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Apple countersues Creative

Posted: 23 May 2006 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Spencer Chin? Apple Computer? Creative Technology? MP3 players? patent?

Apple Computer countersued Creative Technology late last week, retaliating for a patent suit by the latter alleging Apple of MP3 player patents violation.

A spokesperson for Apple confirmed an earlier report quoting Bloomberg News that the company sued Creative Labs for infringing patents related to its MP3 players. However, she declined to give additional details or comments.

In its suit against Apple, Creative claims that the interface used in Apple iPod music players infringes on patents for its Zen line of media players. Creative filed a patent suit in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California and a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), requesting relief by barring the import of iPods into the United States from China, where they are manufactured.

At the heart of the dispute is the interface users routinely navigate to select and manipulate musical selections in portable music players. They are used not only in Apple's iPod, iPod Mini, and iPod Nano players, but also in Creative's line of players including the Zen Micro, which Creative unveiled as a cost-competitive alternative to the iPod.

Both companies now accuse one another of violating patents governing the interfaces, a scenario that appears to partially stem from failed efforts to co-develop licensing and product development agreements.

Creative's complaint filed with the ITC noted discussions between Creative and Apple in 2001 to license its driver source code and explore joint business opportunities. However, talks disintegrated when Creative declined Apple's offer to spin off its digital media player business into a separate company that Apple would invest in, the ITC complaint noted.

When Creative was granted the Zen patent for its portable media players in August 2005, it was not clear whether additional discussions took place between the two companies at that time regarding use of the patent.

- Spencer Chin
EE Times

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