Creative Sues Apple Over iPod Interface Patents

from the suing-those-more-successful-than-you dept

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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    Brad, May 15th, 2006 @ 10:16pm

    In all fairness, it's about time Apple was on the receiving end of one of these lawsuits. They've ripped off pleanty of ideas (GUI, Mouse, etc) and then turned around and sued other people for doing the same. They've used open source code to build a commercial product, and then sued a bunch of freelance programmers who tried to make their software work on someone else's hardware. So really, I ask, what's so great about Apple? They're pushers of some of the most heavy-handed DRM available, and their CEO is a tyranical mizer. I'm glad they'll spend a bunch of money and get bad PR on their "revolutionary" (spelled incremental) little device.

     

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      john, May 19th, 2006 @ 8:29am

      Re: Brad's comment

      Get your facts straight before posting a flaming article. Although accused otherwise, Apple is soley responsible for the invention of the graphical user interface and the mouse. Do your research on some proffesional sites and tell me what you find.

      As for the use of opensource innovation to create commercial software, this is not only not unheard of, but indeed common. Heard of Google's operating system that is to be released in the not to distant future? It is a combination of original Google innovation and a Linux distro.

      Whats so great about apple? Although being a little pricey at times, they develop vastly superior hardware that is seemlessly integrated with brilliant, revolutionary and innvoative software. They are the only company like it.

      So think different, Brad. And get your damn facts straigh, you jargon lobbing skript kiddie.

       

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    Keith, May 15th, 2006 @ 10:44pm

    Hmmm

    I read thru alot of the patent and it seems to me that assigning ideas such as these to a patent really need to be examined in the the world of IP.

    All it really documents is a hierarchial structure of data collection and how to access it albeit in reference to music. I wrote applications in the 80s for uni that did the same thing and it seems to me that using patents like this is like saying that I woke up one day and decided that a) I inhale and b) I exhale in order to breathe so I shall patent this process. Simplistic, yes, but there are alot of concepts in the programming world that are just as simple if not just plain obvious or logical.

    In this case, just how else would you store and access music? Logically as documented by the patent, of course. Unless, I am just missing something obviously unique about the patent. I always thought a patent stated a unique idea, not something logical to most people.

    I am no Apple fan but when the lawyers have something to gain and everyone else to lose in the long run, then it just isn't right.

     

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    Wishful thinker, May 16th, 2006 @ 2:26am

    Werid

    Wasn't it Microsoft who ripped off the GUI and Mouse ideas from OG designers within IBM????? Books, movies and even biographies described this initial theft from IBM employee's who were not listened to by dinosauric bosses whom are no longer with IBM? Granted Job's is an extremely hands on JO??? ( I have friends at Apple that know he's very much so a quizative SOB when he meets new employee's)
    And yes, Apple did go after freelancers for awhile whom were trying to bridge the gap between platforms, so what? Any corporation would have done something simular at that time from the late 80's thru most of the 90's regarding software and did. If we use Microsoft as an example they just went out and bought the competion and dismantled them, does this ring a bell???

     

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    scott, May 16th, 2006 @ 5:26am

    the patent sounds like windows explorer.

     

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    Brad, May 16th, 2006 @ 5:27am

    No, it wasn't Microsoft

    The GUI, and Mouse, were both invented at Xerox Parc back in the early '80s as part of a product demonstration. When seen at a trade show, an Apple employee asked if such things were patented. Xerox said they were not, as they couldn't see why anyone would want to patent such a clumsy device as a mouse. When Apple released OS2 (their first GUI) the mouse was part of the package. At the time, MS was still using DOS's command-line interface.

    Windows 3 came out about a year and a half after that, and Apple cried FOUL! from their soap-box-of-hypocracy. When they tried to sue, Microsoft pointed to a three year old Xerox demo and said "It's their idea, and they're the only ones who can sue. And since it's now in the public space, they can't sue either."

    At one point, prior art actually applied to patents. Those days are gone now.

    And what's so bad about Microsoft going out and buying companies for their technology? A buy-out is one of the best new-venture exit strategies one can hope for. What's wrong with a buy-out? Serriously? I'd love it if MS showed up at my door and said "Your company is worth $16M. We'll buy you and every bit of IP you have and you can just stop working." No one forces you to sign over your company for a check. Google is buying up a bunch of other companies (Blogger?) for their IP and customer base. That's how companies grow. You can either engage in an expensive and mutually destructive compeition, or the big guy can buy the little one out, whcih is when everyone wins.

