Creative has won the race in getting the patent for creating the User Interface for portable media players. The news means that MP3 manufacturers like Apple may have to pay a levy to Creative every time its sells an iPod.

Creative today announced that it has been awarded U.S. Patent 6,928,433, which Creative is referring to as the “Zen Patent.” The Zen Patent was awarded to Creative for its invention of the user interface for portable media players, including many of the Creative Zen and NOMAD Jukebox MP3 players. The Zen Patent covers the user interface that enables users of portable media players to efficiently and intuitively navigate among and select tracks on the players.

Creative's invention for the user interface for portable media players enables selection of at least one track in a portable media player as a user sequentially navigates through a hierarchy using three or more successive screens on the display of the player. One example would be the sequence of screens that could display artists, then albums, and then tracks. When the user selects an artist, the player displays a list of albums for that artist. Selection of one of the listed albums then displays a list of tracks on the album.

Creative has yet to confirm what it will do with its new prize:

"We're pleased about the patent and the protection it provides us. We're evaluating all the alternatives," Craig McHugh, president of Creative Labs, the firm's U.S. unit, told reporters on a conference call.

Just a few weeks ago Apple lost out to Microsoft Corp. when it was denied another patent filing over the user interface for the iTunes desktop application. Spokespeople for Microsoft indicated that an amicable cross-licensing arrangement was likely to follow that development.

Creative applied for the Zen Patent on January 5, 2001 and it was awarded on August 9, 2005.