Creative Technology, maker of the Zen line of digital music players, announced Wednesday that the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has voted to investigate Apple for what Creative alleges is a violation of its “Zen Patent.” The U.S. ITC is a federal agency that investigates unfair trade practices involving patent, trademark and copyright infringement.
Creative said that the patent covers the user interface used in its Nomad and Zen music players, as well as Apple’s own iPod, iPod nano and iPod mini. Creative first started making noise about the patent in August, 2005. The patent covers the hierarchical display of music information on digital music players.
Initially Creative Labs President Craig McHugh told reporters that his company was exploring “all the alternatives available” to seek a remedy. In mid-May, Creative sued Apple and filed a complaint with the ITC, claiming Apple violated the Tariff Act by importing and selling iPods.
Apple has since struck back with not one but two countersuits.
Creative said that the ITC has not made any decision on the merits of the complaint, although the case has been referred to an administrative law judge who will schedule and hold an evidentiary hearing, which typically takes five to eight months. Afterwards, that decision will be reviewed by the ITC itself, which can take as long as 12 to 15 months after the investigation gets underway.