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Creative To Defend Interface Patent Rights 244

wild_berry writes "At the London Lauch of their new 'Zen Vision: M' portable media player, Creative Labs boss Sim Wong Hoo told the BBC that he plans to defend their August 2005 patent for interfaces in portable music devices." From the article: "Creative chairman Sim Wong Hoo told the BBC News website that the company was already talking to various parties about the patent but refused to be drawn on specifics. 'We will pursue all manufacturers that use the same navigation system,' said Mr Sim. 'This is something we will pursue aggressively. Hopefully this will be friendly, but people have to respect intellectual property.'"
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Creative To Defend Interface Patent Rights

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  • by xxxJonBoyxxx ( 565205 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @01:26PM (#14211631)
    Too late to patent the "Sound Blaster", is it?
  • It's OK to copy the iPod design down to the "metal back/plastic colored front", but heaven forbid that someone should get to use their human interface (which, from what I've seen, it basically "folders that hold music instead of files".

    Ah - ok. Sure.
  • by voice_of_all_reason ( 926702 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @01:28PM (#14211657)
    Like "play", "pause", "next", and "stop?"

    To be honest, stranger things have happened. Didn't someone in England patent strawberries recently?
    • Hopefully this will be friendly, but people have to respect intellectual property
      Market speak for "Hopefully people will bend over and accept our abuse of an overly generalized patent"?
    • Didn't someone in England patent strawberries recently?

      IIRC, they tried to patent the *smell* of strawberries, and ( just recently, like last week ) were denied.

    • To be honest, stranger things have happened. Didn't someone in England patent strawberries recently?

      I don't think it was strawberries they were trying to patent. I believe it was the smell []
      of ripe strawberries.

      Which is just as wierd. At least it was rejected.

  • by Twanfox ( 185252 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @01:31PM (#14211676)
    I had a sudden thought when reading over this summary. Companies say that they are only patenting software/interfaces/whatever as a defensive strategy. Knowing how some justifications work ("I was only following orders." and such), I wonder how long it is before statements such as "We were defending our right to profit from our patents" become commonplace. I mean, after all, if you have something like a patent, just about everything you do in terms of litigation is 'defense' of that patent, whether you sue them or they sue you.
    • Whoa - you're a little behind the times. It's hardly a defense - as a matter of a fact, I read Mr. Sim Wong Hoo's statements to be quite agressive and offensive (as in offense vs. defense.)

      Using patents to profit is definately commonplace, as more and more "Patent Holding Firms" pop up all over the place, like say, Eolas.

      Make no mistake, this is not defensive. This is a proven, reliable, dirty business practice. Apply for a patent, if we get it, sue the shit out of everyone that might have somethin
    • by argoff ( 142580 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @01:48PM (#14211817)

      Most companies get defensive patents not to " defending our right to profit from our patents", but to have something to countersue with if they get sued, or to have something to get into cross-licensing agreements to avoid even more lawsuits. Truth is, patents are a real pain - and if it wasn't for defensive purposes, most companies wouldn't bother.

      So in truth, people are forced into the system even if they think patnets are evil. (Which I do)

      essay: A Violent Protest Against Patents []

    • A friend of mine had a wonderful comment about patents - "There's no such thing as a defensive patent. A patent is a sword. You use it to attack other people. Having a patent doesn't prevent someone from sueing you, so it never functions as a defensive element."

      The so-called "defensive patents" are just used to deter attacks through the threat of countersuit. Mutually Assured Litigation?
  • by linuxguy ( 98493 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @01:31PM (#14211679) Homepage

    I have bought their mp3 player, speakers, webcams and a few other items. It is clear to
    me that they really make very bad products. I have already settled on never buying
    another Creative product.

    This latest patent scam merely affirms my beliefs.
    • Anecdotes are not statically valid. I own their Micro and am perfectly happy with it (even after having dropped it multiple times). Your data could be valuable, as you've bought multiple products from them, but without giving information on what they specifically are (and how you might have abused them), your data isn't usuable.

      Now, if you were to find some data on the % of units that have experienced problems (other brands too), that would be a different story. Consumer Reports does that for appliances

    • I personally have no opinion on Creative's product line, as I typically have no brand loyalty whatsoever... but, I don't understand how you can think they suck, yet you've bought all these things from them? That's like me saying "Well, after buying everything Sears sells, I won't buy anything else from them." I mean, I'm really honestly not trying to be flamebait here, but it does kind of seem kind of an odd statement to make, without qualification. Was Creative originally a good company, and now turned
  • iPod prior art? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by blackcoot ( 124938 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @01:31PM (#14211681)
    surely apple has several years of prior art in the iPod, which begs the question: why is creative bothering, other than to abuse the legal system in an attempt to get an injunction against iPod sales during a crucial retail season...
    • Re:iPod prior art? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mreed911 ( 794582 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @01:49PM (#14211823)
      why is creative bothering, other than to abuse the legal system in an attempt to get an injunction against iPod sales during a crucial retail season...

