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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 December 2005, 12:32 GMT
Apple faces iPod patent dispute
By Alfred Hermida
Technology editor, BBC News website

Creative Zen Vision: M
Creative's latest player supports various video formats
Apple could be in for a bruising legal fight with rival Creative over the technology used in iPod music players.

Creative boss Sim Wong Hoo has told the BBC he plans to "pursue aggressively" a US patent it owns on a system used to navigate music on digital players.

Mr Sim was speaking at the launch of Creative's latest rival to the iPod video, the Zen Vision: M.

Creative was one of the first to market digital music players in 2000, but has since been overshadowed by Apple.

Lucrative market

Portable media players have grown in popularity over the past year.

According to analysts Informa Telecoms & Media, sales of portable audio and video players have risen 71% in the last year.

Creative boss Sim Wong Hoo
We will pursue all manufacturers that use the same navigation system
Sim Wong Hoo
They estimate the market for portable audio and video players will be worth $6.8bn in 2005, rising to $16.1bn in 2010.

So far Apple has dominated, with its iPod is estimated to account for 80% of sales of digital music players which use hard drives to store music.

Creative has struggled to catch up, being a distant second in the marketplace.

In August, it revealed it had won a patent in the US for the way music tracks are organised and navigated on a player through a hierarchical system using three or more screens.

The announcement prompted speculation that Creative could seek royalties from Apple, though patent cases can drag on for years.

'Pursue aggressively'

Creative chairman Sim Wong Hoo told the BBC News website that the company was already talking to various parties about the patent but refused to be drawn on specifics.

Apple iPod
Apple revamped the iPod in October, adding video
"We will pursue all manufacturers that use the same navigation system," said Mr Sim. "This is something we will pursue aggressively.

"Hopefully this will be friendly, but people have to respect intellectual property."

Mr Sim was in London for the launch of the Creative Zen Vision: M in time for the seasonal Christmas rush.

The gadget is a direct competitor to Apple's iPod video. It bears a striking resemblance, and is about the width and weight of the previous iPod model.

But Mr Sim denied the company had copied the design, saying it had been working on the look for more than a year.

Creative are touting the Zen as a far more powerful player than Apple's offering, with additional functions such as FM radio and a built-in mic.

"We are focused on the technology," he said. "This is still a technology marketplace."

"This is the key difference between a technology company and a branding company," he said, taking a side-swipe at Apple's successful marketing campaign for its iPod.

But he acknowledged that Creative's strategy of focusing on the technology of its products had not worked as well with consumers as he had hoped.

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