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Creative Has MP3 Player Interface Patent 392

indie1982 writes "BBC News online is reporting that Creative has been awarded the patent for the interface that many MP3 players use. The patent covers the way files are organised and navigated on a player using a using a hierarchy of menus, a system that Creative's own Nomad jukebox and Apple's iPod range use." Commentary also available at CNet. Reports trend towards an attempt to capitalize on Apple's mistake. From the BBC article: "Creative said the patent applied to its players, as well as some competing products such as the Apple's iPod and iPod mini. The patent covers how files on a music player are organised. Creative was one of the first companies to produce MP3 players but has lost out to Apple which dominates the market. The Creative announcement is the latest salvo in its self-declared war against Apple. "
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Creative Has MP3 Player Interface Patent

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @04:45PM (#13439132)
    First Nintendo patents insanity, now this. I don't know who patented stupidity, but I bet he is one rich man.
  • Tiny Threats (Score:5, Interesting)

    by fembots ( 753724 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @04:45PM (#13439133) Homepage
    I like the way industry analyst talked down the threats to Apple.

    However the fact is, if you're using patents held by your ever-so-slightly-competition, you're sitting on a time bomb without a LCD display telling you when it will go off, and how much damage it is likely to cause.

    While Microsoft might have a more friendly relationship with Apple, Creative is certainly aggressive in competing with iPod. Creative's CEO has been openly challenging iPod's domination and this seems to be a handy weapon.

    Just hope they didn't patent the built-in virus too.
    • I hope they patent the built-in virus!

      Nobody else will want to try it and Microsoft will go broke!</obligatoryjest>

      This shit is just getting out of hand. Companies should not expect force customer loyalty through legal blocks against the competition anymore. I think we need to get the somebody like IBM (or someone who gives a crap) to fund a load of money into the BBB to hand out some serious smite when you start seeing at least two of these articles a day. Sometimes, we may end up throwing a fit over
      • Re:Tiny Threats (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Michalson ( 638911 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @05:14PM (#13439370)
        You want IBM to cleanup the over patenting mess?

        They have over 30,000 patents to date. By comparison Microsoft (who Slashdot seems to agree is patenting too much) has a little over 3000, and most of them where made in the last few years after Microsoft hired IBM's own vice-president in charge of IP. Before that IBM was patenting more then twice as many patents a year as Microsoft had total (for example in 2001 they filed over 2800).

        Now truthfully both IBM and Microsoft are throwing gobs money at patent reform (especially Microsoft, as it has become a regular target for money seeking submarine patent companies). But that doesn't mean they've stopped taking out lots of crazy patents - until the Reagan patent system can be abolished and replaced with either the original "must be innovative" or some new "no business process/software" system everyone wants to make sure they control the crazy patents, rather then some litigator that would use them as a weapon.

        Apple sweating at the possiblity that Microsoft (unlikely) or Creative (possiblity) could use their music device patents against Apple is fair turn around. After all, Apple is the one that actually uses its parents (mostly design patents, i.e. "computer in gay lime colored case" or "image of wire wastebasket" [actual Apple patent]) to bully around competition (while everyone remembers when Apple sued Microsoft in the 80s over the idea of a GUI, people seem to forget Apple targeted a lot of smaller companies for the same thing, many of whom where unable to pay for the litigation and went out of business. As a fair share of these where x86 based OSs, Apple effectively cleared out much of Microsoft's competition during Windows infancy, allowing it to become the dominent OS on the PC platform)
        • Re:Tiny Threats (Score:3, Informative)

          by dthree ( 458263 )
          "Apple targeted a lot of smaller companies for the same thing, many of whom where unable to pay for the litigation and went out of business."

