Creative vs Apple

Cliff Edwards

Just as Apple is gearing up for the launch of a revamped and reportedly flash-based iPod mini, rival Creative Technology is hoping to steal the spotlight from the digital music juggernaut.

Creative says it has won a patent on a navigation interface for digital music players that is being widely used by others, including Apple for both the iPod and iPod mini. Company execs are being coy about whether they're going to pursue back royalties and licensing from the alleged infringers, but it looks like a sure thing.

This comes after news earlier this month that a Microsoft employee had won a patent on another technology used in the iPod. Clearly, though, the Creative announcement appears more significant. (At least from the slides they showed to back up their claims).

You'll recall that Creative had been considered a technology leader in the digital music field until Steve Jobs & Co. came along and made them look like an also-ran.

Creative tried to rally last year with a $100 million marketing campaign that left the company awash in red ink and still a distant No. 2 to Apple worldwide. The company is shipping new music and portable video players, but few are expecting them to beat Apple anytime soon, particularly since Jobs seems intent on refreshing the iPod lineup fairly regularly with tongue-drooling devices that make even owners of multiple iPods go back to the well.

The question now is will Apple cave to Creative's implied demands and fork over some of that hard-earned cash, or will Jobs say "I'll see you in court?"

Who woulda thunk the trials and tribulations of the equipment makers could be as entertaining as the music and video that people are loading onto their gear??

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