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Creative restokes MP3 player patent threat

Rattling sabre to speed negotiations

Creative has once again touted its ownership of a key digital music player user-interface patent, though the comapny's CEO, Sim Wong Hoo, didn't go as far as to threaten any rival companies - guess who - specifically.

Speaking in London yesterday at the launch of the video iPod-like Zen Vision:M player, Hoo said the company will leverage its ownership of US patent 6,928,433, looking to implementations of side-scrolling hierarchical menus in MP3 players from other companies as a source of future royalty revenues.

Apple is clearly one target, but it's by no means the only one, and while the UI described by Creative's patent is best-known through the iPod's remarkably similar user-interface, Creative launched such a system first, back in September 2000.

The iPod appeared in November 2001, and Apple's significant lead over Creative in the digital music market shows it's not just the UI that has brought market-leadership to one company and not the other.

Woo said Creative will have shipped 8m MP3 players this year. Apple shipped almost 18m in the first three quarters of the 2005, and is on track to ship well over 22m for the year as a whole.

Which is good news for Creative if Apple licenses the patent. Woo didn't say the two firms were talking, but the lack of an infringement lawsuit from Creative - which is no stranger to litigation, as readers who remember its spat with the now-deceased Aureal will recall - suggests they're still negotiating, or at the very least agreeing to disagree for the time being. Neither course suggests Apple is worried. ®

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