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Creative Sues Apple 423

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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  • by PhrostyMcByte ( 589271 ) <> on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @02:43AM (#15340484) Homepage
    Not very surprising. Will probably be modded flamebait, but..

    Creative is used to having a hold on their market and killing off competition (ie, SoundStorm) by buying out companies or technologies they depend on. The result is them making sub-quality products and incremental upgrades that are *just* good enough for people to bother, and selling them for top dollar. And then shafting the customer with bad support on all but their latest product line.

    So I can see why they don't know how to play fair and compete. They don't know how to handle Apple any other way.
  • Browsing data (Score:5, Informative)

    by stivi ( 534158 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @02:46AM (#15340493) Homepage
    The column view (browser view) has been in NeXTSTEP [] since 1989. Apple acquired NeXT in the mid-90s. I do not say that Apple holds patent on it nor invented it (Xerox Smalltalk class browser?). I just want to say, that the column has been here for a while and it was somehow related to Apple too.

    Moreover! Filtering data using a column view is also quite old. It has been used in data-warehousing as way of drilling-down []. In the music player it is nothing more, nothing less: it is drilling-down through your song database. Just ask Bill Inmon or Ralph Kimball :-) It is the same to drill-down by region, store and date or by genre, artist and album. They are just different terms.
  • Re:Browsing data (Score:5, Informative)

    by zephc ( 225327 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @02:49AM (#15340502)
    yup, and the column view even goes back to the Apple Lisa []
  • Re:sweet (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @02:59AM (#15340538)
    If you can't deal with the fact that our legal system rewards innovation

    Our legal system rewards those with the deepest pockets.

    I hope Apple succeeds for once in defending its intellectual property against those who would profit by mere imitation.

    Um, in this case Apple are the imitators and Creative are the "innovators".
  • by rsmith-mac ( 639075 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @03:08AM (#15340568)
    In more recent history, they patented (John) Carmack's Reverse [] rendering technique, and then used it against id [] to force them to include EAX functionality in the Doom3 engine.
  • Re:Last August? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @03:23AM (#15340612)
    If they submitted the patent before Apple started using the disputed aspects of it, then how is it a submarine patent? A submarine patent is one that's submitted, granted, and then quietly sat on by the holder until the covered tech has gained widespread adoption - then and only then do they start enforcing it, knowing that

    a) there are lots of targets
    b) it'll be much more painful to remove/do without the patented tech than just pay-up

    See for example the .gif patent.
  • by n6mod ( 17734 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @03:23AM (#15340614) Homepage
    Lots of people are referring to the column browser in NeXTstep (or the Lisa). That's all fine and good, but probably irrelavent.

    What is much more relavent as prior art is the empeg car. That had hierarchical playlist menus in '99, which beats the priority date for this patent by a year.

    However, that IP is now held by SigmaTel, and their largest customers are Creative and Apple (no idea which order)

    Prior art doesn't have to be held by the defendant in a patent just has to exist. This patent won't hold, and I'm a little surprised that Creative doesn't know better.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @03:51AM (#15340678)
    Went to the link and links to the ads were broken. Typical. So I de-munged them to view them - now I wish I hadn't! *You have been warned.*

    Windows Media Player (WMV): 40.wmv [] wmv [] v [] []

    Quicktime (MOV): [] mov [] v [] []

    Ugh. Only the battery ad isn't cringeworthy, but it's still lame. For Creative's sake, hopefully their lawyers are better than their marketers.
  • by YeeHaW_Jelte ( 451855 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @03:59AM (#15340690) Homepage
    Lady, did you even read your own link?

    It says it was invented and patented by two guys in 1999, one year before Carmack reinvented it in 2000 for doom3. Creative got ownership of the patent from the two guys, and used it as trade for EAX support.

    Nothing all to dirty here, just business.
  • I hate Creative (Score:3, Informative)

    by Polybius ( 743489 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @04:02AM (#15340694)
    Reminds me of the time Creative sued Aureal for making A3D compatible with EAX. Aureal won the case but the cost of defending themselves ended up bankrupting the company. Next they bought Sensaura who provided nVidia, VIA, etc. with 3D support (soundstorm for nForce2) and killed the technology. They have done everything in their power to protect their precious EAX even though it is inferior to traditional home theatre suround sound.

