Creative sues Apple over iPod user interface

By Matthew Henry

CALIFORNIA, USA: Creative Technology has initiated legal proceedings against arch rival Apple Computers in the USA, demanding all iPods and iPod Nanos be taken off the US market due to an alleged patent infringement.

But a Sydney-based lawyer and technology law specialist with legal.consult, Andrew Perry, believes a ban on iPods is unlikely.

“Some of that is hype, I don’t think this will end up with iPods being taken off the shelves. There won’t be a recall, there will probably be a behind closed doors settlement,” said Perry.

Creative alleges the user interface in Apple’s iPod players was copied from the one it originally developed for its Nomad Jukebox player, which was launched in January 2000 – 13 months before Apple launched its first iPod.

Creative’s user interface is protected by the ‘Zen Patent’ which was awarded to the company in August last year. The patent relates to the heirachical file structure which allows users to navigate tracks stored on a digital music player by artist, album and song.

Creative filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission on Monday requesting an investigation into Apple’s alleged breach the Zen Patent.

“The orders sought would prohibit Apple Computer Inc. from engaging in sales, marketing, importation or sale after importation into the United States, or other infringing activities in the United States with regard to the infringing iPod and iPod Nano products,” said Creative in a statement.

Creative has also filed a lawsuit against Apple in the United States District Court for the northern district of California, seeking an injunction and increased damages for Apple’s ‘willful infringement of the Zen Patent’.

A possible outcome is that Creative will demand payment of royalties for each iPod sold with its patented user interface.

Creative Labs Australia and Apple Computer Australia both declined to comment on the issue.

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