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Creative Wins MP3 Player Patent

Creative Technologies has been awarded a U.S. patent covering the navigation and organization of music tracks in a media player. According to the company, the patent covers interfaces used in many digital music players, including Apple’s market-leading iPod.

Creative refers to the patent as the "Zen" patent, and applies it to the interface of its Creative Zen and Nomad Jukebox MP3 players; Creative applied for the patent in January 2001 and it was awarded August 9, 2005. As Creative gleefully points out, their application preceded the introduction of Apple’s iPod by about ten months, and they had been shipping their own portable MP3 players fully thirteen months before Apple rolled out the iPod. Creative Chairman and CEO Sim Wong Hoo says "Before this invention, there was no intuitive and efficient way to deal with the large number of tracks that could be stored on a high-capacity player."

Creative hasn’t yet detailed plans related to the new patent, but it’s widely expected the company will quickly target Apple Computer, perhaps seeking a royalty on iPod sales and/or a cross-licensing agreement with the computer maker. Apple itself has repeatedly declined to comment; however, the company may have many options other than handing a wad of money over to Creative. The applicability of patents is often difficult to assert, and Apple may argue Creative’s patent does not apply to its products, which would entail a lengthy documentation process.

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