Creative Technology, a maker of portable music players, on Tuesday said it was awarded a U.S. patent that applied to Apple Computer's iPod and other rivals.
Creative said it was considering its alternatives, but did not say whether it would file a patent suit,
which is typically an expensive process, seek licensing agreements or even if it had talked with Apple.
It is possible that Creative will go after Apple for royalties or some other type of
compensation for what Creative will assert is infringement of its patents, currently and in the past.
Creative said the patent covers the way music tracks are selected on a device using a hierarchy of
three or more successive screens. On the iPod, for instance, users can scroll from artists to albums to
Creative ranks far behind Apple in the market. Apple dominates over 70 percent of sales for music
players that use hard drives to store music.
Creative said it had applied for the patent -- dubbed the Zen patent after its Zen player -- on January
5, 2001, and it was awarded on August 9, 2005.
"The first portable media player based upon the user interface covered in our Zen Patent was our NOMAD
Jukebox MP3 player," Sim Wong Hoo, chairman and CEO of Creative, said in a statement. He said Creative
had shipped the NOMAD Jukebox to U.S. retail customers in September of 2000.
"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," he said.