December 9, 2005 9:14 AM PST

Creative wants to make Apple pay

Creative Technology, maker of MP3 players, has indicated that it is expecting to earn royalties from rival Apple Computer.

Sim Wong Hoo, chief executive of Creative, told the BBC that he intends to "pursue aggressively" his company's U.S. patent on the navigation of music on MP3 or other audio players.

He added that Creative, which makes Zen music players, already is in talks with parties over the patent, which was awarded this August.

Related photo
Zen Vision takes on iPod
Creative's new digital media
player aims at popular iPod.

"Hopefully this will be friendly, but people have to respect intellectual property," Sim said.

Creative is planning to grab royalty money from all music player manufacturers that use the same navigation system that it has patented, he added.

Apple, which has dominated the market for MP3 players, was hit by a number of patent problems this year.

A Hong Kong-based company, for example, claimed in March that it owns patents to the digital rights management software used on the iPod. Pat-rights sought 12 percent of Apple's iPod revenue.

Microsoft, meanwhile, managed to foil Apple's attempts to patent elements of its user interface.

Jo Best of Silicon.com reported from London.

132 comments

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Everyone wants to be like apple
Creative is trying anything possible to get people to buy that worthless Zen. Apple is dominating the portable music industry and everyone wants a bite of apple's pie. The truth is the ipod is the best music player on the market today and everyone wants some of apple's money. Apple came up with the ipod and they deserve all the credit (money).
Posted by chase.carter (7 comments )
Reply Link Flag
When you're on top...
When you're on top, everybody's trying to knock you down.

Tip to Creative: if you really want a slice of Apple's pie, then create
something that is original and innovative yourself.
Posted by markwong (3 comments )
Link Flag
Not the best...
The truth is the iPod is NOT the best music player out there. The hardware is only hyped due to the great success of the companion software, iTunes.

Let's not forget that you can't play iTunes music on any portable player besides the iPod.
Posted by jakec (25 comments )
Link Flag
Amen to that!
I tried one at BestBuy and it's a piece of junk!
Posted by lrd123 (50 comments )
Link Flag
Its a sad day when Creative can patent a list
I mean, Creative have manage to patent a drill down list.
Congratulations America, another stupid, ridiculous patent that
shouldn't have ever been issued.
Posted by Peej2K (40 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Business model.
Its the new way money is made. Patent every part of a product, then license it to others. Who needs to make the best product? All you need is a useful and need part. ;)
Posted by VI Joker (231 comments )
Link Flag
Drill down list
Sounds to me like Creative could go after MS too. What's the difference between the way it's used on the iPod, and Windows Start Menu.

As Molly (buzzreport) recently said, "Clues are going real cheap these days". Sounds like the morons at the patent office need to pony up for one.
Posted by rcrusoe (1305 comments )
Link Flag
Oppression . . .
Throughout world history, while a patent is nice to have at first,
it dissolves or gets reversed-engineered, then it doesn't mean
anything after that.

Creative can go ahead and attempt to sue Apple, but the end
result will be less innovation, not more. World history shows that
over and over again with humans.

I think Creative would stand to make more money if they were to
talk to Apple and ask to either combine resources or make a
gentlemen's agreement on the issue. Same goes for Real
Networks' complaint in the similar vein.

Also, the Zen burned many, many people in the early years. First
impressions count.
Posted by coffee4binky (14 comments )
Link Flag
This is just wonderful
On one side I am tired of the patents used as a business model, but on the other hand Creative actually created something now they is using the patent to get money for it. I am split on this one.
Posted by VI Joker (231 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Okay, So im "Stupid"
Because I feel I got better value out of buying a Zen Photo?

Some of you people are pathetic.

Have fun replacing your Batteries.

My Zen came with two bats and to cradles. Plus I can use any software Id like. But I must be stupid for making a purchase based on choices. Sorry I didnt hail to the almighty, all powerful extremely hyped "crApple"
Posted by SystemsJunky (409 comments )
Link Flag
"Creative" Use of Patent Law
Creative patented hierarchical menus that rely on meta-data to quickly access music.

