51AM (#15365083)
    Can one of you Web 2.0 coding geniuses build an app which would give os a nive graphical representation of who is suing who? One where you can mouse over the arrow between the circles representing companies to see what the suit is over?

    It would help make some sense of this, and we could look for patterns to bet on who would sue who next.

    At this point I'm betting just in time for presedential elections in 2008 it will be bad enough that some candidate can use "I will reform patent law" as a campaign promise.
  • I'm confused (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tim C (15259) on Friday May 19, 2006 @09:52AM (#15365100)
    Since when is it the patent holder's responsibility to warn others that they are infringing on their patents?
    • Re:I'm confused (Score:3, Interesting)

      by neonfrog (442362)
      Since when is it the patent holder's responsibility to warn others that they are infringing on their patents?

      Um, all the time?

      You need to actively defend your patents. No one more than you can tell if someone is infringing. Do you expect the overburdened patent office to review every new competing product for you -- you know, all those ones that AREN'T trying to compete on patents (they've filed for ZERO) but instead are beating you up on price using your patented methodology? Do I sound bitter from expe
  • Ipod and Nomad prices jump $25 due to idiotic stupidity. Film at 11.
  • oh my lord... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by revlayle (964221) on Friday May 19, 2006 @10:11AM (#15365212) Homepage
    I like creative's players....

    ....*BUT* after working in their north american web development/eCommerce team for almost 2 years, I can tell you this: management is a mess, pay is bad, and they will try anything to sway competitors and market share.

    ever since sound cards have become commodity, Creative has slipped in revenues (for the most part). their products are decent enough (IMO) and affordable, but I think their whole legal and marketing team needs to be axed.

    the counter suit from apple? i am certainly NO apple fanboy, but if you play with fire (creative), expect to get burned.
  • by bitt3n (941736) on Friday May 19, 2006 @10:52AM (#15365513)
    apple is shameless. first they sue apple computer on some groundless concern over confusing names, and NOW they sue CREATIVE when Apple doesn't even MAKE mp3 players?? They should take advice from the Beatles and "Let it Be".
  • by Warlock7 (531656) on Friday May 19, 2006 @11:36AM (#15365861)
    Nice to see a response from Apple. What did Creative expect when they sued one of the most notoriously litigious companies in the US?

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