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A comparison between the Luxpro Super Tangent and the Apple Shuffle reveals them to look relatively similar in design. However, Luxpro's other products look relatively different from Apple's. Luxpro accuses Apple of using thuggish tactics and its monopolistic position to force it out of the market. It is seeking unspecified damages.  (Source: InformationWeek)
Another day, another suit for Apple

The new Apple has built itself on its iconic MP3 player, which grew to a commanding market share and now holds roughly 90 percent of the hard drive-based MP3 player market and 70 percent of the total MP3 player market.  This dominant position has led many; including readers at DailyTech to suggest that it has a monopoly on the market and may be abusing its position.  Now a Taiwanese competitor, Luxpro has accused Apple of holding an abusive monopoly, formerly filing charges in Arkansas court.

Luxpro has had a lengthy and heated legal war against Apple over the last few years.  The company was originally founded in December of 2002.  In January of 2004 it released its first product -- the EZ Share MP3 player.  Following its minor success, Luxpro proceeded to introduce new players.  In March, 2005, at the CeBit trade show in Hanover, Germany it unveiled its new model, the Super Shuffle MP3 player.

Apple was not happy.  Not only did the new player sound suspiciously like its iPod Shuffle in name, but it also resembled the first generation iPod Shuffle design in form factor.  Apple sought an injunction against Luxpro to prevent its sale.  After a German court granted the injunction, Luxpro responded by renaming its player the "Super Tangent".

Unable to force the upstart company out of the market by legal means, Luxpro claims Apple resorted to thuggish tactics to put it out of business.  It "
engaged a third-party to purchase a Super Tangent from LuxPro" and also obtained copies of two proprietary Luxpro price lists.  Luxpro claims that Apple then began to send it threatening letters, demanding that it remove its players from the market.

Apple has already lost once to Luxpro.  Apple sought another injunction in
July 2005 in Shihlin District Court in Taipei.  The battle was hard fought and the injunction was eventually granted.  However, it was relatively quickly overturned on a spirited appeal by Luxpro.  A frustrated Apple took its efforts to stomp out the competitor to the Taiwanese Supreme Court, only to lose.

Emboldened by its victory announced
January, 2007, it decided it would take the fight to Apple.  It announced that it would be $100M USD in damages.  That complaint has at last been filed in U.S. court.  It is not seeking a specific amount of damages with the current filing but now is requesting damages "determined by a jury trial, plus attorneys' fees".

Luxpro calls Apple "
abusive" and says that it used its dominant position to "stomp out competition".  It not only accuses Apple of aggressive tactics towards Luxpro, but also towards its suppliers and partners.

According to the complaint, "
While Apple's over-reaching injunctions were on appeal, Apple sent warning letters to other companies doing business with Luxpro demanding that they cease doing business with Luxpro.  For example, Apple placed significant pressure on InterTAN, a subsidiary of U.S.-based consumer electronics giant Circuit City, to drop Luxpro's MP3 players from its retail shelves."

Indeed, it is reported that in
September, 2005 InterTAN destroyed 4,500 Luxpro players.  It also stopped placing orders with the company, says Luxpro.  Luxpro adds that after the InterTAN rejection Radio Shack and Best Buy also stopped doing business with it.

According to the complaint, Apple also unsuccessfully issued similar demands to
Singapore's Orchard Company, Japan's Kaga Electronics, and Germany's Web Worker.  It also claimed that suppliers ASUSTek Computer and Synnex Technology International were urged by Apple to pressure Luxpro's distributors, including Carrefour, ET Mall, EUPA, and 3C.

If Luxpro wins, it could open the floodgate for a plethora of other suits, as Apple has reportedly forced many smaller competitors out of the market, through various tactics.

Apple has refused to comment on the case.

Aside from its corporate and class action suits pending, Apple also is subjecting to an ongoing antitrust investigation by the European Union.  The EU, which takes a tougher stance on antitrust issues, has indicated that Apple and its iTunes software may have an abusive monopoly on the MP3 player or online music market.



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wow
By rudolphna on 10/16/2008 11:05:36 AM , Rating: -1
Wow, this is really amazing. "everyone" loves ipods. I have used others, but my ipod nano is by far the best one Ive ever used, not to mention it uses itunes and can play AAC files. Monopolies arent illegal, and none of the other mp3 player companies have complained, as far as I know. Creative, Sandisk, Microsoft... None have spoken up against apple, but maybe Ive missed some things.




