Google Goes On The Offensive Against Troll Armed With Old Mp3 Player Patent

from the Creative-Labs-forcing-its-way-back-into-the-market dept

It wasn’t enough that Creative Labs/Creative Technology spent March 24th suing almost every big name in the cell phone business for patent infringement. These lawsuits, all filed in the East Texas patent troll playground, asserted the same thing: that any smartphone containing a music app (which is every smartphone produced) violates the patent it was granted in 2005 to use in conjunction with its mp3 players. “Venue is proper” because smartphones are sold in Texas, even if the plaintiffs are located in California and Singapore, respectively.

That wasn’t all Creative Technology did. It also filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission seeking to block the import of smartphones from manufacturers like Sony, LG, BlackBerry, Samsung, etc. under the theory that every imported phone contains patent-infringing software. The ITC has opened an investigation of Creative’s allegations, which will at least hold off any potential import blocks until it reaches a decision. The ITC’s summary of Creative’s patent claims clearly shows how broad the patent’s potential coverage is — and (inadvertently) why it should be invalidated.

The products at issue in the investigation are portable electronic devices, such as smart phones, with the capability of playing stored media files selected by a user from a hierarchical display.

Creative Labs started its patent war early, suing Apple back in 2006 for “violating” its patent with its iPods. Apple ultimately settled with Creative for $100 million — not only encouraging Creative’s trolling ways but also moving Apple towards more aggressive acquisition (and defense) of patents, even for something truly obvious like “rounded corners.”

Google has decided it’s not going to wait around for the ITC or east Texas courts to come to the wrong conclusions. It’s gone on the offensive, seeking declaratory judgment that it does not violate Creative’s broad patent. Every company sued by Creative on March 24th sells Android phones that contain Google’s “Play Music” app. On behalf of its customers (and its own Motorola Mobility, which was also sued), Google wants Creative’s BS patent’s power neutered.

No version of the Google Play Music app directly or indirectly infringes any claim of the ’433 patent. No third party infringes any claim of the ’433 patent by using the Google Play Music app in other devices. Google has not caused, directed, requested, or facilitated any such infringement, and has not had any specific intent to do so. The Google Play Music app is not designed for use in any combination that would infringe any claim of the ’433 patent. Rather, the Google Play Music app has substantial uses that do not infringe any claim of the ’433 patent.


An actual and justiciable controversy therefore exists between Google and Creative regarding whether the Google Play Music app infringes or has infringed the ’433 patent. A judicial declaration is necessary to determine the respective rights of the parties regarding the ’433 patent. Google seeks a judgment declaring that the Google Play Music app does not directly or indirectly infringe any claim of the ’433 patent.

Creative is asking for a substantial payout for something as obvious as selecting and adding songs to a playlist. The claim specified in its lawsuits is this one:

The method of selecting a track as recited in claim 1 wherein the accessing at least one track comprises selecting an item in the third display screen and adding at least one track associated with the selected item to a playlist.

If Google’s receives a judgment in its favor, it will at least protect the cell phone manufacturers from having to deal with claims related to its “Music Play” app. For all of those that load their own music apps on their phones (which, again, is all of them), they’re still on their own when it comes to fending off Creative’s rent-seeking.

The market has changed and left Creative behind. Back when it sued Apple, it at least had a competing mp3 player on the market. Now, it has nothing even remotely related to smartphones, but still thinks it’s entitled to a cut of those profits because it made music players once upon a time. And it’s so desperate to leech off viable companies that it’s willing to abuse more than a friendly district court to achieve its ends.

Filed Under: , , ,
Companies: creative labs, google

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Google Goes On The Offensive Against Troll Armed With Old Mp3 Player Patent”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

We ignored all of this until we decided they had enough money we could shake out of them.

East Texas needs to be nuked from space, stupid patents need to be ended, but perhaps the simplest fix would be capping “damages” after oh say 5 years at .000001% & allow them to keep using it.

End the amazing snapping up of patents and lawyers seeking ways to apply them to things seeking payments.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Simply getting rid of venue shopping would get rid of most of this rubbish. If companies knew they’d actually have to argue the case on the merits, instead of just filing in E. Texas, going to court and saying ‘We have a patent that they might infringe on, make them give us money’ I imagine most of them wouldn’t even bother.

