“Having turned the music industry on its ear with the combination of its iPod digital player and its iTunes Music Store, Apple Computer appears to have been frustrated in its attempt to patent one feature of the iPod’s software interface by a researcher from Microsoft,” Arik Hesseldahl reports for BusinessWeek. “Last month, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office rejected an Apple patent application filed in September, 2002, for a ‘method and apparatus for use of rotational user inputs.’ It cited among its reasons a patent application by Microsoft researcher John Platt, who had filed some three months earlier.”
“David Kaefer, who runs business development for Microsoft’s intellectual property licensing group, says the value of a patent has a lot to do with how many alternative ways there are to achieve the same result. ‘In the same way there were lots of ways to separate the seeds from the cotton, there is more than one way to build a playlist.’ And when that happens, companies usually find it’s helpful to take out a license on each other’s patents. He didn’t say for sure whether or not that would happen in this particular case, but Apple and Microsoft have a long history of taking out cross-licenses with each other,” Hesseldahl reports.
“That’s how it usually works between large companies, says Dennis Crouch, a patent lawyer with McDonnell Boehnen Hulbert & Berghoff in Chicago. They’re more eager to get on with business as usual than head to court,” Hesseldahl reports. “When word of the matter made the rounds of tech gossip sites, it got more than a few observers snickering at Apple’s apparent setback. Actually, it was nothing of the kind. ‘Neither of these are market-controlling patents,’ Crouch says.”
Full article here.
Of course, according to technology pundit Rob Enderle of the self-titled Enderle Group, this whole thing “could be a setback” and “is incredibly embarrassing” for Apple, as quoted by Bloomberg News. One could probably make a ton of money by just taking whatever Rob Enderle says and betting on the polar opposite to happen. As we wrote yesterday, the only things that are “incredibly embarrassing” are Rob Enderle himself and the “news organizations” and “journalists” that continue to use his comments.
Microsoft beats Apple in iPod patent race? – August 11, 2005
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