Microsoft beats Apple in iPod patent race?

“Apple Computer Inc., whose iPods are the top-selling music player in the U.S., lost an attempt to patent some of the device’s technology because rival Microsoft Corp. had already filed a similar application,” reports Bloomberg News.

“Microsoft beat Apple to the patent application by five months, U.S. Patent & Trademark Office documents show. Apple’s request, filed by Chief Executive Officer Steve Jobs and other officials in October 2002, was rejected by patent officials last month,” Bloomberg News reports. “Apple plans to appeal the decision to ensure it won’t be forced to pay royalties to Microsoft on every iPod sale. The decision could be a setback for Apple, which is also facing increased competition from Microsoft, which makes software for rival music players, and other companies that want to take market share, said Rob Enderle, a technology analyst at Enderle Group. ‘It’s incredibly embarrassing,’ said Enderle, who is based in San Jose, California. ‘That just makes it look like someone at Apple wasn’t on the ball in terms of filing the patent at the right time.'”

Bloomberg News reports, “‘Apple invented and publicly released the iPod interface before the Microsoft patent application cited by the examiner was filed,’ Apple spokeswoman Natalie Kerris said today in an e-mailed statement. The company has received other patents related to the iPod and has other patents pending on the device, she said. ‘The U.S. patent process is often a lengthy one, involving much back and forth,’ Kerris said. ‘Apple will continue to pursue this patent application.'”

Bloomberg reports, “Microsoft employee John C. Platt applied for the patent on behalf of his company in May 2002… Microsoft’s application was also rejected in December 2004, records at the patent office show. Platt amended the application in April, 2005 and on June 27 the office indicated that Microsoft’s pending patent would be approved after payment. ‘We don’t know at this stage whether he’s going to get a patent,’ said Gary Reback, an intellectual property litigator at Carr & Ferrell in Palo Alto, California. ‘It’s hard to know what the rejection means for Apple in light of that.’ Patents often can be issued after being initially rejected, Reback said. ‘It’s early in the game,’ he said.”

Full article here.
Apple introduced iPod to the world on October 23, 2001: http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2001/oct/23ipod.html The only things that are “incredibly embarrassing” are Rob Enderle himself and the “news organizations” and “journalists” that continue to use his comments.

Related articles:
Microsoft researcher involved in rejected Apple iPod patent – August 10, 2005
Apple’s patent application for Pod’s menu-based software interface rejected – August 09, 2005

30 Comments

  1. Hey Amis
    All your rankings and complaining will not change the system.
    the fact that life is not fair is not changed by your lack of understanding of how things work. Someone patents something before the other… they have a claim. You want to change the system? then get off this board and do something other that talk bullshit.

    I don’t agree that MS should have access to the work of Apple but if they were so stupid not to patent it before the competition who is to blame? MS? They are the predators, at least they are doing that job well.

  2. Apple shouldn’t have to MS any royalties no matter what happens. Fsck that…

    Apple should be exempt from anything MS patents, especially considering we all know where MS gets it’s R&D from (clearly, since the product was out before MS even filed the patent.)

    Besides, the 1997 deal ($150M + ??) should have included a hidden clause like I do when I play Monopoly (and what is this computer industry but run by a few monopolies?)… if I sell a property to my brother so he can complete a set, I say to him “Fine, but if I land there, I’m exempt from rent and taxes etc”. In the same way, if MS copy any of Apple’s stuff, and patent it and then try to sue, Apple can say “Fsck you, we have this secret deal exempting us. Go sue Creative and Real!”.

    hehehe.

    (yea, I’m being a dick, but hey, stranger things have happened.)

    Huh, magic word=covered. Yep, Apple certainly should have done so with the patents, but now it’ll be their ass which needs attention.

  3. If one company releases a device and a rival tries to patent the idea five months later and doesn’t even have a physical product it should be a no brainer even for the US government! Oh yeah, they are just effing paperpushers.

  4. Apple had the product on the market before with filing. They also filed a patent on the components used in the device being marketed as the Apple iPOD digital music player.

    As far as I know, MS has yet to bring any MP3 player to market.

    There are some patent laws in place that guard against squatting technology.

  5. Patent rights go to the inventor that can show they invented the item first, based on documention, or of course, a released product. The article doesn’t say when each company first documented their ideas, but it certainly sounds as if it was Apple first.

    We’re just hearing the details of the patent application process that are normally too dull for anyone to pay attention to. It will all work out in the end.

    As for Enderle’s ‘It’s incredibly embarrassing,’…’That just makes it look like someone at Apple wasn’t on the ball in terms of filing the patent at the right time.’…

  6. …oops, dropped my last sentence…

    As for Enderle’s comment, I’m sorry, but it’s only embarrassing for Enderle. Date of filing is not important. Poor Enderle has embarrassed himself by showing he doesn’t understand the patent process.

  7. Tom’s right. Date of invention is suppposed to be the critical issue in patent ownership, although earlier filing does provide a stronger starting position. Even if M$ were to receive a patent for some iPod technology, Apple would likely take ownership of the patent based upon prior invention date unless the technology is now considered to be in the public domain (waited too long to file after public disclosure) or it is covered under an earlier patent (which would spell trouble for Apple).

    At this point, I consider this dispute to be of minimal importance.

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