    Luckily Auzentech is growing and their technology is improving greatly. The Auzentech Xplosion 7.1 does Dolby Digital Live and DTS Connect. This card sounds incredibly better than any Creative card I have ever heard.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:3, Informative)

    by The Bungi ( 221687 ) <> on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @04:05AM (#15340705) Homepage
    Right, so when can Apple sue Windows for making a GUI file system for their OS?

    They did.

  • by enitime ( 964946 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @04:11AM (#15340716)
    "But I am guessing the patent in question might have been applied for years ago."

    Patent No. 6,928,433 [] was filed in January 2001. Before the iPod was unveiled in October.

    The site isn't available at the moment (Maximum number of users has been reached.) but it looked like a fairly typical old-method-but-for-new-technology patent. You know the type... "auction bidding... but on the Internet!".

  • Re:Last August? (Score:5, Informative)

    by N Monkey ( 313423 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @04:42AM (#15340776)
    IANAPL but...
    If they submitted the patent before Apple started using the disputed aspects of it, then how is it a submarine patent? A submarine patent is one that's submitted, granted...
    No, I believe you are incorrect. My understanding is that, before the US cleaned up their patent laws, a submarine patent was one that was filed but not granted. The old laws allowed a patent to be tweaked multiple times effectively delaying the grant pretty much indefinitely. An unscrupulous person/company could thus tune a patent to cause the most havoc when he/they effectively chose to get it granted.

    Thankfully, the USPTO is a bit more like the rest of the world so this practice should now have stopped.
  • by S3D ( 745318 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @05:19AM (#15340847)
    It says it was invented and patented by two guys in 1999, one year before Carmack reinvented it in 2000 for doom3.
    I've read descriptoin of the stencil shadow algoritm before 1999. Reverse caps pretty much trivial after stencil shadow idea itself. Here is eaxample of the stencil shadows before 1999: OpenGL org article about stencil shadow 1998 []
  • Re:Wha...? (Score:5, Informative)

    by greg1104 ( 461138 ) <> on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @05:28AM (#15340871) Homepage
    Creative first released their Nomad Jukebox products in early 2000: .html []

    The first iPod came out on October 23, 2001.

    The Nomad Zen was a late 2002 product: tml []

    Posters here already have identified the Creative patent as being one they filed on January 5, 2001. That was probably early in the design cycle for the Zen players, but before they actually were released.

    I for one am glad to see Creative finally prosecuting Apple for all the technology they stole. Clearly Apple has been taking ideas from the superior Nomad products for quite some time now, and that's the only way they've been able to build the obviously derivative user interface used on the iPod.

    (Note to self: turn down sarcasm knob a notch)
  • Re:Wha...? (Score:5, Informative)

    by calciphus ( 968890 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @05:55AM (#15340945)
    No, the iPod did not come out before the Creative's "high capacity" units. Creative's large storage mp3 players were on the market for almost 18 months before the iPod was publically announced, and with an interface that was almost identical to the "revolutionary" iPod interface. At the time, Zens were available in 5 and 10GB - while the iPod was 10, 15, and later 20.

    The iPod was slimer, used a li-poly battery (instead of lithium-ion, resulting in many upset users) and the "click-wheel" technology, rather than traditional buttons. Other than that, they were about the same.

    And the patent for the "hierarchical" (and lets face it, really really obvious) way of organizing music on a mobile player is what they're settling on. The filing date is much earlier, though it was pushed back and re-examined many times. That whole "Artist->Album->Song" method? Creative "invented" it, and God help you if you try and use it yourself in a mobile player and subsequently gain market share over them. Nevermind that it's the fundamental way that files have been stored and sorted on computers since...well...since we left punch cards behind, slapping "mobile" on the patent makes it new! So does slapping "online" apparently...

    They sued now because prior to this, they'd been in negotiations with Apple for an out-of-court settlement for patent infringement. Apple finally flat out refuesd (on the grounds that the patent was "bullshit"), and left Creative little other options for taking their slice of someone else's pie. They'll probably hope that after a bit of bad press and a seemingly losing battle, Apple will decide to settle just to get on with it. Hopefully Apple won't cave, because as much as I hate those stupid white headphones, I hate patent mongering more.
  • by nick.lowe ( 975185 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @08:51AM (#15341490)
    Companies such as Apple and Creative all live by the sword when it comes to Intellectual Property, so they can die by it too.

    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 am not convinced, however, that the balance required - to realise maximum public utility - is realised under the current system.

    I think that the current patenting system offers to much protection for broad, in many cases inherent, ideas for too long.

