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Creative's Zen patent

Creative's Zen patent

Amid all the flurry of Apple iPod speculation (Apple has an iPod-related announcement to make September 7) comes this bit of breaking news. Creative, one of the seminal MP3 player manufacturers, has announced that it has been awarded a U.S. patent on its invention of the user interface on portable media players.

The Zen patent (6,928,433) covers the aspect of the user interface where a user can select at least one track in an MP3 player using at least three screens to browse for that track in a hierarchical method. As the Creative press release states: "One example would be the sequence of screens that could display artists, then albums, and then tracks. When the user selects an artist, the player displays a list of albums for that artist. Selection of one of the listed albums then displays a list of tracks on the album." The rub here is that the iPod and other popular MP3 players use the same type of interface--so it seems Creative is using patent litigation in its attempts to compete with Apple (and others). We're not sure if Creative will pursue a licensing agreement with Apple, but given Creative's intention on dethroning the kings of MP3, it seems likely.