RE: wow
By Iger on 10/16/2008 11:20:36 AM , Rating: 3
Well, personally, I like Cowon's iAudio 7 much better with support for ogg, flac and wma, and without support for the oh-god-I-hate-it iTunes...
On the side note it would be funny to see Apple to try to push Microsoft off the market, by sending e-mails to the shops - it's definitely easier to push around some small company...
On the other side note the resemblance between the players is quite striking, but I'm not sure you can patent the "look" of mp3 player?


RE: wow
By Adul on 10/16/2008 11:31:01 AM , Rating: 3
I really like the cowan line of players as well. My brother just bought the 4GB cowan D2 with SDHC card slot. Touch screen, frequent firmware updates and excellent sound. He's very happy with his purchase.


RE: wow
By InvertMe on 10/16/2008 12:29:04 PM , Rating: 4
I have a 16GB Cowon D2 and love it. Only complaint is the lack of accessories. I love the flash player and have written a hand full of apps for it. I tested 2 iPods in my day (I almost bought one) but they always are missing something I want, quality seems low and of course... itunes blows.


RE: wow
By Omega215D on 10/16/2008 12:46:28 PM , Rating: 2
I plan on picking up the Cowon S9 which has a capacitive touch AMOLED screen which should be really sweet. I am happy with my D2 but their firmware needs updating and actually doing stuff Cowon owners want: www.iaudiophile.net

Apple players are really overpriced for what they are. They have a mediocre sound chip, mediocre screens compared to other players in the price range and they don't support enthusiast formats though I guess it's all about show and little go.


RE: wow
By AnnihilatorX on 10/16/2008 1:22:03 PM , Rating: 2
My friend just bought a Cowon D2 and he said it's his best spent of money in his entire life.


RE: wow
By sprockkets on 10/16/2008 1:37:41 PM , Rating: 2
Same here. In fact, even though not mentioned, it can play aac files, in fact, every version of them. Even apple's ipods do not mention support for HE-aac, or version 2. Just make sure the extension is aac.

Hey ipod, got TV out? Recording from 32kbps to 256kbps WMA from the radio and line in? Voice recording? FM without a $50 attachment? Flash UI customizations? Notepad? Language dictionary?

Hey, in Korea, they have DVB, and the D2 there has a digital video tuner accessory to watch and listen to digital tv (think HDTV specially formated for portable tvs) and digital music (think HDRadio except without the proprietary crap and licensing)


RE: wow
By JasonMick (blog) on 10/16/2008 11:24:14 AM , Rating: 4
You are so serious I can tell. It is really amazing that someone can be so serious about the things they feel so strongly about. You are not at all joking.


RE: wow
By poodles on 10/16/2008 11:28:08 AM , Rating: 1
"While it is not illegal to have a monopoly position in a market, the antitrust laws make it unlawful to maintain or attempt to create a monopoly through tactics that either unreasonably exclude firms from the market or significantly impair their ability to compete."

Monopolies are definitely a hazy subject, monopolies themselves are not illegal, but maintaining them are, doesn't make much sense. I'm glad I'm not the judge or on the jury for this one.


RE: wow
By drebo on 10/16/2008 3:54:06 PM , Rating: 5
Well, monopolies exist for various reasons. Take a telco, for instance. The wires in your house can only terminate to once place, so you have a natural monopoly. It would be impossible to allow multiple carriers in a geographic area unless there were multiple sets of lines, and no one is going to want that.

Considering this, a monopoly cannot be illegal, because there are natural monopolies that have to exist. What IS illegal, however, is the anticompetitive behavior that would arise if someone tried to preserve a monopoly. For instance, AT&T could not do anything to another company who wanted to run a parallel set of phone lines in my local rate center. They could not drop their rates so low that it would be impossible for the new company to be solvent, and they could not "petition" the government to not give the permits (campaign backing, etc, notwithstanding).

Likewise, Apple cannot engage in behavior that prevents new companies from entering the personal media player market. If Apple hypothetically captures 100% of the market through their good graces, they would be a monopoly...but as long as they did not engage in behavior that made it impossible for a new player to enter the market, they would not be in violation of any law.