IMHO, it shouldn't be possible to patent such a simple and generic concept.
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Reply Link Flag
You're right...
And if anyone should be granted the patent, it should be Apple,
since it goes back to Hypercard in 1984.
Posted by Macsaresafer (802 comments )
Link Flag
Sue Happy Businesses
It's all about the money isn't it? Creative's Sim Wong Hoo can
bite me. I will continue to promote the iPod to all my friends
and co-workers. I'm in Afghanistan, as I am an American and
former soldier I here and now vow never to purchase a Creative
product for the rest of my life. As far as I am concerned the
Hong Kong based company can suck it up. So what if Apple
products aren't sold in Hong Kong. What are they going to do?
If companies spent as much time on innovation as they did
trying to rip off people through frivolous lawsuits, they may
actually build/develop something worthwhile.

"You may hope for the best, but always prepare for the worst"
Posted by cooldogjones (53 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I'm with you...
This sounds like a lame attempt to cash in on the iPod's success as
of late... notice how they didn't file this lawsuit years ago, when the
iPod first came out and was attracting much less market attention.

I've never owned a Creative product, but am a longtime Apple user
(20 years plus)... after reading about this frivolous lawsuit, I will
never purchase a Creative product.
Posted by Space Ghost (9 comments )
Link Flag
Good for them
All you apple fan boys need to shut up. Creative had a valid patent, apple stole it.(Used it without permission) DEAL WITH IT!!!!!! Also Zen is a much better products then the worthless ipod, I had one of the first ones and my battery died i had no waranty and got SCREWED. I had to buy a new mp3 player (ZEN) you know what i will have to do when the zen battery dies? Pay 20 bucks to get a new one, i will NEVER BUY ANY apple BRODUCT EVER AGAIN!
Posted by Oleg Simkin (53 comments )
Reply Link Flag
No, no, no!
What are you but a Creative fanboy? Creative hasn't made anything competitive in quality since the Sound Blaster Pro.

If you have a clue, you can change a battery in the iPod. And you can use it on something other than Windows.
Posted by ddesy (4336 comments )
Link Flag
Irony
So, when Microsoft rips off parts of Apples GUI, they are pirates and theives, yet when Apple steals rips of Creatives GUI, they are saints and being mistreated by patent law. Now I think as long as the code behind the interface is different, the patent is crap, but does anyone find it amusing that the Apple fans have been attacking MS for years for stealing Apples style of GUI(which they stole from someone else), yet defend Apple for ripping off Creatives GUI?
Posted by Rolndubbs (194 comments )
Link Flag
What are you, like 12?
So you blame Apple because (a) you didn't bother to find out
that your iPod battery can be replaced and (b) you didn't bother
to purchase an extended warranty?