          I can't think of one, got any sources?
    • Re:Tiny Threats (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Why don't they openly challenge Apple's domination by producing a compelling product instead of using a back-door stupid (and not exactly original) patent to jump in their coat tails?
      • I can't blame them at all. Our legal system is the problem. If they have a patent on something that the ipod uses the board could probably be sued by their shareholders for "not using it for moral reasons." The problem, at least the only problem we can fix (trying to give companies morals by berating them won't do a damn thing), is the system.
    • Re:Tiny Threats (Score:2, Interesting)

      by pbailey ( 225135 )
      Well, seems like it's the usual. If you can't make a superior product and win in the marketplace, then bring out the patents and the laywers. I wish all these patent crazy companies would invest their creative (no pun intended lol) energy on product development. Then they might actually come up with better products and profits!
    • However the fact is, if you're using patents held by your ever-so-slightly-competition, you're sitting on a time bomb without a LCD display telling you when it will go off, and how much damage it is likely to cause.
      I'm not sure that Creative's new patent is much of an issue for Apple. If it ever goes to court, all Apple has to do is prove prior art, even if it isn't the iPod.
    • Cost to consumers (Score:5, Insightful)

      by sterno ( 16320 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @05:17PM (#13439397) Homepage
      I honestly think the threat to Apple is minimal. The patent is questionable enough that Creative isn't going to be really abusive with it. They'll ask for their quarter ounce of flesh and be done with it.

      The thing that's really bad about the way patents are going is how it ends up affecting the consumer. Let's consider for a moment if Apple wasn't a big corporation, but rather some little shop that found a big hit device. All of these companies, rather than trying to get a piece of the action could very well try to leverage legal action to get them off the market or otherwise take them over.

      Using that same scenario some entrepreuneur may not even try to develop the item because of the cost of managing all the legalities of it. They'll try to get whatever patents they can which costs money, and then in the end they'll still be at the mercy of these companies with obscure patents on terribly obvious things. Once again, the consumer loses.

      But even when you look at this specific case, what happens? Apple gets charged more money in licensing so they pass it straight on to the consumer. Did Creative's efforts provide any useful knowledge to Apple in their development work? No. Did creative have to spend any effort researching this interface? No. All they did was pay some legal fees and make a cash cow out nothing.

      So for every technology there's all these dumb obvious patents which add on to the price. It either costs money to license or costs money to fight it in court, and in the end it means each device just costs more than it should have.

      I have no objection to patents of legitimate inventions. Creating new ways of doing things that are truly innovative and different is worth incenting through patents. But these endless foolishly obvious patents is just hurting our economy.
    • by Salvo ( 8037 )
      Apple should patent The bundling of Malicious Software with a hardware device. Then they could Counter-Sue Creative for the 3700 Virus-ridden Players unCreative Shipped.
      Of course, to justify this patent, Apple would need to have shipped Hardware with Malicious Software...
      They did ship Mac's with Internet Explorer, didn't they.
    • Like the other respondants to your comment, I think the threat to Apple isn't too great, but for a completely different reason.

      Apple has been in the computer, and more specifically the computer audio business for much longer than Creative. I'm sure that Apple is sitting on a patent they've been holding to defend themselves from this type of thing.
    • Re:Tiny Threats (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Seumas ( 6865 )
      It doesn't even matter. According to a recent story, the patent office is considering moving to a "first come first serve" system. In such a system, it wouldn't matter who came up with this style of "interface" (which sounds just like navigating a regular file tree to me) first. All that would matter is who got around to patenting it first.

      If that passes reform, I can't wait to see all the businesses getting fucked over by it because someone else beat them to the gun first. Sure, no small guy will be able t
  • Creative Apple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bigwavejas ( 678602 ) * on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @04:45PM (#13439134) Journal
    Apple shouldn't have blundered with this patent oversight, but its shit like this that really ends up stifling the market (frivolous lawsuits). If anything I view this patent as Creatives admission to Apples domination in the mp3 market (slow the big-boy down so we can catch-up).