      Two reasons:

      1) Press. Apple still dominates the press, and Creative has no ads on TV that I've seen anywhere, while even my daughter, who hates Eminem, catches herself singing along with the iPod commercials. Apple also has bands ready, willing and able to release songs for their commercials - and those songs become hits. Apple his mindshare, and Creative doesn't. This lawsuit gets Creative some press, press that they're not paying for with marketing dollars, although it wouldn't be hard to qualify this entire lawsuit as marketing expense.

      2) The off-chance that it might work. I think Creative fails to recognize, though, that their shareholders are likely to be less than impressed if Creative's main source of income in the DAP market is from iPod royalties on an interface patent. If you were a Creative stockholder, would you want to invest in a company that gets a very, very small percentage of profits from a competitor's product sale through an interface patent royalty; or would you rather invest in the competitor making the better product as a whole, and the larger overall profit from it? Oh, yeah, and are you willing to risk the time, expense and uncertainty of a legal battle?

      It's sad, really. Creative makes some fantastic audio products, but they're primarily oriented around input/output for PC's. I can understand why they entered the DAP market, I really can, but to compete on patent assertions instead of product niche? Disappointing.

      • i think the press game is... dumb, to say the least. i expect you'll see headlines like "dap anklebiter attempts to take on ipod giant in patent suit". i think the best press they can hope for is neutral but they're more likely to open a huge can of worms they'd rather keep shut (i.e. an item by item comparison of the products and related offerings, a comparison of market share, etc. it's almost impossible for creative to come out sounding good)

        as for the off chance it might work... my money is on apple's l
    • Re:iPod prior art? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Gogo Dodo ( 129808 )
      Because they're getting their butts handed to them in the market. So in desperation, they have turned to the legal system. Sound familiar?
      • Re:iPod prior art? (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Of course, it's America; If you can't get ahead through innovation and hardwork, then litigate!!

        Netscape comes to mind: Browsers are free, then Netscape decides to charge for browsers. Microsoft releases free browser, Netscape gets mad and sues!

        SCO is another great example.

        Then we can look at all of the insanely stupid lawsuits such as suing McDonald's for making you a fat fuck.
    • except the ipod wasn't anywhere near the first mp3 player or the first one with a navigation menu like it uses. it basically took the things that worked and put them together. and added a nice touch scroll wheel.

      the reason these lawsuits are starting now is probably because the patent was filed for years ago and is just now being approved(as it usually happens).
    • Re:iPod prior art? (Score:5, Informative)

      by stunt_penguin ( 906223 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @02:03PM (#14211942)
      the iPod is a relative newcomer to the MP3 market. Creative were making hard disk mp3 players long before Apple ever dreamed of them. They were practially the only players on the market in 1999-2000, and they used the same type of heirarchial naviation that the iPod uses.

      That's not to say that Creative have a legal case they should be able to press in respect to the patent (for heirarchial display of files by category) as the patent is so f**king obvious that is should never have been granted.
      • Re:iPod prior art? (Score:2, Interesting)

        by chocotof ( 691813 )
        Euh and what about the PJB100 ? AFAIK it was a compaq device that had ... hierarchical menues and had a 10 GB harddisk in a MUCH more practical packaging than the Nomad (i.e rectangular ?) I think that the PJB100 existed WELL BEFORE any Creative device
    • Re:iPod prior art? (Score:4, Informative)

      by im_mac ( 927998 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @02:11PM (#14212036)
      Creative's patent was applied for in 2001, before the iPod's debut later that same year. Creative says they used that system in earlier mp3 players as well. So no, there is no prior art from Apple.
      • I don't think a hierarchy of anything should be patentable. I'm sure that monkeys have organzied banannas first by size, then by color. Organization of objects is a natural part of being intelligent. Its not really an invention to index data by more than 1 attribute, no matter what the data is. If this patent holds then you could technically patent anything that organizes X type of data first by one way, then by another. I guess someone could patent indexing general data by more than 1 way and start de
      • So no, there is no prior art from Apple.

        Well, there is no prior art from Apple with regards to a DAP, but there is prior art [] from Apple nee NeXT.

  • woot!! (Score:5, Funny)

    by $RANDOMLUSER ( 804576 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @01:33PM (#14211696)
    Now I can get some traction protecting my patent for "A Rotary Device For Increasing Or Decreasing The Volume".
  • Zen Patent (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Sound of one hand clapping....