It's entirely your choice whether or not to buy an Apple
product... but this lawsuit by Creative sounds totally frivolous to
me and the patent for a list is for something so basic to
computers that it probably shouldn't have been issued. Also,
notice how Creative waits until years after the iPod was released,
until it starts really making inroads into the buying public and
becomes profitable, and then decides it wants in on the action
with a frivolous lawsuit. Ridiculous! But not as ridiculous as Oleg
Simkin's ranting and retarded response. Oleg, wipe the foam
from your mouth, and step away from the computer!
Posted by Space Ghost (9 comments )
Link Flag
?
ok, so asll you basically did id dis apple for having an amazing mp3 player that now controls most of the Digital Music player market. Apple came out with the ipod a good long while ago. Creative seemed a little slow and seemed to copy apple. Oh and "Broduct" is spelled Product.
Posted by chase.carter (7 comments )
Link Flag
Sue Happy??
If any body should be suing someone, it should be Apple suing Microsoft for pratically coping their entire GUI! Talk about lame as workers-- MS has 1000s of them. They couldn't scratch their nuts without Steve B. showing them how to.
Posted by lrd123 (50 comments )
Link Flag
broduct?
Good thing apple doesn't sell broducts. By the maturity of your post I doubt you can afford quality products anyways.
Posted by (27 comments )
Link Flag
Opinions Absent Knowledge
Most IPOD users, have never used Zen products, or any other MP3 players, but are so caught up in the CULT of Apple, that they spew opinions that are based soley on there satifaction for there IPOD, and not factual comparisons. Most Zen users have used both due to its popularity, and because its almost impossible to be around Pod people and they now show off there players. The Zen is far superior in sound quality with the earphones provided. The scroll wheel is the only thing Ipods have over most MP3 players, with there ease of use. To get decent sound from the ipod you absolutely to upgrade the earphones, and its still not going to sound better than a Zen. To match the Zen's features, you have to purchase additional products for a unit that is already more expensive. Most reviews from independent sources agree with that assesment, just google "ipod vs zen micro". With that said, most ipod users stick to the earphones provided to make sure you know they have a ipod, because its more about being part of the cult, then the music. Because of its following, even though Creative has a valid patent, and apple used it without permission, wich is stealing, they talk as though Creative is wrong. They would sing a very different Itune if it was the other way around. Apple Ipods have had lawsuits regarding quality issues with every generation of its mp3 players (i.e. cracked screens, batteries not meeting specs , etc.), there computers need repairs as often as PCs, but there faithful followers, will always report in polls no complaints. Its like a soldier in the midst of a war...they almost always say they believe what they are fighting for, because its too painful to say I'm caught up in something and its too late. Zen is a much better products then the ipod, I've had one, and hated the limitations and expense, I was so happy my daughter wanted it, so my Zen purchase made more sense economically.
Posted by jeep4x4enthusiast (2 comments )
Link Flag
Creative's Next Patent
I heard Creative also got a patent on flexible pedal enclusures that utilize interlaced woven linear fibers to provide convenient metatarsal security and protection.

Both Nike and Converse owe Creative one HELL of a lot of money.

:-)
Posted by open-mind (1027 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Those who can, do...
and those who can't seek profits from patents and lawsuits.
Posted by nicmart (1829 comments )
Reply Link Flag
This is ridiculous
Isn't this type of menu system on every OS and application? I'm surprised Creative hasn't tried to patent the type being displayed on the screen. I don't know which is more pathetic: Creative for thinking they can make money on this, or the Patent Office for awarding a patent on something so generic.
Posted by HBFarker (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I totally agree...
Creative's attempt to patent something so basic years after the iPod
debuted is as frivolous as the lawsuit they are now bringing in light
of the iPod's success.
Posted by Space Ghost (9 comments )
Link Flag
iPod battery is only $20 also... shut up.
Creative has no claim on this patent, it's just sour grapes. The iPod is the best because it IS the best. Only people that don't understand quality disagree.

Most iPod batteries work for years and years without issue, a new one is $20. So if you want to complain about your battery, go after SONY, not Apple, SONY made the battery, NOT Apple.

Zen will be bankrupt within a few years anyway, deal with it.
Posted by OS11 (844 comments )
Reply Link Flag
RE
"Creative has no claim on this patent, it's just sour grapes."

Perhaps, but the law would appear to be on Creatives side at the momment.

"The iPod is the best because it IS the best."

I believe that's called circular reasoning.


"So if you want to complain about your battery, go after SONY, not Apple, SONY made the battery, NOT Apple."

Who choice was it use the battery?

"Zen will be bankrupt within a few years anyway, deal with it."

Creative is the company that owns the Zen player.
Posted by unknown unknown (1951 comments )
Link Flag
Keep in mind the timeline here...
Creative is awarded their patent in August of 2005...

But Apple introduced the first iPod in October of 2001, almost 4
years prior!

I'm no lawyer, but to me it would not make sense for Creative to
have any claim against something Apple started producing years
prior to the awarding of Creative's patent.
Posted by Space Ghost (9 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Problem with your timeline
The patent was *awarded* in August 2005, you must be unaware that it usually takes years to get a patent awarded which is why you'll see the words "Patent Pending" on a lot of products.

If you want a valid timeline, find out when the patent was *applied* for, getting awarded a patent just means it's now possible to go after those who infringed on your patent before you were awarded it.