    If you put the two players side-by-side Creative has clearly mimicked Apples Ipod. Anyone remember the first generation Creative players? The thing looked like a CD player! Apple has strayed very little from its initial design for its Ipod. Who's copying who?

    • Re:Creative Apple (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ewhac ( 5844 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @05:00PM (#13439278) Homepage Journal
      Apple shouldn't have blundered with this patent oversight, [ ... ]

      Apple didn't blunder, but in all likelihood took the correct position that a displayed representation of a heirarchical filesystem was unpatentable. After all, tree-style directory display utilities have been around since MS-DOS 2.0 (and probably much earlier).

      This is so flipping obvious, it's painful. There's no patentable material here, and Apple did the right thing by not filing for one. That Creative actually managed to obtain one just serves as further proof of how monsterously fscked up the USPTO is.

      Of course, we will not see either one of them agitate for patent reform.


      • Re:Creative Apple (Score:5, Informative)

        by shark72 ( 702619 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @06:28PM (#13440006)

        "Apple didn't blunder, but in all likelihood took the correct position that a displayed representation of a heirarchical filesystem was unpatentable."

        That doesn't sound like typical Apple behavior -- they can and will use the legal system to their advantage.

        Apple owns hundreds of patents for ideas and processes which would seem intuitive to the average Slashdotter. To wit:

        Perhaps I am over-simplifying some of these, but this is par for the course whenever Slashdotters discuss particular patents.

        • Dragging and dropping was indeed invented by Apple. It wasn't present in the Xerox Alto/Star or any previous mouse-driven system; it appeared for the first time in the Apple Lisa.

          The drag-and-drop gesture (yes, it was the first mouse gesture) allowed Apple to eliminate the "move" button on the mouse. The double-click behavior allowed it to eliminate the "activate" button, meaning Apple could use a single-button mouse to achieve all the functions of a three-button mouse (at the time.)

          I doubt anyone would hav
    • If anything I view this patent as Creatives admission to Apples domination in the mp3 market (slow the big-boy down so we can catch-up).

      You have to understand that this patent had to be filed some time in '99 or '00 for it to be awarded now... At that point, there hardly was any kind of an mp3 market to dominate -- that's why things like this patent sounded "inovative" enough for the PTO office to accept them. They can't reject a patent just because everybody has been doing the same thing *since*. If there
      • If everyone's been doing it since, doesn't that argue that it's obvious, and hence non-patentable?
        • If everyone's been doing it since, doesn't that argue that it's obvious, and hence non-patentable?

          It's hard to argue that since Creative did actually release a device with such an interface at that time. Yeah, my personal opinion is that it's obvious, but once Creative made one it's hard to say whether others were copying it or just developing the same thing on their own.
    • but its shit like this that really ends up stifling the market (frivolous lawsuits).

      Who says there is a frivolous lawsuit involved? All Apple has to do is sit down with Creative and work out a licensing agreement. The courts aren't involved yet. If Apple has some patents they can throw back at CL then they can get a more favorable cross-licensing deal. This isn't the end of the world for either player (har har).
  • Gross. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Kellan ( 891621 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @04:46PM (#13439138)
    The Nomad's design is an atrocity. It's so damn hard to navigate when you have 40 GB of MP3s on there....
  • by geomon ( 78680 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @04:46PM (#13439148) Homepage Journal
    Reports trend towards an attempt to capitalize on Apple's mistake.

    So because Apple failed to patent its own interface, then that means the first one to the Patent Office doors gets to patent it?

    That is *fucking* *bullshit*. If it had never been patented and already on the market then it should be impossible for Apple to enforce a patent or file for one after the fact. That would mean everyone else in the personal music player business could benefit from Apple's mistake, but not impact the purchaser. Any patent enforcement by Creative or Microsoft will undoubtedly affect the purchase price of Apple's products. They will not eat the licensing fees.

    Buy giving these interlopers the right to enforce a patent on a device people have already invested money in is just one more example of how intellectual property laws in the US are screwed up royally. It is this type of situation that leads companies to file *defensive* patents that are the bane of open source development, and ultimately lead to less innovation in a particular market.

