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Aureal defeats Creative patent infringement case

Appeals and countersuits should keep the pair at each other's throats for a while...

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Aureal has won its legal battle with arch-rival Creative technology when a US jury threw out Creative's claim that Aureal Vortex sound processor chip violated Creative intellectual property. The suit in question launched back in February 1998 and is one of many the two companies have been throwing at each other in recent years.

Creative said the Vortex infringed on one of its patents, 5342990 to be precise, assigned to its subsidiary Emu Systems. The highly technical patent covers a "digital sampling instrument employing cache memory" and centres on the waveform audio signals can be interpolated into multiple channels. It was filed in 1992 and granted in 1994. It will expire in 2009: "the term of this patent subsequent to 12 May 2009 has been disclaimed", it says.

Aureal maintains that Creative only launched the case to impede its business - the original suit was issued a day after Aureal announced a Dell design win. However, the jury appears to have rejected this claim.

Creative has already said it will appeal the jury's decision, claiming effectively that the jury was too dim to understand the technical issues.

"From the beginning we have known that it would be a difficult task to educate a jury concerning the complicated technology represented by Creative's patent," said general counsel John Danforth. The appeal, countered Aureal's general counsel, Brendan O'Flaherty, "must be placed in the context of Aureal's counterclaims [a countersuit was launched in April 1998] in this case which will come to trial shortly and Aureal's own patent infringement lawsuit against Creative".

Aureal's suit was launched a year ago and claims Creative popular SoundBlaster Live card violates Aureal's A3D 3D audio IP. It came hot on the heels of another action launched by Creative against Aureal, this time alleging that the latter had mis-represented its product in ads and marketing materials. In the end, that case was sorted out through negotiations and not court battles.

Creative's appeal against the latest decision is likely to see Aureal move again to have not only the appeal thrown out but Creative's patent too. Aureal claims the patent was "obtained by inequitable conduct before the patent office". This time round, Aureal's attempt to invalidate the patent was rejected by the jury. ®

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