FORTUNE — “And boy have we patented it,” Steve Jobs declared to laughter and applause when he unveiled the iPhone in January 2007.
The back story behind that declaration, according to The Patent, Used as a Sword, a front-page article in Monday’s New York Times, was a decision Jobs made five months earlier after Apple (AAPL) was forced to settled a patent infringement suit filed by Creative Technology.
Creative, a Singapore-based multinational that made several early MP3 players, including the NOMAD and the ZEN, had in 2001 submitted a U.S. patent application for a portable media player user interface. The patent was awarded in 2005 and in May 2006, Creative sued Apple for patent infringement in the iPod.
“Creative is very fortunate to have been granted this early patent,” Jobs said after settling with Creative for $100 million.
Based on interviews with former Apple lawyers, including Nancy Heinen, the Apple (and before that, NeXT) general counsel who was thrown under the bus in the 2006 stock option backdating scandal, the Times‘ Charles Duhigg and Steve Lohr tell the story of what happened next:
It’s a major story that looks at software patents from both sides. You can read it here.
The article is Part 7 in the Times‘ ongoing iEconomy series. Four of the earlier pieces singled out Apple — some think unfairly — for outsourcing jobs, for exploiting cheap Chinese labor, for avoiding U.S. taxes and for how little it pays employees in its retail stores.