    The Department of Commerce is one of the first cabinet-level offices I would shutdown 30 seconds after taking the oath as President. It does not promote commerce at all (unless you are a bottom-feeding scum lawyer).

    If you fail to attend public meetings where your congressional rep shows up to discuss all of the wonderfull things they have done in D.C. and BITCH TO THEM about patent laws, they you are contributing to the problem.
    • by hobobeaver ( 680408 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @04:53PM (#13439206) Homepage
      Creative said it had applied for the patent, dubbed the Zen Patent, on 5 January 2001 and was awarded it on 9 August..."The Apple iPod was only announced in October 2001, 13 months after we had been shipping the Nomad Jukebox based upon the user interface covered by our Zen Patent."

      If you had RTFA you would know that creative applied for the patent *before* the ipod was even released, so no, creative did not rip off apples interface
      • If you had RTFA you would know that creative applied for the patent *before* the ipod was even released, so no, creative did not rip off apples interface

        When the patent filing was official is no indication of when the idea was developed.

        The company I work for is quite firm on when employee should record an innovative idea. That fact can be used in court proceedings if a dispute ever arises over ownership. If an Apple engineer can document when they got the idea for their interface, then Creative's patent fi
      • Creative announced the original Nomad in 1999. If the technology in this patent was indeed in the Nomad, this patent should never have been issued and will be overturned, because they waited too long after publicizing the technology to file the patent.
    • So because Apple failed to patent its own interface, then that means the first one to the Patent Office doors gets to patent it?

      Getting a patent issued, and proving it valid in court are two very different things. I wouldn't worry about it.


    • So because Apple failed to patent its own interface, then that means the first one to the Patent Office doors gets to patent it?

      I was under the impression that if I invent a Widget that does Foo in 1999 and have the documentation to prove it (ie, drawings, plans, a worklog or journal) and some witnesses for good measure- it doesn't matter if you "invent" it later and patent it, even if the invention was independent; I was first.

      Of course, unlike many slashdot posters, I'm happy to admit I know next to n

    • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @06:30PM (#13440027) Journal
      "If you fail to attend public meetings where your congressional rep shows up to discuss all of the wonderfull things they have done in D.C. and BITCH TO THEM about patent laws, they you are contributing to the problem. "

      Absolutely. However, other forms of correspondence are also very, very important. A politician's office ranks correspondence according to the vehicle in which it is delivered. The rarer, and more time-intensive, the correspondence, the more it is valued.

      The best way to get your Congressperson to take notice of you, other than face-to-face contact, is a handwritten letter. I know this may be tough for us /.ers, but one handwritten letter means more than five typed letters.

      A telephone call to their office is also ranked highly.

      Postcards are counted, but are weighted less than letters. Ditto for faxes. Emails are also counted, but are worth almost nothing.

      If you really want patent law to change, have a letter-writing interlude at your next LAN party, or other get-together. Buy the stamps and envelopes ahead of time, sit down with paper and pen, and write it out. It sometimes helps if the best writer in the group writes a sample letter.

      It works for the pro-censorship folks, for environmental groups, and for other interest groups -- it will help with patent laws if enough people do it.

      Here's a useful database of phone, fax, email, and physical addresses of Congresspeople: http://www.visi.com/juan/congress/ [visi.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward
    In the vein of SCO vs. Linux, it appears that in the world of downtrodden MP3 player manufacturers they've decided to follow the old cliche:

    If you can't beat 'em, sue em!
  • Yay! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @04:47PM (#13439153)
    Why is an MP3 UI any different from any other computer program UI? I can sort any number of MP3 UIs by foo.

    Yay, someone patented a sort function that displays the output on individual screens!

