This one isn't at all surprising, since Creative Technology basically came out and said they planned to sue Apple last year. However, it apparently took them about five months of negotiations to realize that Apple was not going to license their patent, and that they really did need to sue. At issue here is the widely publicized patents Creative received for a hierarchical categorization of music, as used in a music player interface. It's not even worth getting into the question of why such a patent was granted in the first place (again, the lack of a true test for obviousness is an issue), but the bigger issue is why Creative is choosing to take this battle to the courtroom, rather than the market. Obviously, Apple's iPod has done much better in the market than comparable portable music players from Creative -- and there are a variety of reasons for that. The idea that it was because they somehow "stole" this one minor idea from Creative is pretty ridiculous on its face -- but will be a big part of the case. This is clearly yet another patent lawsuit that is not about encouraging innovation, but about causing trouble in the courtroom for a competitor who figured out the market much more successfully. Creative is, not surprisingly, asking for an injunction stopping Apple from selling certain iPods -- a move that may be a little more difficult after today's Supreme Court ruling. Either way, this means both companies now need to spend millions of dollars on patent attorneys, rather than actually innovating newer and better products.
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