(Note: I'm ignoring the merits of the patent here because I think it's bad patent myself, but it's important to know how the system works or you make mistakes like Space Ghost did with his timeline).
Posted by aabcdefghij987654321 (1721 comments )
Link Flag
Knowlege of Patent Law
When you apply for a patent its not awared immediately. Also you dont have to immediately apply for a patent. MOST patents are initiated after the market bares fruit.
Posted by jeep4x4enthusiast (2 comments )
Link Flag
Re: Timeline
Yes, Creative applied for the patent in January 2001. It's first MP3 player came out in 2000. Apple applied for the same patent (which I don't understand why the iPod faithful on this group call the patent stupid) a couple of months later but was rejected because Creative applied first.
Posted by darrius3365 (98 comments )
Link Flag
Stupid Patent?
Although I think Creative going after Apple on the patent is silly, I do have one question for those of you who think it was stupid for Creative to apply for a patent like that in the first place.

If this patent that Creative owns isn't important, then why did Apple apply for it?
Posted by darrius3365 (98 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Prior Art
What Creative "patented" shouldn't be a patent. The idea of hierachical menus linking to files which are wrapped in meta-data, are a long running staple of computer based interfaces, even pre-gui systems.

The navigation aspect that makes the iPod what it is would be the scroll wheel, not the hierarchical menus.
Posted by R. U. Sirius (745 comments )
Link Flag
Compete, don't complain
Creative hasn't invented anything original since the Sound Blaster. Once the world figured out that DSP chips are a comodity, creative lost it's edge.

I have used Creative products for many years. Creative makes quality products that are affordable to the mass market. Apple makes better products that appeal to the high end consumer. Don't bash Apple becuase you have champagne taste on a beer budget.
Posted by (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Get REALly CREATIVE...
I agree... maybe cry babies Creative and Real should become
partners....
Posted by Musica360.com (106 comments )
Link Flag
Application is the key
I don't know too much about patent law and think Creative's possible patent war is silly, but please note that the Creative patent was APPLIED for in January 2001. That was apparently a year in advance of the first iPod.
Posted by darrius3365 (98 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Apple iPod debuted in Jan. 2001 Macworld Expo
Creative jumped on board to APPLY for a patent the music list heirarchy for all mp3 players after the iPod was introduced...
Posted by Llib Setag (951 comments )
Link Flag
Importance of patents
I am neither an Apple nor Creative fan.

I just want to point out that patents and intellectual property protection are critical to innovation. Of course, it is debatable whether the Creative patent is too obvious and should not have been granted. But given that the patent was granted by the US Patent Office, it is logical for Creative to enforce the patent and monetize it.

Imagine a world without intellectual property protection and Creative or Sony are allowed to sell exact replicas of the iPod ...
Posted by yuanchou (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
Patenting the file browser basically
Its asinine. What next? Patenting the steering wheel on a car? I fully expect Apple to go balls to the walls against this.
Posted by Jonathan (832 comments )
Link Flag
Creative should talk...have you seen their latest player?
Funny, their new 'Vision:M' looks VERY much like a cross between
an iPod Photo (see the INTERFACE) and a color skinned iPOD Mini.
Accident...not a chance in hell.

The nerve. The Chinese tech companies don't innovate...they rip
other innovations apart, reverse engineer, repackage and mass
produce.
Posted by shanewalker (57 comments )
Link Flag
Your kidding me?
Someone in Latvia patented the right hand for whiping posteriors with paper like squares. It's only a matter of time before we all have to start paying a percentage to be able to utilize this aforementioned apparatus.
Posted by (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Dr. Sbaitso's lament?
Watch out everyone...we all know the important milestones Creative has amassed to the industry over the years. I mean, Dr. Sbaitso was shear brilliance :)
Posted by (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Re:
I am not arguing whether or not a patent shouldn't have been rewarded. I don't care about that.

Why I am saying is that people want to bash Creative for applying for a patent so something so "vague and basic", yet Apple applied for the same thing.
Posted by darrius3365 (98 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Win Patent - Lose Trade Dress Lawsuit
With our legal system, anything is possible so I cannot speak of the merits of Creative's "patent" but why then release a new player that will surely get you sued by Apple for "trademark dress (appearance confusion)." Their new Mp3/WMA/video players would not pass any "common sense" test in regards to confusing consumers.

