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Creative Labs, Inc. v. Cyrix Corporation

No. C 97-0912CW (N.D.Cal. May 7, 1997)

Plaintiff Creative Labs manufactures Sound Blaster sound cards which are installed in computers to enhance the computer's audio capabilities. Defendant Cyrix created a microprocessor Media GX that produces sound without the assistance of a sound card. Defendants, in advertisements for this product, claimed it was "compatible with Sound Blaster." Contending that Media GX was not compatible with its Sound Blaster, plaintiffs charged defendants with false advertisement in violation of the Lanham Act. Finding that plaintiff was likely to prevail on this claim, the Court issued a preliminary injunction enjoining further advertisements asserting the "compatible" claim.

The court's decision turned on the definition of "compatible." As applied to hardware devices, the Court found that compatible meant that "the first product can be used in place of the second product without producing any difference in performance and that the first product has the same capabilities and functions as the second product." Media GX was not compatible with Sound Blaster because (1) either 2 or 8% of tested software functioned on a computer containing a Sound Blaster sound card but not on a computer equipped with Media GX and (2) Media GX could not support a function, albeit an allegedly out of vogue function, supported by Sound Blaster.

The court also enjoined defendants from continuing to distribute software created by plaintiffs, which defendants had copied and posted on a web site, where it encouraged and provided the means for third parties to copy it. The court found that such conduct constituted copyright infringement.

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