  • Quick question... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Havenwar ( 867124 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @01:41PM (#14211764)
    Hopefully this will be friendly, but people have to respect intellectual property.

    Ah yes, but do we have to respect intellectual bullshit? To allow someone to patent "the way files are organised and navigated on a player using a using a hierarchy of menus" is about as logical as allowing someone to patent the way of transportation that involves putting the rearward foot infront of the front foot and then repeating.

    Come on, for as long as there has been more than one menu on ANY electronic device they have had the need to put them into a hierarchy, right? Oh, I know, let's patent the use of language on a display! No, there is no prior art, because my patent is only related to this new kind of display... I think it's called LCD.
    • Statutory Bar (Score:3, Informative)

      by elysian1 ( 533581 )
      Didn't Creative say it used a similar menu system in its earlier MP3 players? If it did use a similar system at least 1 year before it filed for the patent, then its patent may be barred. In patent law, if you use your invention in the public or sell it, a one year clock starts in which you must file a patent for that invention. Otherwise, you are barred from patenting that invention. I've read some other posts saying Creative used a similar menu system in its Nomads dating back to 1999. That would clearly
  • by digitaldc ( 879047 ) * on Thursday December 08, 2005 @01:41PM (#14211766)
    "It applies to the way music tracks are organised and navigated on a player through a hierarchy using three or more successive screens."

    So if Creative wins this suit, should you also be sued for using the buttons on/off, play, pause, stop, rewind and fast-forward? Or should you have to rename them iniate/power down, engage, hesitate, halt, go-back and go-forth?
    • You obviously did not bother trying to determine what the patent was for. It is not the buttons, but the way you navigate through the successive screens. To put it in simple english for you: the nested menu system used on iPod and like devices.
      • You obviously did not bother trying to determine what the patent was for. It is not the buttons, but the way you navigate through the successive screens.

        Isn't 'navigating through successive screens' as ubiquitous as 'pressing play?'
  • Let's face it,
    -Creativity (ie design, written words, picture) are protected by copyright.
    -Ingenuity is protected by patents (at least it used too..)

    Here Creative Labs wants to use a patent to protect a design (Apple tried too, but too late)
    If Apple looses the Ipod menu design, maybe people will finally wake up and see how Fscked the USPTO really is.
  • by Chemisor ( 97276 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @01:44PM (#14211794)
    So they say Apple has to respect their intellectual property. It is curious, since in most business contracts, when one party pays up, the other gets something valuable in return. What does Apple get from paying? They have thought up the interface themseleves, and Creative's only claim on it is that they have thought of it first. If Apple has never seen Creative's patent, what exactly would they be paying for? Creative did no work for them and gave them nothing of value and yet Apple has to pay up anyway? Usually this is called "extortion". In the modern times we call it the "patent system".
    • precisely- whether or not Apple had seen Creative's device before designing the iPod, they would have come up with the same navigation system because it's obvious. Patents are not supposed to cover obvious things [].
      • Because someone else thought up an item at nearly the same time on their own does not make it obvious. There are cases in history (and I am not going to look for them now) where people have discovered the same scientific facts or invented like items who had no knowledge of the other person or their work and the discoveries were made in relative closeness to each other.

        Unlike what the people here would have you believe, there is a process to solve this who invented it first idea within the US Patent syste
        • Look again at Title 35, Section 103 []:

          (a) A patent may not be obtained though the invention is not identically disclosed or described as set forth in section 102 of this title, if the differences between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art are such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which said subject matter pertains. Patentability shall not be negatived by the manner in which the

          • Thank you for quoting a statute I already know. Now let me quote you two things that do not make it that easy. First is the requirements set forth by Graham v. Deere that you can see in MPEP 2141 []

            Second is the requirement for motivation as determined by the CAFC and viewable in MPEP 2143.01 []

            Not as easy as you would think huh?
            • I realize those requirements exist, but I don't think Apple will have a hard time satisfying those requirements to prove the obviousness of the invention. The motivation was clearly already there- navigating a large number of songs was a problem, and most existing mp3 players had shitty one-line LED displays. Most of them were made by small companies that didn't have the resources to design one with a decent display that would support a more usable interface. Hierarchical menu systems have been around forev
  • Stay away (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Please don't buy products from this company. They look to sell your their product and then hang you out to dry. I payed $300 for the Zen Touch, under the impression that there would be firmware updates to increase the useability (scrolling is the biggest pain ever....its very "touchy" to be exact...move your finger 1mm and it moves 2 songs, then move it another mm and it moves 4 songs. Still can't figure out how to reliably select a song without missing it a few times on the menu.), and 2 years later, its s
  • by mypalmike ( 454265 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @01:49PM (#14211827) Homepage
    ""We are focused on the technology... This is still a technology marketplace... This is the key difference between a technology company and a branding company," he [Creative chairman Sim Wong Hoo] said, taking a side-swipe at Apple's successful marketing campaign for its iPod.