It’s one thing to shake others down when you know you can stack the deck in your favor by simply filing in a certain location, quite another when the playing field is a little more even.

flyinginn says:

Depressing but it shows the evolution of an interesting company from startup with the first PC sound boards and a handful of people, to a wide range of neat audio gizmos, to stagnation, irrelevance and patent trolling. Patent trolling is a bit like the end game for a star – a black hole for those too big to shrivel into a dismal burnt-out red dwarf. The real end for Creative was probably its sell-off of 3DLabs which took it out of the SOC and tablet market.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I loved my SB cards. But the last one I had was circa 2000 and I kept using it for as long as I used XP, despite the fact that Creative provided abysmal driver support for it. That was always my only problem with them: awful drivers.
It kept me from moving on to any of their superfluous, overpriced cards after I no longer could use the one I had, just because there were no drivers for it.
I still use a 5.1 Speaker set of theirs that must be more than 10yo at this point. They had good stuff.

The Dark One says:

Too Funny...

Considering that I wrote up the specs for a “digital music storage and playing device” back in the mid 80s, I’d say that everyone in the digital music storage / player market owes me big time.

I’ve got the notebooks with the specs, using a technology that was being touted at the time in Omni magazine where a sugar cube sized piece of organic crystal could store about 12 terabytes of data. What’s really funny is that the internet didn’t exist at the time, so music would have been purchased at a kiosk in a local mall, would be encrypted per device, locked down by a pin selected by the owner. If the memory was stolen or lost, buy a replacement memory device and all music purchased would be re-downloaded to the new module. The old module would be destroyed if the “thief” tried to use it.
The memory device would have been capable of being used in home stereos, portable music devices, car stereos, etc…

Again, this was back around 1983/1984.

Skeeter says:

Re: Too Funny...

So, what you are saying is, that you have nothing but your word and some notebooks claiming the ‘urban legend’ of crystal lattice storage, dated to 1984? How exactly, does this compare to the story which discusses A PATENT that by law, SHOULD protect the registered owner of said patent from TROLLS (aka Google, in this case, NOT Creative Labs)?

See, this story is spin to make the Pirate (aka Google) look like the victim, and the PATENT OWNER (aka Creative Labs) look like the bad guy. My, my, my, what a mixed up world we live in.

Skeeter says:

Patent Trolling - or First Owner?

I really dislike ‘mega-corp-world’ and true ‘trolls’ who try to squat things like URLS, etc.; but then again, if you are the rightful owner, Google’s stunt is a lot like the bank saying, ‘yeah, so you bought your house in 2005, you aren’t paying for it now, so we’re taking ownership because, well, we can’.

See, this ‘name-slinging’ of ‘patent troll’ doesn’t apply when the Creative REALLY IS THE OWNER of the patent. Overly broad? Well, that’s the nature of the beast of ‘being first to market and patent’. Don’t like it? WORK AROUND THE KEYSTONES, don’t try to steal them because you are ‘BIGGER AND BADDER’ than the old guy who was there first. That’s ‘domination by size’. This is tantamount to Google telling you that they can make you buy X-brand computer or Y-brand clothes, because ‘they are the biggest elephants in the room’.

Why see it like this? Well, having paid between $10,000 and $17,500 for four different patents in my life, and having never sold them, paid to keep them current, and having gained income from leasing rights on them, I see them like you’d see a rental house you own. IT IS MY PROPERTY. You saying ‘it serves the better interest’ sounds just like ‘imminent domain’ does to someone getting their own house sent ‘into condemnation’ just so the rich can have their golf course on your prior property that you wouldn’t sell them otherwise.

When you see it for what it is, then you see it is nothing but the rich or powerful stealing under the ‘I’m Bigger Than YOU’ mandate. Plain, and simple.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Patent Trolling - or First Owner?

‘Overly broad’ is actually putting it very mildly, I’d probably go for ‘Absurdly, ridiculously broad’. There is no ‘working around the keystones’ when the patent in question is basically ‘any device that can play mp3’s or videos and allows the user to choose tracks’, so the only way for Google or other companies to avoid violating the patent(especially in ‘patent’ friendly East Texas) would be if they didn’t sell any device capable of playing digital media unless the user had no control over what could be played.

At all.

This isn’t some big mean companies stomping on the little guy, this is a company that made a product years back, others did it better, and rather than compete they’ve turned to shaking down anyone they could for as much as they can. I don’t care how good their mp3 player was, they don’t deserve to get a cut from every device that has the ability to play digital media(all of them at this point) just because at one point they sold a device that could do something similar.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Patent Trolling - or First Owner?

And the fact that they’ve never bothered to enforce these overly broad patents before now?
If they are so far on the side of the angels, wouldn’t they have acted sooner?
If you found someone infringing on your patents would you wait 20 years to file?

And Google is merely fighting back, they aren’t the only company targeted.

