Monday, September 05, 2005

More iPod patent issues?

According to the Financial Express, Creative Technology Ltd., a maker of portable music players, has accused Apple Computer of violating a newly granted software patent (issued August 9, 2005) that covers the way users navigate music selections.

Creative uses the navigation technology on many of its portable music devices, which account for 3.3% of the market, according to the NPD Group. Apple’s iPod, which in large part owes its popularity to its easy-to-use navigation system, has about 74% of the American market.

As written, Mark Goldstein said, the Zen patent gives Creative “a lot of opportunity,” including the ability to add features it has not yet developed. Creative executives said the company first shipped music players with the navigation system in September 2000, and filed the patent application in January 2001. Apple announced the iPod in October 2001.

We will have to wait and see.

The Zen patent, US 6,928,433, was filed January 5, 2001 and issued August 9, 2005. The application leading to the '433 application is related to Application Ser. No. 09/755,629, entitled "System for Selecting and Playing Songs in a Playback Device with a Limited User Interface," now abandoned and Application Ser. No. 09/755,367, entitled "Audioplayback Device with Power Savings Storage Access Mode," issued as U.S. Pat. No. 6,590,730, all filed Jan. 5, 2001. Thus, although we don't have an issue of continuing applications, we do have an issue of related applications being filed on the same day, here January 5, 2001. As an aside, the consequences of this practice are ignored in the Quillen/Webster approach to patent grant rate.

The first claim of the '433 recites:

A method of selecting at least one track from a plurality of tracks stored in a computer-readable medium of a portable media player configured to present sequentially a first, second, and third display screen on the display of the media player, the plurality of tracks accessed according to a hierarchy, the hierarchy having a plurality of categories, subcategories, and items respectively in a first, second, and third level of the hierarchy, the method comprising:

selecting a category in the first display screen of the portable media player;

displaying the subcategories belonging to the selected category in a listing presented in the second display screen;

selecting a subcategory in the second display screen;

displaying the items belonging to the selected subcategory in a listing presented in the third display screen; and

accessing at least one track based on a selection made in one of the display screens.


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