***?
Posted by jbelkin (167 comments )
Reply Link Flag
good one take a bite out of the apple
take a bite out of the apple.they have the worse cs on the planet
Posted by comgraph (2 comments )
Reply Link Flag
CNET= FUD SPREADER
Who's paying CNET to spread this FUD every couple of months? Microsoft??

Oops wait. My XBOX just caught fire. I'll get back you in 5.
Posted by lrd123 (50 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Patently Absurd ...
is what I'd call this lawsuit. I worked with one of the authors of the Creative patent, and saw the first prototype Nomad in the Spring of 2000, months before it hit the streets, and it was no iPod, that's for sure - it was damned difficult to navigate, and that alone will probably be amply demonstrated by Apple in the first few minutes of a trial. As the author of a patent that was granted and upheld in a court challenge myself, I can tell you a little bit about How Things Really Work in the U.S. Trademark and Patent Office (USTPO) and the federal courts where these things are decided (there are only a few courts that have jurisdiction over patents, and some have judges better educated in particular technologies than others).

First, as someone pointed out, it does take years for a patent to be decided upon as to whether it gets awarded. Mine took about four and a half years from the date of submission, which was nearly a year after the initial work on the associated technology - the date of the first documented (preferably witnessed by an independent party) work on the design and/or implementation (one technique for accomplishing this is to send a notarized copy of the description of the invention to yourself via certified mail, double-wrapped and sealed, which you then retain, unopened, until it's in the presence of the judge presiding over the case). Note that the description doesn't need to be complete or even represent the final version, it just needs to describe what's unique about the invention.

The next step is to submit an application to the USPTO, which can easily take a year to complete, but if you've done the first step, there's no rush, as patent protection lasts 17 years from the date of issue, not the first description or even implementation (prototype) of the invention. An experienced patent attorney is invaluable in this, but is also expensive, typically around $50,000 for starters, if it's a patentable idea (so much for an even playing field for the individual inventor, huh?). If you have a patent attorney on staff or retainer, so much the better, but not exactly what most companies can afford (but Apple certainly can and does, but I'm not sure about Creative, given its financial situation). When completing the application, you start with your basic claim, in this case, from Creative's patent 6,928,433:

"1. A method of selecting at least one track from a plurality of tracks stored in a computer-readable medium of a portable media player configured to present sequentially a first, second, and third display screen on the display of the media player, the plurality of tracks accessed according to a hierarchy, the hierarchy having a plurality of categories, subcategories, and items respectively in a first, second, and third level of the hierarchy, the method comprising:

selecting a category in the first display screen of the portable media player;

displaying the subcategories belonging to the selected category in a listing presented in the second display screen;

selecting a subcategory in the second display screen;

displaying the items belonging to the selected subcategory in a listing presented in the third display screen; and

accessing at least one track based on a selection made in one of the display screens."

Whew! That's just the first claim - there are 15 MORE! Anyway, you build up your claims like the layers of an onion, starting with the narrowest (most defensible) claim, and working your way out to broader claims. The trick is to get as many claims accepted by the USPTO as possible, and it never hurts to claim too much - they just may not all be granted. I had 52 claims accepted, out of 102 that were claimed in my patent application!

The next step is kind of surprising, in that, after your application is assigned to a patent examiner (typically a kid fresh out of law school, who may or may not have taken any courses in patent law - the government pays so little that they'll hire anyone, pretty much) he/she is required to assist you in the preparation of your patent, including the claims! Yep, as an individual paying the $75 fee (or whatever it may be now, given Congress' largesse in the waistline), you get the same level of support as a corporation paying thousands of bucks for the same submission. However, you gets what you pays fer, and as I indicated, you're usually getting a pretty green lawyer who almost certainly has no background in technology, much less patent law on technology. The name of the game here is Punch-Your-Ticket, where you spend a couple of years processing patent applications, and once you've done your time in Purgatory, then you can go and sell yourself to the highest bidder in Palo Alto (where all of the Silicon Valley's best patent law firms are) or the equivalent for other industries. This is a critical point - the examiners may not be experts in patent law, much less technology, and they tend to side with the patent applicant more often than not. Only in cases where the applicant has shown that none of the prior art (work done on similar inventions) overlaps with the claimed invention, should the patent be granted, but that's like trying to prove a negative - you can't get there from here in terms of pure logic.

