Apple Computer and Creative Technology have agreed to settle their legal dispute over music player patents for $100 million, the companies announced Wednesday.
The $100 million, to be paid by Apple, grants Apple a license to a Creative patent for the hierarchical user interface used in that company’s Zen music players.
Sounds fairly straightforward, right? Wrong – there are some twists:
The patent covers an interface that lets users navigate through a tree of expanding options, such as selecting an artist, then a particular album by that artist, then a specific song from that album, said Phil O’Shaughnessy, a Creative spokesman. The patent applies to portable media players, which includes devices like the iPod or cell phones that have the ability to play music, he said.
Apple can get back some of the $100 million payment if Creative is able to secure licensing deals with other MP3 player manufacturers, said Steve Dowling, an Apple spokesman.
That’s a nice touch, since Apple in some sense has just validated the patent. I bet the Apple legal staff is just itching to help Creative work on the letters to all the player manufacturers right now. But wait, there’s more:
As part of the agreement, Creative will also enter Apple’s Made for iPod program as an authorized seller of iPod accessories. Creative will be able to affix the “Made for iPod” logo to its speakers, headphones and other related products, O’Shaughnessy said.
You think maybe Creative decided that there wasn’t much future in being a Microsoft PlaysforSure partner in view of the Zune and decided to diversify a little?
Update: For reference, see also the Apple press release.