Ruling expected within 12—15 months.

The U.S. International Trade Commission has launched a probe into whether Apple Computer's iPod infringes on a Creative Technology Ltd. patent, Creative said on Wednesday (June 14).

Creative filed a complaint alleging Apple imported into the United States and sold iPod devices that infringes on Creative's "Zen" patent, which covers the user interface in its Nomad and Zen portable digital media players.

Creative asked the ITC to issue a permanent exclusion order and a permanent cease and desist order against Apple.

Representatives for Cupertino, California-based Apple were not immediately available for comment on Wednesday.

Creative said the case will be referred to Administrative Law Judge Paul Luckern, who will hold hearings and make an initial determination as to whether a violation was committed. The commission typically issues a ruling about 12 months to 15 months after an investigation starts.

Shares of Apple eased 23 cents to $58.10 in pre-market trade Wednesday. Creative closed at $4.72, down 16 cents, on Tuesday on Nasdaq.