In court documents filed May 17, Apple accuses Creative Labs, the U.S. division of Creative Technology Ltd., of infringing on seven patents ranging from PC processing card for decoding operations, to icon displays and several types of user interfaces. All are meant for digital media players.
"Creative has committed and continues to commit acts of patient infringement," the court documents state, adding brief descriptions of each patent number. Apple requests monetary damages and an injunction barring continued use of its patents. Richard Lutton, Apple's chief patent council, declined to comment. An Apple spokesperson would only confirm the documents were filed.
Several months after the Zen Patent for the user interface on portable digital media players was issued, "Creative proactively held discussions with Apple in our efforts to explore amicable solutions," said Creative Labs spokesman Phil O'Shaughnessy in an e-mail. "However, at no time during these discussions or at any other time did Apple mention to us the patents it raised in its lawsuit. Creative respects the valid intellectual property rights of others and we would hope that other companies would as well."
Listing many patents in a lawsuit isn't unusual, John Ward, patent strategist and partner at Greenberg Traurig LLC, said when asked about the case. A Judge may ask the prosecuting attorney to "select two patents for now and move forward, so you want to make sure you have a group to select from," he said. "You want to attack all areas of the defendant to potentially induce a better settlement."
Apple typically doesn't file too many patent lawsuits and this appears more of a defensive response to get Creative Labs to dismiss their claims, Ward said. "Creative Lab's business model focuses more on trying to generate revenues with Apple, in part, and Apple's business model is to generate revenues through products," he said, suggesting Apple and Creative were unable to reach a licensing agreement.
Creative Labs competes with Apple in the portable media market, selling the Creative Zen and the Nomad Jukebox MP3 players. It was issued the patent for the Zen on Aug. 9, 2005. The patent is the basis for the interface used in several Creative’s MP3 players, such as the Zen Micro, and competing iPod player.
Apple's suit was originally filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin on May 15, and amended two days later. The patents include Nos. 5,479,602; 5,586,237; 5,898,434; 6,731,312; 5,341,293; 6,047,342; and 5,799,280.
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