    I'm glad that the Patent Office employs people to make sure that no one steals that idea.
  • by Paul Bristow ( 118584 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @04:49PM (#13439168) Homepage
    ...with bloody obvious patents that just mirror the real world on a computer screen or embedded device. Patent the way you select music? How do you think DJs used to organise things when they had boxes of records? Some did it by artist, some by album title and some by genre... How the f**k else would you do it? Somebody shoot the patent office for this. Patents are supposed to be non-obvious. This seems to be as obvious as you can get. It's hard to think of other ways to do it at all. Wait a minute... maybe I can get a patent on showing lists of things in alphabetical order... then I can sue everyone...
    • please do.

      you'll have an excellent chance of getting the patent.

      then promptly send cease and desist letters to every organisation on earth, including non-profits.

      we need to accelerate the demise of the patent system. it has long since stopped being useful to any degree.
    • I'm going to apply for a patent on my brilliant idea of displaying a threaded discussion forum by the "scores" given to individual postings. A user will be able to set a "threshold" and only see things that score above their threshold.

      I dare you to respond! Only more money in my pocket!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @04:50PM (#13439177)
    What kind of interface do they use for the infect operation?
  • by Vapebait ( 728259 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @04:50PM (#13439178)
    Creative patent the innovative use of virii on MP3 players.
  • I just hope this doesn't force Apple to change the interface for their iPod. When I was shopping for an MP3 player a bit back, the iPod won because it did what I needed, and was easy to operate. I use it 90% of the time in my car with a tape adapter, and I wanted something easy to switch around songs with. I'm sure a Nomad would have ended up with me hitting a tree.
  • Stop bitching.. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Before everyone bitches about the US patent system or jumps at Creative, I suggest you RTFA.

    It mentions that Creative filed the patent January 5th, 2001. That's a whole 9 months before the orignal iPod even came out.
    • Re:Stop bitching.. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by wangmaster ( 760932 )
      Just because the patent was filed earlier than when the iPod was announced doesn't mean that it's any more valid of a patent.

      The patent system is for novel idea. This is hardly a novel idea. There are many examples of hiearchical organization of media files prior to this. Just because they're displayed on a little LCD screen doesn't make it any more unique than the various media jukebox programs that existed prior to 1/5/01.

      Creative failed in marketing and implementation. Their Nomad Zen had superior s
  • by amichalo ( 132545 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @04:54PM (#13439217)
    This will be resolved by writting a check.

    In the best case, Appel writes a check to Creative, who will license the technology to Apple.

    If Creative refuses resonable terms, which is probable, Apple with write a check to their laywers to defend the pattent (or atleast delay having to do anything about it for many months).

    Failing that, Apple writes a check to the CREAF shareholders, using their $3B cash stockpile [yahoo.com] to buy Creative who's market cap is $660M [yahoo.com].

    It won't come to a buy out, but that's the worst case for Apple.

    And don't forget, this coming to the party late is a new move for Apple. They are so used to innovating and having others [microsoft.com] violate their patents that they are learning to navigate the waters of a market already invented.
    • A cease-and-desist order costs marketshare. So Creative can stop Apple's production now...
    • We can only hope that Creative refuses to license its patent. And in the best case Apple looses and is forced to stop production of its iPod (in current form anyway). This is not out of spite of Apple or its products, but as a necessary step to patent reform.

      When I say best case, I mean from a long term perspective. One of the main reasons there is so little effort to reform US patent law is because the ad-hoc and unspoken system of cross licensing that exists among the biggest players hides most of th

  • by 00_NOP ( 559413 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @04:54PM (#13439219) Homepage
    As a piece of journalism the BBC report is a disgrace to that orgnaisation's claim to be the world's greatest news gatherer.
    Where has this patent been granted? In the UK (the assumption given the reporting organisation)? The EU? The US? Burkina Faso? Get a grip BBC - some of us are paying for you to produce this material and we deserve better than that.
  • When will the stupidity stop? It seems that everybody is out to patent everything that can't be patented. Hell, I bet you Apple/Creative/Nintendo is filing a patent for my comment!

