It wasn’t enough that Creative Labs/Creative Technology spent March 24th suing almost every big name in the cell phone business for patent infringement.
These lawsuits, all filed in the East Texas patent troll playground, asserted the same thing: that any smartphone containing a music app (which is every smartphone produced) violates the patent it was granted in 2005 to use in conjunction with its mp3 players.
“Venue is proper” because smartphones are sold in Texas, even if the plaintiffs are located in California and Singapore, respectively.
That wasn’t all Creative Technology did. It also filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission seeking to block the import of smartphones from manufacturers like Sony, LG, BlackBerry, Samsung, etc. under the theory that every imported phone contains patent-infringing software. The ITC has opened an investigation of Creative’s allegations, which will at least hold off any potential import blocks until it reaches a decision. The ITC’s summary of Creative’s patent claims clearly shows how broad the patent’s potential coverage is — and (inadvertently) why it should be invalidated.
The products at issue in the investigation are portable electronic devices, such as smart phones, with the capability of playing stored media files selected by a user from a hierarchical display.
Creative Labs started its patent war early, suing Apple back in 2006 for “violating” its patent with its iPods. Apple ultimately settled with Creative for $100 million — not only encouraging Creative’s trolling ways but also moving Apple towards more aggressive acquisition (and defense) of patents, even for something truly obvious like “rounded corners.”
Google has decided it’s not going to wait around for the ITC or east Texas courts to come to the wrong conclusions. It’s gone on the offensive, seeking declaratory judgment that it does not violate Creative’s broad patent. Every company sued by Creative on March 24th sells Android phones that contain Google’s “Play Music” app. On behalf of its customers (and its own Motorola Mobility, which was also sued), Google wants Creative’s BS patent’s power neutered.
No version of the Google Play Music app directly or indirectly infringes any claim of the ’433 patent. No third party infringes any claim of the ’433 patent by using the Google Play Music app in other devices. Google has not caused, directed, requested, or facilitated any such infringement, and has not had any specific intent to do so. The Google Play Music app is not designed for use in any combination that would infringe any claim of the ’433 patent. Rather, the Google Play Music app has substantial uses that do not infringe any claim of the ’433 patent.
An actual and justiciable controversy therefore exists between Google and Creative regarding whether the Google Play Music app infringes or has infringed the ’433 patent. A judicial declaration is necessary to determine the respective rights of the parties regarding the ’433 patent. Google seeks a judgment declaring that the Google Play Music app does not directly or indirectly infringe any claim of the ’433 patent.
Creative is asking for a substantial payout for something as obvious as selecting and adding songs to a playlist. The claim specified in its lawsuits is this one:
The method of selecting a track as recited in claim 1 wherein the accessing at least one track comprises selecting an item in the third display screen and adding at least one track associated with the selected item to a playlist.
If Google’s receives a judgment in its favor, it will at least protect the cell phone manufacturers from having to deal with claims related to its “Music Play” app. For all of those that load their own music apps on their phones (which, again, is all of them), they’re still on their own when it comes to fending off Creative’s rent-seeking.
The market has changed and left Creative behind. Back when it sued Apple, it at least had a competing mp3 player on the market. Now, it has nothing even remotely related to smartphones, but still thinks it’s entitled to a cut of those profits because it made music players once upon a time. And it’s so desperate to leech off viable companies that it’s willing to abuse more than a friendly district court to achieve its ends.