    There was a message in your cluemail: The digital player market is no longer a "technology marketplace". You really look like an idiot when you make statements like this after losing to iPod, a battle that nobody even noticed you were fighting. Apple had the tech, the marketing strategy, the partnerships. You can't win with just technology in competitive markets.
  • Most people that support patent laws argue that they are necessary to promote innovation. Without patents, people would have no incentive to innovate, since their ideas would just get ripped off immediately. While at first this may seem like a valid argument, it is in fact far from that.

    First of all, laws are created to serve society. In theory, society's rights supercede those of patent/copyright holders. Patents and copyrights only exist (in theory and law, if not in practice) because (and to the exten
    • > LIMITING innovation by requring every inventor to reinvent the wheel.

      If only...

      It's worse than that because if your reinvented wheel looks even remotely like "The Original Wheel" (TM) you would still be infringing upon that patent.

      So you would need to reinvent *on purpose* a wheel sufficiently different to avoid infrigement, leading to imaginative shapes like spherical wheels, triangular wheels...
    • Sometimes, patents are truly a great invention, and deserve protection.

      A patent should be non-obvious, something like the Dyson cyclone cleaner or the way that John Harrison worked out for measuring longtitude. Typically where someone applies some lateral thinking to the problem in a way that other skilled people in the same field would miss.

      Unlike many other inventions, software ones are either functionally possible, or not. It is simply a matter of functional decomposition. The constraints are known.

    • Societies don't have rights. Individuals have rights. At least here in the United States that's how it works (or did before we decided that a little communism would add flavor to our democratic republic.) In a communist country perhaps the State has rights that individuals do not, but it is a dangerous thought to suggest that a collection of people should have more rights than an individual.
      • by cheesedog ( 603990 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @02:46PM (#14212374)
        Societies don't have rights. Individuals have rights.
        You are absolutely correct about human rights, but wrong about patents. Patents are not a right, but rather a restriction on the rights of others. A patent is a government enforced monopoly over the implementation of an idea (and sometimes, unfortunately, over the idea itself). And forced monopolies are not rights, but rather the taking away of rights of others.

        What you do have, as a natural right, is the right to create []. That right is pre-society, pre-government, pre-law. It is only when government comes into play that patents can exist, otherwise who will prevent all but the patent holder from excercising their right to create?

        Some of the first "patents were granted on manufacturing salt, soap, glass, knives, sailcloth -- things that people had first created many centuries (or even millenia) before, and that until the time of grant, could be made by anyone with the resources and knowledge to make them" (from this post []).

    • Clearly they are not serving their purpose, and should be abolished.

      The state of California's criminal laws are flawed. Therefore we should get rid of them.

      The American electorate voted in George W. Bush. Therefore we should no longer hold elections.

      The USPTO has many internal problems, some of which stem from how the office is funded, some from the pressures on patent agents, and some from rulings outside the control of the patent office itself. Does that mean that patents themselves are no longer s

  • They should file a patent on sound cards that use more system resources then every other device in your computer. Thats one I'd be OK with them defending.
  • Hopefully this will be friendly, but people have to respect intellectual property.

    First, it's already unfriendly. From all appearances, it's downright thievery.

    Second, your demand for my respect only serves to justify my disrespect.
  • by Bob9113 ( 14996 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @02:00PM (#14211919) Homepage
    Lots of comments about, "iPod did it first." Umm, forget about the trees for a second folks. Look at the forest. Creative labs got a patent for hierarchical traversal of a structured content repository. Have any of you used a file browser? iPod didn't do it first and this isn't about iPod versus Creative. This is about the USPTO granting fiat monopolies (patents) to anybody who adds a new word to existing public domain technical innovation; in this case "directory browser + MP3 player". The problem isn't who should have rights to the idea, but that the idea should not have been patentable.
  • Subject Goes Here (Score:3, Insightful)

    by viewtouch ( 1479 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @02:10PM (#14212025) Homepage Journal
    Hopefully this will be friendly, but people have to respect intellectual property.

