Creative Labs upped the ante in the digital music game Tuesday, announcing that the company has been granted a U.S. patent on the interface for portable digital music players.
The announcement takes clear aim at the iPod, pointing out that Apple was recently denied a similar patent claim connected to the immensely popular digital music player.
While the announcement from Creative Labs of Creative Technology Ltd. strongly implies that the iPod infringes on the newly issued patent, its doubtful that Creative will be able to impede the explosive growth of iPod sales.
"If I were Apple I dont think Id be shaking in my boots," said Robert Kunstadt, an experienced New York patent attorney, indicating that Creatives patent seems, at first glance, unlikely to survive a vigorous challenge.
"This is a typical business method software patent. Basically you take the Dewey Decimal system for categorizing books and use it on a music recorder," Kunstadt said.
Creative Labs could certainly pursue legal remedies over the patent, but successfully litigating that claim would be an uphill battle. "I think Id rather be on the defendants side of this," Kunstadt said.
Even though Creatives product releases and patent filings substantially preceded similar work by Apple Computer Inc., and though Creative filed that patent on the Creative Zen interface some 10 months before the iPod was announced, the time, effort and expense of mounting a legal challenge would be daunting, and the chances of success would be uncertain at best.
Nevertheless, the fact that Creative now holds a patent forces Apple to negotiate. "Theres always an assumption of validity with patents," Kunstadt said.