Another Crazy Patent Decision

Apple just lost $100 million to a Creative Labs suit over iPod menus.  Stephan Kinsella isolates exactly what the unbelievable breakthrough it was that Apple will now have to pay for.  Here it is.  Be amazed at the genius involved, all you small-minded folks who would never have been smart enough to think of this for yourselves:

A method of selecting at least one track from a plurality of tracks
stored in a computer-readable medium of a portable media player
configured to present sequentially a first, second, and third display
screen on the display of the media player, the plurality of tracks
accessed according to a hierarchy, the hierarchy having a plurality of
categories, subcategories, and items respectively in a first, second,
and third level of the hierarchy, the method comprising:

  • selecting a category in the first display screen of the portable media player;
  • displaying the subcategories belonging to the selected category in a listing presented in the second display screen;
  • selecting a subcategory in the second display screen;
  • displaying the items belonging to the selected subcategory in a listing presented in the third display screen; and
  • accessing at least one track based on a selection made in one of the display screens.

Oh my god, like, my head is going to explode this is so revolutionary and complicated.  Someone just invented the hierarchical menu.  Jeez, how have we done without this all these years?  </sarcasm>


  1. Matthew Brown:

    Technically, Apple settled, not lost, I believe; they concluded it was cheaper and easier to pay Creative $100 million to shut up and go away than to fight it in court. It'd probably have cost more than that to defend the suit.

    However, that doesn't change the fact that you can shake down companies for hundreds of millions for patenting the obvious, and in fact the previously existing in a new context.

  2. mjh:

    No. It's not the hierarchical menu. Really. It's much more innovative than that. It's the hierarchical menu on "a portable media player". Significantly more innovative than some simple hierarchical menu!!

    Seriously, software patents are (IMHO) completely ridiculous. Software development is entirely about building on what someone did before. If there's a single piece of software that doesn't somehow involve patent infringement, I'd be surprised. IMHO, patents applied to software do not provide incentive for innovation. I think they disincent it because it's almost impossible to develop any software without violating a patent.