The Beatles, France, people too stupid to use a volume control, and, of course, the ubiquitous patent lawsuit show just how much everyone loves a winner, or at least getting a piece of the winner. Creative Technology, whose "Zen Patent" claim covers the iPod interface, trumpeted through press release today that the U.S. International Trade Commission is now involved in its dispute with Apple Computer.
The complaint alleges violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the importation into the United States, the sale for importation, and the sale within the United States after importation of certain portable digital media players that infringe Creative's ZEN Patent. Creative has requested that the ITC issue a permanent exclusion order and permanent cease and desist order.
While a permanent exclusion order could theoretically result in the cessation of iPod sales, the reality is this is a required procedural move in the ongoing litigation.
“Essentially the institution of the ITC investigation is just a procedural matter that happens as a matter of course if you dot your i’s and cross your t’s on the complaint,” said Stefani Shanberg, a partner in the San Francisco office of the law firm Perkins Coie. She specializes in intellectual property cases.
“A lot of times, companies will use the institution of an investigation as a press event because it sounds impressive,” she added. She believes it is likely that the ITC will take up Apple’s complaints against Creative as well.
And Creative could certainly use something impressive sounding, as their stock price is currently trading at historic lows. One wonders if Creative will survive in the market place long enough to complete a litigation process that will likely take years.
Meanwhile, in Vermont of all places, David Contois has taken Apple Computer to court over alleged infringement of his patent on jukebox software, though the case sounds more like a comic skit on a broken patent system.
Disagreements ranged from specific — what does "selecting" really mean? — to general, including whether Contois' software alone, or the program coupled with devices it controls, was the heart of the debate.
Lawyer John Rabena, a member of Contois' legal team, said the software was key because it marked a vast improvement over earlier products from other companies.
"Those interfaces were not as intuitive and elegantly simple," he said.
An attorney for Apple, Greg Arovas of New York, disagreed: "The plaintiff was very late to the digital-music game."
Of course, Creative would undoubtedly say the same for Apple Computer and the iPod.
Forget units sold and market share as metrics of success, the new standard is litigation, and by this measurement Apple's iPod and its music related initiatives are winners.