OK, so let's say the USPTO has finally granted you a shiny new seven-digit patent number. You've won the lottery and can print money now, right? WRONG! You're only about one percent of the way down the long and ugly path through dismal legal swamps, if you're lucky - it often gets worse. Now, you have to get people to accept your claims and license your invention, sue anyone who even _appears_ to infringe on your shiny new numbered document, and/or get sued by others who dispute your claims. So, getting awarded a patent, although a lot of work, is absolutely no guarantee that it will be licensed or upheld in court (and licensees often will wait to see what happens when, usually not if, someone gets sued, or sues the patent awardee). You can bet your sweet bippy that Apple's legal team is working overtime to build their evidence pile to refute Creative's patent award. So, it's Lawyers in Love for upwards of decades from this point (it took the inventor of the windshield wiper delay circuit about 40 years to win his case against all of the auto makers world-wide, and he was awarded about $30 million, which he wistfully admitted would only be enjoyed by his grandchildren, as he was in his 70s or 80s by then).

So, eventually, the case goes to court, and the judges (since these are almost always appealed) make their "informed" decisions, which sometimes fly in the face of reality and logical reasoning (the reason we have some really bad patent decsions in precedent, and one of the reasons it takes forever to get a decision, good or bad, from a purely logical perspective). It really all comes down to (a) how persuasive a case your high-priced patent attorneys can make (and you'll be paying through the nose for lots of them) and (2) how intelligent the judges are who decide these cases. I forget whether juries are involved in these cases, but if they are, Lord help you, as now your fate rests in the hands of people who have nothing better to do than sit in a courtroom who couldn't even get into the audience of Court TV!

In any case, we won't know the outcome of this case for years, if not decades, in which time Creative and/or Apple could dry up and blow away (you can probably guess who I'd put my money on). In something like 90% of the cases, depending on how things look, one or both parties may eventually seek to settle out of court, and they negotiate to see who will pay whose lawyers' bills, mostly, with any licensing agreement being icing on the cake. The bottom line is, getting awarded a patent is the easy part - successfully defending one or getting a substantial licensing settlement - PRICELESS! (well, actually, there is a price, but at least you don't have to deal with lawyers any more).

All the Best,
Joe Blow
Posted by Joe Blow (175 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Look at this pic -- Apple copied themselves
The hierarchical menu arrangement found on the iPod is natural
extension of the Column View found in Mac OS X.

And that Column View is the direct descendant of the Workspace
Manager in NextStep. In fact, it was the principle way of
graphically browsing the files on a volume in the OS.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www120.pair.com/mccarthy/nextstep/intro.htmld/" target="_newWindow">http://www120.pair.com/mccarthy/nextstep/intro.htmld/</a>
Workspace.html

The Mac OS X version scrolls the column to the right when
necessary (as does the iPod with each selection). (I haven't used
the Workspace Manager.)

What Creative added was the specification that it use metadata
from music files to populate the lists.

Apple was arguably using their own intellectual property when
creating the menu system.

So there is little to no merit to argument that Apple "stole" an
idea from Creative. Creative just beat them to the punch after
the iPod was released.
Posted by mgreere (332 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Quick, somebody patent "deriving enjoyment from pre-recorded sound"...
Sadly, Creative doesn't have to prove Apple stole anything, just that it holds a patent on the alleged intellectual property. The ridiculous thing about software patents is that these days, people are essentially patenting ideas, which patents were never intended for. You used to patent a process, a mechanism, an invention, a way of doing something that was unique and not obvious... now you can essentially patent the IDEA of doing it, and it's OK if your patent borrows liberally from a wide range of other, non-patented processes, concepts and conventions. You can still claim, with an air of slight offense, that someone has stolen your IP. That having been said, it's not exactly shocking that Apple is running into patent problems, given that Creative and others created the first MP3 players in the late 90s, and somebody is bound to have patented various mechanisms used therein.
Posted by Ikthog (43 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Creative aims to SLOW Apple's momentum by suing
Mis-using the courts to compete is despicable.
Posted by technewsjunkie (1265 comments )
Reply Link Flag
 

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