You almost are a decent shill, but stop pretending that what they claim today was something they created. They wedged a patent to fit something thats been around for a very long time and then had the gall to try block the import of devices to leverage faster settlements. They are trolls no matter what you want to claim.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Patent Trolling - or First Owner?

“And the fact that they’ve never bothered to enforce these overly broad patents before now?
If they are so far on the side of the angels, wouldn’t they have acted sooner?
If you found someone infringing on your patents would you wait 20 years to file?”

“…violates the patent it was granted in 2005…”
“Creative Labs started its patent war early, suing Apple back in 2006 for “violating”…”

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Patent Trolling - or First Owner?

IT IS MY PROPERTY. You saying ‘it serves the better interest’ sounds just like ‘imminent domain’ does to someone getting their own house sent ‘into condemnation’ just so the rich can have their golf course on your prior property that you wouldn’t sell them otherwise.

Yes, eminent domain can suck. So can analogies.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Patent Trolling - or First Owner?

Being the first to market and being the first to patent are two different things. Also your nebulous diatribe doesn’t seem to understand the definition of a patent troll. A patent troll does in fact hold the patents they are using to troll with.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Patent Trolling - or First Owner?

Also IP is not about serving your alleged ‘property rights’. IP is a privilege not a right. Its only purpose should be to promote the progress and serve a public interest. The misleading term ‘copyright’ was created by the same misleading shady people behind our existing IP laws showing what kinda shady people are behind our laws.

It should also be noted that this is supposed to be a democracy. As such we ALWAYS have the right to complain about laws we disagree with. The ‘nature of the beast’ is exactly what we are criticizing here, the laws need to be changed.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Patent Trolling - or First Owner?

It should also be noted that we aren’t siding with Google because they are ‘big’. The major proponents and backers of IP laws are and have always overwhelmingly been large corporations but that’s no reason to support bad IP laws.

For instance large corporations have long been known to start astroturfing campaigns in favor of IP laws. However I don’t remember masses of people protesting the streets in favor of IP laws to get our existing laws in place. I do remember big corporations being the ones to push for these laws in order to get them instated, expanded, and extended. I do remember masses of people protesting against things like SOPA.

DigDug says:

Re: Re:

Have you even bothered to look up the definition of “API” before you spew false statements?

APIs aren’t “code”

Application program interface (API) is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications.

An API specifies how software components should interact and APIs are used when programming graphical user interface (GUI) components, larger programs using libraries provided by the language being used, externally provided software / resource platforms such as google maps, google drive, google mail, yahoo finance, amazon cloud and storage.

Without APIs, and without them being “free to use” no software would ever be able to communicate with software from another developer.

Hell, without the ability to use APIs, Oracle wouldn’t even exist.

KeillRandor (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

The problem with API’s being copywritable, is that no-one has used the correct ‘analogy’ to describe what they are and why they matter: how we describe the functionality of language itself.

Imagine if noun/verb/adjective/adverb/subject/object/thing(s)/property of things etc. were copywritable in describing a language? This is what an API is, and for… That they become more complicated with computer code is not the issue…

Dave Cortright says:

Android phones no longer for sale in East TX

If I were a business at risk of having a patent case filed in E TX, I would stop doing business in that jurisdiction. I would even add a clause to my EULA that states the device is not intended to be used in that jurisdiction and that doing so voids the warranty. There needs to be consequences to the actions of E TX courts, otherwise they won’t change their bad behavior.

Hephaestus (profile) says:

“with the capability of playing stored media files selected by a user from a hierarchical display”

Troubling, in that a they are taking about
1) a tree structure
2) something that is so obvious to anyone that knows anything about programming, or has even glanced sideways at a GUI

I was wondering if they also got patents on displaying other things in tree structure, or if we have other companies out their about to drop a huge set of lawsuits on every internet site.

ArkieGuy (profile) says:

I feel a Verge article coming on

The Verge May 2016

“Google throws Android manufacturers under the bus”….

In breaking news, Google has thrown all Android manufactures under the bus by ONLY defending its “Google Play Music” product in a slam dunk patent lawsuit filed by the creator of computer audio Creative Labs against all Android manufactures.

Google could have chosen to defend all of its manufactures by naming each of the manufacturers products, but instead chose to only defend its own product.

This will have a huge impact on the Android market as now all manufacturers will have to re-think their selection of Android as opposed to other offerings like Windows Phone.

Rumor has it that this huge misstep by Google has led Apple to consider licensing it’s product line to offer manufacturers a totally stable, well rounded, inexpensive and patent impervious operating system option.

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...