    I suppose the fault is partially due to the fact that those who grant these patents cannot be an expert in all fields and cannot therefore easily come to fully considered judgements when it comes to awarding rights.
  • by rjstanford ( 69735 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @08:55AM (#15341519) Homepage Journal
    Im sorry, as much as apple have done good things in the world of software, they're beginning to get a bit too much, for too less. i.e I'm outraged that the Nano (in the UK - dont know about other countries) doesn't come with a DC adapter, and you have to fork out over 10 pounds for one.

    Why? Sorry, but most people that I know (including my own household) always charge from the computer. Why should the rest of us have to pay extra, and Apple have to manufacture more items (at both a financial and an enviromental cost) that will simply take up space both in homes and eventually in landfills, so that a few people can have an extra piece included "for free"?
  • by e4g4 ( 533831 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @09:23AM (#15341666)
    Itunes is basically an alarmingly poor piece of code that runs essentially like a virus or spyware.

    Care to elaborate? I mean, I'll give you that iTunes is bloated and slow - but a virus or spyware? You can't make a claim like that without backing it up. So, let me help you out: iTunes has a feature (which you can disable) that provides links to the music store for songs in your library. It also has a mini-store browser (which you can also disable) that presents you with songs similar to those in your library. So - given that you can disable the "spyware" features of iTunes without running AdAware et al, I don't see how iTunes is "alarmingly" poor, or even remotely resembles viruses or spyware.

    In the interest of full disclosure - I've been a Mac fan since I was six years old (1989), but I still think the best music player out there is Winamp 5 - no other program has even approached the things you can do with the winamp visualization system (as far as media players go - I'm not talking about performance quality MIDI visualizers).

  • Re:sweet (Score:5, Informative)

    by Guysmiley777 ( 880063 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @09:45AM (#15341855)
    The people don't want DRM, they don't want iTunes upgrades removing features.
    Guess what? The Creative Zen series is now infested with DRM and has lost features as well. I know because I got f%$^ed buying a Zen Sleek. And on the box it says "Win98/ME/2K/XP compatible". Great, I'm running Win2k. Get home and try to install the required interface software (no UMD device here, oh no). The installer comes up with "Incorrect Operating System". I say WTF? Double check the box "Win98/ME/2K/XP compatible". WTF again. Go to the Creative site, download the software from there, same s$%&. Email Creative asking WTF. Get a response 2 days later saying "To properly support PlayForSure the Zen product you purchased is only supported by Media Player 10, which requires Windows XP".

    So I go back to the store I bought it and returned it, bought a NON-PlayForS$%t iRiver player instead. The funniest part was that the Zen Sleeks on the shelf when I went back had a sticker over the requirements on the back covering up the O/S section, it now says "Windows XP" only. Asses.
  • by Wolfbone ( 668810 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @09:46AM (#15341876)
    "Lady, did you even read your own link?....Nothing all to dirty here, just business."

    Did you even read it? Sam Dietrich relates describing the technique publicly at a Creative Labs developer conference, after which Creative went and patented it. Fraud and extortion not dirty? Just business?

  • prior art from 1999 (Score:2, Informative)

    by mlilback ( 134172 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @09:48AM (#15341897) Homepage
    Why does everyone seem to forget the PJB []? I paid something like $700 to have the first hard-drive based mp3 player, which *surprise* had the same interface as claimed by this patent. How else are you going to navigate a music player with that much music?
  • by lergnom ( 975212 ) on Tuesday May 16, 2006 @10:27AM (#15342166)
    The Supreme Court just rebuked the lower courts for mechanically granting an injunction in a patent infringement case without weighing the equities. In simple english, it is no longer possible for a company to claim they have a valid patent and have a court grant an injunction prohibiting use without essentially having a real trial. This means the plaintiff - Creative, here - has lost a huge amount of leverage because the courts would have to consider the effect of an injunction on Apple's business, its suppliers, its customers. The threat of injunction was a huge club to extort higher cash settlements. Apple can now likely fight this out for many years without seeing any noticeable effect on its business. They will likely consider the cost of defense versus the cost of settlement, but that is now much easier to figure with the threat of imposed shutdown so reduced. Apple may think Creative's suit is garbage and they may want to protect their image of innovation and now they can value the costs of pursuing those goals versus the costs of the lawsuit. Bottom line to Creative: this lawsuit became much harder and much more expensive, with a much lower settlement value.

God help those who do not help themselves. -- Wilson Mizner