    Seriously, is there even a legitimate reason anymore for the USPTO? Talk about anti-free-market and stifling innovation.
  • Everyone's slating Creative for this, but I'm waiting until they actually try to get money out of anyone for this. A lot of companies apply for patents purely to stop other people applying for one and potentially suing them.

  • War On Apple (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) * on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @04:57PM (#13439251) Homepage Journal
    The Creative announcement is the latest salvo in its self-declared war against Apple.

    And as it goes with most wars, it's the peasants who suffer (in this case consumers.) Competition is good, using patents in a nuclear war game isn't.

  • by Azureflare ( 645778 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @05:00PM (#13439273)
    I got one of their first gen nomad jukeboxes, and that thing did last me for quite a while. I used to really like creative's products. I still do in many ways. I remember the playlist creation was pretty easy to do, and it was nice to be able to save playlists on the fly etc. The one I had was a bit clunky, and only 6gigs of storage.

    If I hadn't fallen victim to the siren song of the 20gig iPod in the store I would have gotten one of their nomad products instead (Which are cheaper). But there's something really attractive to the iPod that just made me want to have it.

    Now I've got an iPod shuffle and I really like it. In some ways I feel locked in to apple products now, since I bought stuff off the iTunes store, and I've gotten so used to using gtkpod for everything. But that's not a problem because Apple's products are good and I am happy with them.

    I do think it's interesting that Creative was able to get this patent on mp3 player user interfaces, and especially what their action will be. I hope they don't specifically target Apple, as that would make me mad at Creative. I would much rather they concentrate on making better players to get my business. If they were to come up with something more attractive than Apple's offerings, I'd just burn all my m4a's to CD and rerip them.

    IMO they should really try to come up with a better design than their iPod mini imitations. Maybe there isn't a better design than the iPod but we'll never know if everyone goes around copying the iPod!

    However, I'm not holding my breath. It seems corporations these days are much more focused on protecting their existing IP than creating new IP; which is very sad, especially from any consumer's point of view.

  • by Prospero's Grue ( 876407 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @05:01PM (#13439281)
    I agree that this whole patent nonsense is quickly moving toward insanity...

    ...that's exactly where I want it.

    Software patents are terrible ideas for reasons that can sometimes be hard to explain to those not in the know. The more cases we have, though, where the ridiculousness becomes undeniable, the better chances we'll have for either a reforming of the system, or for the whole mess to collapse under it's own weight.

  • Link to Patent (Score:5, Informative)

    by andrewm ( 9862 ) <andrewm@netwinder.org> on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @05:02PM (#13439286) Homepage
    Here's [uspto.gov] the patent 6,928,433
  • anger should be widespread across ideological grounds. this stifles progress, limits choice, and increases costs. using the law as a cludgeon is wrong, even it addresses the right issues. it will always be misused. someone's ox will always be gored. be careful what you wish for, you just might get it.
  • by sTalking_Goat ( 670565 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @05:06PM (#13439326) Homepage

    ...and Librarians throught the US will smirk quietly in triumph.

  • by slumberer ( 859696 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @05:07PM (#13439337)
    Hopefully patents like this will start making the government realise just how flawed the system is. The fact that someone can be granted a patent for something as obvious as this just makes the system unusable. And it won't be until big corporations like apple start getting screwed over by these that they'll take notice.

    I thought the intention of the patent system was to encourage innovation not stifle it, and that is what is happening with every company patenting anything they can in order to make money out of their rivals. Not necessarily inventing new and wonderful solutions but often just patenting existing ideas. Maybe if the patent office had more resources they would be able to reduce some of the obvious patents that are granted but then again maybe not.

    And lets face it, the solution to browsing a music list by using multiple menus is a fairly obvious solution that shouldn't be protected by law. Computers are basically designed for ordering data and making it easier to access. This great "innovation" that they claim took so much hard work was really quite obvious.
    • Hopefully patents like this will start making the government realise just how flawed the system is.