    To that I say, Hopefully, this will be friendly, but Creative has to respect the idea that a patent based on the idea of pushing a button to navigate a hierarchy on a display and the idea that this can be considered to be anybody's property, intellectual or otherwise, is total bullshit.
  • by wcrowe ( 94389 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @02:15PM (#14212080)
    I've decided to finally place my patent on a "device which presents the user with a selection of paper sheets, arranged in logical order, upon which words and/or pictures are imprinted". Everyone who manufactures, sells, or reads a book owes me money. My intellectual property must be respected!
  • US Patent Number 6,928,433

    I do not have the time to analyze the claims right now, but if you people would really enjoy an attempt to explain why this may not be as evil as you think then please let it be known by replying.

    Please note the application was filed in Jan. 2001 which pre-dates the iPod's release by about 9 months. It is important to note the claims are limited the device being a portable media player. I would be interested to see, however, if their use of the term track (and keeping it fair
    • I do not have the time to analyze the claims right now, but if you people would really enjoy an attempt to explain why this may not be as evil as you think then please let it be known

      I analyzed them last time [], and my verdict was that Winamp was prior art.

      Please note the application was filed in Jan. 2001 which pre-dates the iPod's release by about 9 months.

      And post-dates the installation of Winamp on my first laptop by about six months.

      • Your analysis ignores the fact that a portable media player would be a well-defined term. In the specification they define the portable media player which acknowledges they know the limitation of the term for use in the patent. Without seeing the full record of the prosecution, I can only assume the arguments made for the "display screen" are that it that each "display screen" is considered to be the full view of the display on the device.

        Something being ignored is the limitation of a portable media pla
  • There are only so many ways to select songs. "Their hierarchal navigation system" looks and smells just like standard window menus (File, Edit, View, ...) to me except instead of using a mouse to generate events (such as up, down, ...) they have buttons. There are only so many ways to do things and if it is so obviously not new why the hell did they get a patent? Really, anyone with a bit of thought would have hit upon something similar!
  • by utexaspunk ( 527541 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @02:46PM (#14212378)
    103 of the Patent Act of 1952 [] says that an invention may not be patented if
    the differences between the subject matter sought to be patented and the prior art are such that the subject matter as a whole would have been obvious at the time the invention was made to a person having ordinary skill in the art to which said subject matter pertains.
    Who, among designers, engineers, and inventors with the skill to design an MP3 player, wouldn't think of using a heirarchical menu system?
  • Remember Aureal! (Score:3, Informative)

    by 10Ghz ( 453478 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @02:51PM (#14212436)
    Whenever I hear Creative spokesdroids say something, I'm immediately reminded of Aureal and the fate they faced. So Creative wants others to "respect it's IP". It's too bad that Creative has done nothing to earn any respect. They are scum, and anyone with at least one working brain-cell will steer clear of them.
  • by tomthebomb ( 318081 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @02:51PM (#14212439)
    The patent system is ridiculous, no doubt about it.

    However, in order for change to happen, the lawmakers need to know of the blasphemy of our current patent system. Your lawmakers do not read Slashdot, but you do. Write your lawmakers and tell them what you think about ridiculous patent disputes such as this one. Creative may own this patent, but it's just an extension of previous patents. It's not really a new idea as it is an old idea using buttons.

    The GUI has been around for years, and countless companies have copied it. So what gives Creative Labs the right to walk around and say 'Oh, this is ours!' when it's really an extension of a menu-based GUI. The only new thing it does is use a button for navigation. Files and folders have been around forever, and they will always be around. Windows and Mac OS have all used hierarchical file systems at one point in time.

    There's tons of prior art on this patent.

    It's also known Creative is an IP whoring company. Creative has bought out so many competitors (Aureal, Ensoniq, et al.) and pursued a lot of legal action against other soundcard manufacturers that even dared to infringe on Creative Lab's patents. We're lucky EAX2 is even available nowadays.

    I for one would love to see Creative buried in the ground.
  • "...but people have to respect intellectual property."

    If respect for intellectual property is something Creative holds so highly, why are they trying to enforce a patent for something that they didn't invent?
  • I would love to see how Creative would answer this question: "What do you have to say regarding why your new MP3 player looks almost identical to the iPod?"
  • If so, how can Creative claim a patent on technology both companies licensed from a third-party?
  • by rspress ( 623984 ) on Thursday December 08, 2005 @04:07PM (#14213265) Homepage
    Microsoft has soiled any chance that you had with this patent. When Microsoft won the suit Apple brought against them about interface elements the judge ruled that things like menus and windows are generic and thus public domain and not protected.

    Apple would still win on proof of concept as the have had nested menus on devices long before Creative. Both Macs and the newton was using them long before creative got into the Music Player business.

  • No more Creative products in my home or company until they cease and desist this nonsense.

No amount of genius can overcome a preoccupation with detail.