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Back in August of 2006, Apple was able to reach an out-of-court settlement with a firm known as Creative Technologies. The terms of this precedent-setting settlement entailed that, in exchange for a cool $100 million in cash, Apple was given the rights to a full license of Creative Technologies’ software patent — which, was an intuitive interface for navigating Apple’s iPod, and was almost exclusive to the Cupertino-company’s hot MP3 players.
It was a slam-dunk settlement, indeed, especially for Creative Technologies, as the firm had literally just been awarded the very same patent within the same, relative timeframe. Quick hundred mil in the bank — clink, clink, clink — and, I’m sure they thought full speed ahead, holding the keys to this super valuable eternally-relevant patent, right?
I mean, I can see it now… I envision the sheer magnitude of Dom Pérignon bottles being corked and poured over at Creative Technologies’ headquarters after that payday. Unfortunately, so the saying goes: what goes up, must too come down.
Well sure, and according to a recent report from Law360, it appears as if the patent in question — U.S. Patent No. 6,982,433 — has just recently been invalidated by the same regulatory agency that awarded it to Creative Technologies less than 10 warm summers ago.
But wait.. You didn’t think Creative was going to let the head honcho lawyers over at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office stop their stop their gravy train without duking it out in court, right? Of course not..
As a matter of fact, earlier this year, that actually happened! Creative Executives stood before the USPTO’s own Administrative Law Judge, David Shaw, defending its patent to the death, and specifically expressing how, as a result of the 10-year-old settlement, “thousands of jobs were created at Apple, which would otherwise be in danger if the patent were invalidated.”
“These innovative inventions of the ‘433 patent have now become ubiquitous in the industry,” Creative’s complaint to the USPTO said in May. “While Apple Inc., which uses these inventions in its iPod and iPhone products, has taken a license, others in the industry have made use of Creative’s invention without permission.”
Oh yeah, and about that.. So apparently this whole 6,982,433’ patent invalidation-hullabaloo is all conveniently taking place as Creative Technologies is in the midst of trying to file some peripheral litigation — against big-name contenders, such as Blackberry, HTC, LG, Samsung, Sony, and others — on the premise of their “willful infringement” of this same patent.
As far as Creative Technologies is concerned, those, too, could have been successful cases. But better luck next time, right?
I mean, sure, the invalidation of said patent still has a fair and impartial chance of being reviewed by the USPTO lawyers; however, Judge Shaw made it relatively clear that the original patent is far too “abstract” to be applied to newer, broader technologies — many of which were envisioned by these aforementioned entities, even long after Creative and Apple had their day in court, err, outside of court..
I guess we’ll have to see what happens with this one, but it could take months, or even years — and it could get awfully ugly — before a gavel officially hits the sound block.
What do you think about Creative’s “abstract” software interface patent being invalidated? Let us know in the comments!