    What's lousy is when a large and capital-heavy company looks at your product and has a team of salaried lawyers with nothing better to do than tie you up in legal battles assures them that they can get away with stealing your idea and not paying for it. This is actually a case where innovation MIGHT be getting squashed for the sake of a larger, more successful company profiting.

    Now, lets be clear: I think this patent is inane and meaningless, but I think Creative actually has a legal case against Apple here, and they'll probably draw it out a while, since they've also got a team of salaried lawyers just twiddling their thumbs waiting for a chance to earn a bonus.

    This'll be like RIM and NTP all over again, except this time the patent is likely not to be found invalid.

     

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    Topher3105, May 16th, 2006 @ 6:14am

    Missing the point

    Its not the patent, but the actual look and feel of the interface I think Creative has taken issue with. When you look at the early Creative Jukebox interface, and the iPod interface that came out 10 months after Creative's product, they are very similar in nature. The simplistic front/back menu interface listing songs by album, artist, genre, etc in a single column of items.

    While I agree that the idea of patenting the idea of hierarchical data is kind of hard to fight for, the fact that Apple looked to have blatantly ripped off Creative's interface is what the case will center on. There could have been any number of ways Apple could have created the iPod interface, and in fact, the iPod interface is really not apple like at all (compared to their OS products). I think if Apple spent a little more time making the interface look less like Creatives, then just keeping it similar, there wouldn't be an issue.

     

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    Gregory, May 16th, 2006 @ 8:36am

    standardized interface

    I think it is ridicilous that Creative has issues with IPod's interface. I mean, at some point, all mp3 players will use a similiar interface, something that people like and that they don't have to learn all over again when they switch mp3 players. The interface of most cell phones works pretty much the same either, no matter if it is a Nokia, Samsung or Motorola.
    Or just take car makers! Mercedes isn't suing Ford, just because Ford cars have a similiar "interface" like their own cars (steering weel, middle console with radio, glove compartment).

     

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    ThinkSolveDo, May 16th, 2006 @ 9:44am

    Now Really... Lawsuits are NOT innovation

    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.

    Are you saying patent lawsuits encourage innovation? Let me state for the record that Patent Lawsuits DO NOT encourage innovation. Getting paid for your innovation encourages innovation.

    Violating patents, trademarks and copyrights is the EXACT OPPOSITE of innovation.

    Would YOU let someone copy every article posted here, everyday, and put it in a new website, under their own name, and further let them pass it off as theirs? No... you would begin to piss and moan that someone was stealing your work and violating your copyrights. And you'd tell everyone how bad they were and that they were a thief. And you know what? You'd have every right to do that! That is the point of all this. Your rights are yours!

    Innovation is not about stealing others work. It is about innovating.

    And stealing is NOT innovation. Market success through stealing is not a sign of intelligence or innovation. It is, often times, a sign of lack of intelligence.

    If Apple got the patents first they would be suing Creative.

     

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      Mike (profile), May 16th, 2006 @ 9:53am

      Re: Now Really... Lawsuits are NOT innovation

      ThinkSolveDo,

      Would YOU let someone copy every article posted here, everyday, and put it in a new website, under their own name, and further let them pass it off as theirs?

      What's funny is that you asked us this exact question a few weeks ago, and we told you your assumption was wrong. Funny that you ignore that.

      We have no problem with others taking the work here and posting it on their own site. Sites like Bloglines already does exactly that.

      We do take exception to them posting it without giving us credit, but that's a trademark issue -- not a copyright. The issue there is one of confusion. However, in cases where that has happened we never call our lawyers for two reasons.

      1. We will send a nice note, and in most cases, the person will admit it was a mistake and fix it.

      2. Any site that posts our content without crediting us is unlikely to be around very long or be taken seriously.

      So, you're wrong. Trademarks are to prevent confusion, and we have no problem with them there. However, on the copyright front, we ENCOURAGE others to take our content and post it to their site, so long as it's properly credited. That helps BUILD our reputation and gets us more attention. Why would we be upset that people are helping to promote us?

       

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    MacPinchi, May 19th, 2006 @ 11:37am

    > When you look at the early Creative Jukebox interface, and the iPod interface that came out 10 months after Creative's product, they are very similar in nature.

    Do you really think that Apple could have stolen Creative's idea, built an entirely new product based upon that idea, ramped up production, created a marketing strategy and gotten it to market in a span of only 10 months? I didn't think so.

    The more likely case is that both companies arrived upon a similar solution in parallel. The solution being the obvious one, I don't think Creative's patent will hold up.

     

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