      I'd be a rich man if had a nickel for every time I heard this.

      Wake up!!! Bad patents like this will not solve the problem, because the politicians don't care. They like this because it favors business and it's easier to legislate if companies just duke it out in court. One of the following things must happen before real patent reform occurs:

      1) The US elects a president and congress interested in the people'
  • Good, good (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Eminence ( 225397 ) <akbrandt@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @05:09PM (#13439343) Homepage
    I welcome all the blunders like this that expose the idiocy of current patent system. It can lead to something positive being done with this inefficient 19th century system which certainly can't cope with 21st century problems.
  • I read the f______ patent [uspto.gov]. It involves making a folder structure three levels deep (e.g. C:\a\b) and putting music files into subsubdirectories (e.g. C:\a\b\song.mp3). I could do that with Windows 95 and the included version of Media Player. It gets even more obvious with Winamp 2.x, which was available at least when I started college in July 1999, which was well over a year before the filing date of this patent. The following use cases corresponding to the relate to Windows 4.x and Winamp 2.x:

    Claim 1: a portable digital media player whose interface is open folder, open folder, open audio file. Nothing in this claim defines "portable media player" to exclude a common laptop computer such as the Acer Travelmate 721TX distributed to all Rose-Hulman Class of 2003 students in 1999. All other claims build on this claim.

    Claim 2: open folder, open folder, select all, open file. Winamp takes "a plurality of tracks" opened at the same time and constructs a playlist for them.

    Claim 3: open folder, open folder, right click file, Add to Playlist.

    Claims 4-6: similar to claim 1-3, involving symbolic links (called "shortcuts" by Windows 4.x and 5.x).

    Claim 7: the "Up a folder" button.

    Claim 8: storing files an additional folder deep.

    Claim 9: root directory contains "by artist", "by album", and "by genre"; folders within "by genre" are named "rock", "classical", etc, and within e.g. the "rock" folder are items (such as symbolic links) that activate songs.

    Claim 10: like Claim 9 except the "rock" folder contains symbolic links to rock albums.

    Claim 11: root directory contains "by artist", "by album", and "by genre"; allowing navigation to "C:\by Artist\Beatles\White Album\Revolution 1.mp3".

    Claim 12: filenames are song titles, and the default action of Winamp is "play this song".

    Claim 13: the default action of Windows Explorer is "open this folder".

    Claim 14: the root directory is displayed first.

    Claim 15: inner directories are displayed after root directories.

    Claim 16: root directory contains artist names; allowing navigation to "C:\Beatles\White Album\Revolution 1.mp3".

  • First the fiasco over Carmack's Reverse, and now this. "Creative" is not a fitting name for this once great company that has now become a patent troll.
    • Well, I would say its pretty Creative of them. Given the fact that they applied for the "Carmack Reverse" patent years before he even thought of it means that they probably had some talented guys working on it. They also had the original Jukebox out over a year before the Ipod was announced (meaning that it is more likely that Apple just copied their development). I guess it is possible that they developed a time machine, went into the future and stole the ideas from Apple and ID (however that would be ver
  • Creative Was First (Score:3, Informative)

    by geomon ( 78680 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @05:14PM (#13439382) Homepage Journal
    I've seen about a dozen posts claiming this to be a fact.

    Where are the notes that were used in the patent filing? Are they notarized? Did anyone who supports Creative's claim look over Apple's notarized notes?

    The process for a patent filing where I work:

    1) Document the idea copiously.
    2) Get the documentation notarized.
    3) Send application (with $6K check) to USPTO
    4) The send you a reply notifying you that the application is first for filing purposes.

