MANHASSET, N.Y. Apple Computer countersued Creative Technology Ltd. Friday (May 19), retaliating for a patent suit by Creative earlier in the week alleging Apple violated its MP3 player patents.
A spokesperson for Apple (Cupertino, Calif.) confirmed an earlier report
quoting Bloomberg News
that the computer maker sued Creative Labs for infringing patents related to its MP3 players. However, she declined to give additional details or comments.
In its suit against Apple, (see May 15 story)
Creative claims that the interface used in Apple iPod music players infringes on patents it received last August for its Zen line of media players.
Creative filed a patent suit in the U.S. District Court in the Northern District of California. It also filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission, requesting relief by barring the import of iPods into the U.S. from China, where they are manufactured.
The exchange of suits could set the stage for a protracted legal battle pitting Apple, by far the leading media player supplier according to market studies, against Creative, which iSuppli Corp. analyst Chris Crotty said was a distant second.
At the heart of the dispute is the interface users routinely navigate to select and manipulate musical selections in portable music players. They are used not only in Apple's iPod, iPod Mini, and iPod Nano players, but also in Creative’s line of players including the Zen Micro
, which Creative unveiled last Fall as a cost-competitive alternative to the iPod.
Both companies now accuse one another of violating patents governing the interfaces, a scenario that appears to partially stem from failed efforts to co-develop licensing and product development agreements.
Creative's complaint filed with the ITC noted discussions between Creative and Apple in 2001 to license Creative’s driver source code and explore joint business opportunities. However, talks disintegrated when Creative declined Apple’s offer to spin off its digital media player business into a separate company that Apple would invest in, the ITC complaint noted.
When Creative was granted the Zen patent
for its portable media players in August 2005, it was not clear whether additional discussions took place between the two companies at that time regarding use of the patent.