RE: wow
By boredg on 10/16/2008 11:29:22 AM , Rating: 5
While the product itself may be good, this article isnt dealing with the quality of ipods vs. generic mp3 players. Its about the TACTICS Apple uses in relation to the market, NOT whether the iPod is better than <insert mp3 player here>.


RE: wow
By akugami on 10/16/2008 11:39:52 AM , Rating: 5
The missing information is that the "small companies" that are being pushed out of the market are making iPod knockoffs. They can make crappy MP3 players and Apple wouldn't give a crap. Heck, there are literally tons of crappy MP3 players out from Chinese two-bit manufacturers. All of them peacefully co-exist with Apple.


RE: wow
By sprockkets on 10/16/2008 1:25:09 PM , Rating: 5
Yes, but what makes the ishuffle so special? It has no display, a simple left right up down and center button scheme, and that's it. Then someone makes another just like it. Apple in their design came up with nothing new with the shuffle; it's just their cheapest simplest player; what, because it's apple, they now own the gumstick 5 button mp3 market?

I agree with the name part, but not the other tactics

These latter tactics sure remind me of someone else in the late 90s and earlier part of this decade: Intel.


RE: wow
By Nyarlathotep on 10/16/2008 1:49:22 PM , Rating: 2
I dislike apple but lookalikes should not be allowed. Just because a design is simple doesn´t mean it should be free to copy, especially when it looks like shit. Every company should have as a goal to create it´s own designs or at least some detail setting it appart.

Volvo would not be allowed to make a complete copy of the latest bmw, why would apples music players be any different just because of their sucess?


RE: wow
By mindless1 on 10/16/2008 11:42:01 PM , Rating: 2
What about something a bit more generic, less complex than an entire car? What about a large number of car tires looking very similar?

It was a given that a pocketable player needs be the shape of a pocket, and that a circular shape for the forward, back, stop and play were already understood by many users. To put that circular control at one end instead of the middle also makes sense so you don't have to look at the player to know which end is up.

Curved design and basic colors are just a trend of the 21st century. For a minimal design it lent itself to this styling unless someone went out of their way to add superfluous styling to it.

I do they it was a rip of Apple's design to some extent, because it's just too similar, but I also think if Apple hadn't done it first then someone else would've come up with something slightly different but also pretty much the same.


RE: wow
By sprockkets on 10/17/2008 12:10:50 AM , Rating: 2
If they copied say the nano wheel, I could see it. But perhaps the only unique part of the 1st gen shuffle is the raised button ring. That's it. Oh, I guess it came in white.

Perhaps they could have just moved the button set to the middle or whatever. There just isn't that much to make it look different. Even the shuffle seemed to have taken design cues from other screen-less players.

Look at Samsung, Cowon, iriver, and Sandisk. Most have the same screen and control stick. No one seems to be suing over it. My Samsung YP-MT6 looks just like the Cowon U2.

Even the KIA Amanti's front end or whatever it is, looks very close to a Mercedes. They aren't being sued over it (err, right? :).

I agree with what you are saying. There just isn't much in this case to set them apart at the shuffle level.

Names though are different it seems. When Toyota wanted to call the now Tundra the T-100, Ford threatened to sue over it since it was close to F-150. Likewise they changed the name of one of their vehicles after they objected.


RE: wow
By robinthakur on 10/17/2008 7:37:21 AM , Rating: 2
I hear what you're saying and, looking back now, the iShuffle looks bland and simple, but when it came out it definitely had a unique, iconic look to it and this competitor, especially the white model looks uncomfortably similar to the Apple model, to my eyes. Some design has gone into the shuffle, so I don't think there's any excuse for copying it. You say that Apple are trying to patent the gumstick 5 button mp3 player market, when in actuality they pretty much popularised it when the shuffle came out, so I'm not sure that's fair.

If I were Apple I would be narked that customers setting out to buy an iPod Suffle might be fooled into buying a cheap knockoff and then proceed to give very bad word of mouth on Apple's behalf...or would you prefer no name Taiwanese companies to just clone American (ok British in this case) designs and stack the shelves high with them next to the iPod shelf?

Clones and knock-offs of successful are widespread in the far-east, they just picked on a US company with big litigious pockets who objected to their sincerest form of flattery. The only irony might come when the clone has better sound quality than the real thing :)


"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer

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