    If you only do steps 3 and 4, you run the risk of losing your patent in court. If someone else can show that they documented the idea first, then it can be argued that they were first with the idea. That may be enough to make a claim for prior art, especially if the product is already on the market.
  • So what the patented was basically the idea of the directory tree. Amazing.
  • by aldheorte ( 162967 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @05:21PM (#13439442)

    The President of Creative explicitly stated in a later press conference that they do not intend to focus on going after Apple. Creative will focus on competing with products. However, Creative certainly will keep the patent option open and they refuse to comment on whether they have involved Apple in private discussions on the matter.

    Source [macworld.com]

  • What usually happens in cases like this is that the "offending product" is withdrawn from the USA market.

    It is replaced by a more expensive device that has the patented function. Usually this replacement device is not as good as the device that it is replacing in other functions. Sales of the general item category fall somewhat.

    Someone else releases a device that does everything that the expensive initial replacement device did only it is much better and cheaper. It has a so

  • Looking at the patent, it looks quite specific. Example:

    selecting a category in the first display screen of the portable media player;

    displaying the subcategories belonging to the selected category in a listing presented in the second display screen;

    selecting a subcategory in the second display screen;

    displaying the items belonging to the selected subcategory in a listing presented in the third display screen; and

    accessing at least one track based on a selection made in one of the display screens

  • -+--> FUCK
    ---> YOU !
  • From the patent's first independent claim: [htt]

    1. A method of selecting at least one track from a plurality of tracks stored in a computer-readable medium of a portable media player configured to present sequentially a first, second, and third display screen on the display of the media player, the plurality of tracks accessed according to a hierarchy, the hierarchy having a plurality of categories, subcategories, and items respectively in a first, second, and third level of the hierarchy, the method comprising:

  • by payndz ( 589033 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @06:03PM (#13439825)
    You have a device that, by its very nature, will have a small display.

    Now, how can you possibly make a selection from hundreds, maybe even thousands of choices on such a tiny screen? Some kind of... heirarchical system of sub-menus, perhaps?

    This surely is the very definition of an 'obvious' patent - that therefore shouldn't be patentable in the first place! Something like the iPod's scroll wheel, on the other hand, plainly wasn't obvious, otherwise the various players that were on the market beforehand would have thought of it it rather than use rocker switches, mini d-pads, tiny joysticks and all the other godawful control systems used by companies like... well, Creative. The fact that the scroll wheel works so well might explain why Apple has maybe 80% of the market and Creative's lumpy offerings... don't. Sour grapes disguised as a submarine patent?

    The patent system in the US is so obviously fucked up, it's beyond belief. Unfortunately, the people in a position to reform it seem to want to make it even worse so that their bribers, uh, 'campaign contributors' are the ones to benefit [see /. patent stories passim]. Seriously, does Washington actually do anything [i]good[/i] any more, or is it now 100% about the kickbacks and pork and 'think of the children (who can get me voted into office)'?

  • by davidwr ( 791652 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @06:10PM (#13439881) Homepage Journal
    It's been done before on PCs, but how about a CD-ripper built around an actual Walkman-style CD player, car CD player, or stereo-console CD player?

    Heck, you could even incorporate DRM or fingerprinting to discourage the casual user from uploading his ripped songs.

    I'd love a Walkman that ripped my CDs as I played them, then the next time I inserted the same disk, just played them from flash or hard disk.

  • by plasmacutter ( 901737 ) on Tuesday August 30, 2005 @06:26PM (#13439992)
    from the abstract of the patent:

    "A method, performed by software executing on the processor of a portable music playback device, that automatically files tracks according to hierarchical structure of categories to organize tracks in a logical order. A user interface is utilized to change the hierarchy, view track names, and select tracks for playback or other operations."

    from what i've gathered of the ipod, it files data into a random structure of directories (via hashing) and categorizes/accesses them via indexing.
    (open the ipod in a mac with tinker tool used to show hidden/system files and take a look in the "ipod control" directory)

    That is only remotely similar, and pretty far off from what was claimed on the patent.

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