Creative has been awarded an important patent relating to the playlist interface on portable MP3 players, according to this BBC report. The judgement has implications for rival Apple, who's iPod and iPod mini are thought to feature possible infringements.

If this story sounds familiar, that is because Apple are also facing patent problems with bitter rival Microsoft. Two weeks ago, it was revealed that the US Patent and Trademark office turned down an Apple application relating to the iPod interface on the grounds that it was too similar to a patent already granted to Microsoft developer John Platt five months earlier.

“I think that in practical terms, no judge will allow Microsoft to stop Apple’s iPod business from going forward,” said Peter Kay, president of industry analysts Endpoint Technologies Associates Inc. “I think that if Microsoft makes a narrow claim stick, the settlement will be a cross-licensing deal with little or no money changing hands.” You can read more about this spat on Macworld.

Apple dominates the hard drive-based portable MP3 player market, with an estimated 80% market share. However, Creative are keen to wrestle their way to the number one slot, with Creative boss Sim Wong Hoo claiming 'the MP3 war had started'.

It is unknown how this latest blow to Apple will affect the market: Microsoft may not be a direct competitor, but Creative certainly are. In general, patents are granted to protect manufacturers' designs from being copied by rivals. However in this case, a patent has been granted for something so bleeding obvious that other MP3 player makers face a possible license fee for a menu that is sheer common sense.

The USPTO has decided that Creative effectively 'own' the idea of organising many thousands of MP3 tracks by displaying them in a hierarchy of Artists, then Albums and then Songs. That is just plain crazy talk. We will certainly be following this story with great interest.

In less good news for Creative, it appears that a batch of Zen Neeons escaped the factory in Japan preloaded with the W32.Wullik.B@mm worm. Check out Engadget for the story.

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