Trade agency to investigate claim of Apple patent infringement

Portable media player maker Creative Technology Ltd. said Wednesday the U.S. International Trade Commission agreed to investigate whether Apple Computer Inc.'s rival iPod infringes on one of its patents.

Singapore-based Creative filed the ITC complaint and a federal lawsuit alleging that iPods infringed on its patent for a navigation system used to organize and access music on portable players. Creative dubbed the patent, the "Zen patent," after its brand-name Zen media players.

Under the ITC complaint, Creative asked the agency to block imports of the Cupertino-based company's market leading iPods, which are manufactured abroad.

The ITC will reach a conclusion as soon as possible, setting a target date within 45 days of the investigation's launch, Creative said.

The probe is the latest development in an increasingly twisted patent battle between the two companies. In court documents, Apple has maintained no wrongdoing and has since filed two patent-infringement countersuits against Creative.

Apple representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Findings by the trade agency typically come at a faster pace than patent cases in the court system, but the ITC's conclusions would not necessarily affect a judge's ruling, said Stefani Shanberg, a patent attorney with Perkins Coie LLP in San Francisco, reports AP.

O.Ch.