Creative Technology, a maker of portable music players, on Tuesday said it was awarded a U.S. patent that applied to .'s iPod and other rivals.
Creative said it was considering its alternatives, but did not say whether it would file a patent suit, which is typically an expensive process, seek licensing agreements or even if it had talked with Apple.
Analyst Phil Leigh of Inside Digital said he considered the patent award a significant development for both companies.
"We consider it a dead certainty that Creative will go after Apple for royalties or some other type of compensation for what Creative will assert is infringement of its patents, currently and in the past," Leigh said, reports Reuters.
According to PC Mag, the fact that Creative now holds a patent forces Apple to negotiate. "There's always an assumption of validity with patents," Kunstadt said.
"If you have a patent you've got to deal with it. You have a head start because of this presumption of validity, but if there's convincing evidence that there's better prior art than what the Patent Office was looking at, and that it really shouldn't have issued [the patent]," then a company in Apple's position would a good chance of success in defending itself, he said. "In these kind of things that's often not very hard to do."
The Creative Zen player was on the market and selling briskly nearly two years earlier than the iPod, but Apple's decision to use a hard drive for file storage essentially reinvented the product category.