Microsoft has not, repeat not, patented Apple’s iPod

“Given the intense rivalry between Apple Computer Inc. and Microsoft Corp., this recent revelation had a comedic tinge: Apple took too long to file a patent on part of its blockbuster iPod music players, so Microsoft beat Apple to it. Bloggers and other tech pundits snickered at the prospect of Steve Jobs having to pay Bill Gates royalties on the beloved iPods, which account for more than one-third of Apple’s revenue… But that scenario is unlikely,” Greg Sandoval reports for The Associated Press.

“To be sure, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office last month did reject a request that Apple filed in October 2002 to patent technologies that support the iPod’s rotational wheel interface. The reason for the rejection: Microsoft had apparently outraced Apple to the patent office with a similar request by five months,” Sandoval reports. “Sounds bad, but that setback is hardly a knockout blow.”

Sandoval reports, “Apple could file a declaration stating that it invented the technology before Microsoft filed its patent request — as evidenced by all the iPods already on the market at the time. In such cases, a company can ask the patent office to launch an investigation to determine the inventor. Apple also could alter its patent claims so they don’t overlap with Microsoft’s. As a result, a final answer on who owns the patent for iPod’s interface may not be answered for at least another six months…”

Full article here.
While hysteria can be fun, let’s take a reality break: Microsoft’s so-called “patent” is not even a patent. It is a patent application (Number 20030221541, to be exact) which has received numerous “Non-Final Rejections” (NFR) and at least one “Final Rejection” (which obviously isn’t really so final – this is the government we’re talking about here) from the US Patent and Trademark Office and has not received approval. The Register explains that Platt’s patent “received an NFR on 17 November 2002, and a more serious Final Rejection on 14 June 2004. After further documentation was received, and extension granted, the application received another NFR on 11 December last year.” Full article here.

While it would be a fabulous story if Microsoft somehow held an patent that could be applied to iPod resulting in Apple having to pay royalties to Microsoft for each iPod sold, it just loses a great deal of its fabulousness when it clearly isn’t true.

Related articles:
Microsoft to allow Apple to license iPod patent? – August 15, 2005
The real story on Microsoft’s ‘Apple iPod’ playlist patent – August 12, 2005
Patent lawyer: Microsoft and Apple iPod patent saga is much ado about nothing – August 12, 2005
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


  1. Of course Microsoft will never win any ground on this front – but isn’t it funny that they’ve been reduced to this level of groveling? Everyone thought I was delirious 8 years ago when, upon Steve Jobs return, I began suggesting that Microsoft would likely fade from view and Apple would rise like never before. 3 years ago, around when the iPod was beginning to take off, a few people started to listen – especially with OSX starting to show some polish. Nowadays it’s laughable because everyone is telling me that Apple has Microsoft beat and that it’s only a matter of time until the sloth falls from its throne. There’s still a few who point out that Microsoft’s entrenched position market-share wise ensure that they will be around forever – but even they seem a bit timid after they proclaim this. Give it 5 more years, at best, and Microsoft will be exiting the Operating Systems market and focusing their energies on “emerging markets”, etc. You heard it hear first ” width=”19″ height=”19″ alt=”smile” style=”border:0;” />

  2. Thank you very much for posting a link to one of the SANE articles about this patent issue. I think it’s quite clear that Apple won’t have any problems. If the patent office launches an investigation of who “really” invented the iPod, it should be a slam-dunk case for Apple.

  3. Microsoft applies for patents on everything they can. They even applied for a patent on the double click. Bunch of reprehensible bullies. They use piles of money and an army of lawyers to stifle innovation, ensure their monopoly and make life hard for anybody who crosses their path.

  4. It is very interesting that the same story has been repeated so often with varying content and quite diverse conclusions.

    Which story is to be believed? Maybe this is a case of some truth in each one, but none are completely correct.

    Makes you wonder what truth is in all the other news we read and hear.

    MW – nation as in nation of idiots?

  5. Ok, so say Microsoft are granted the patent for the iPod scroll wheel in six months time; they could be gracious and not demand royalties from Apple as long as Apple acknowledge Microsoft’s patent, or they could demand a few cents per sale and hit Apple in the pocket.

    How long then till OSX86 is released into the world as a commercial product?

    If Microsoft try to take a bite out of Apple, they may find the Apple ‘poisonous’.

  6. Apple’s drop yesterday was partially profit taking and partly worries about the impact of the increase in the price of oil. From what I’ve seen, invenstors are not worried about the iPod patent. The story broke out late last week, and since then, Apple has had 2 days of 4.5% increase.

  7. Rainy Day,

    What makes you think that a drop in Apple’s stock yesterday had anything to do with this issue? The market was down, government numbers were disappointing, AND AAPL had just hit an all time high the day before.

    I am the biggest Apple supporter around and have traded over $20 million in AAPL this year. But I was short yesterday (and long today). The day-to-day movements in the price have nothing to do with this trivial issue.

    Sorry if I was monologging.


  8. OK, these are the facts:

    Apple doesn’t apply for a patent until 5 months until after the iPod’s shipped. It’s rejected because:

    in the previous 5 months Microsoft applied for a patent, but their’s was rejected numerous times because you cannot apply for a patent that is your competitor’s shipping product, (but they are still appealing, it’s caught up in red tape so they cannot grant Apple a patent until Microsoft’s appeal is rejected once and for all.)

    So Apple will win (in the long term), however what everybody’s forgetting is Apple & Microsoft have signed a cross-patent deal that allows each other to use their ideas, so all this is pointless, nobody’s is going to pay any royalty’s to anybody else, no matter which side end up with the patent.

    So, can we please now relax?

  9. This is great news and yes I was holding my breath!

    Yep with the share price and Wall Street you know where to put that spare $50.00.

    It is all about ‘Prior Art’ that has been touted here in posts related to the iPod. Microsoft are just beginning their death throes, I’d say the future for Microsoft is in hardware akin to companies like Kensington, only a lot more ‘up-market’ and ‘down-market’ of Apple’s own hardware.

    The future is juicy, the future is Apple.

  10. For the record, neither Apple nor M$ invented the “rotational wheel interface”. I have a Bang & Olufsen wireless phone which has a rotational wheel on it long before iPod became commercially available. May be Bang & Olufsen did not file an patent in the US for that design or may be B&O is already filing law suite for patent infringement!!!

  11. “So why did Microsoft look at the iPod then and file a patent?”

    Cuz, as Bill Gates said, “It’s not like we look at the iPod and say, WOW.. we can’t do that.”

    No one, 6 months after the iPod came out.. thought it would ever sell 20 million units, least of which, MS.

    MS has been waiting for the iPod to turn into the Mac.. and plummet to 5% marketshare.

    Why patent someone else’s shit? God knows… they were rejected about 29 times .. and then some more for good measure. Maybe they just like paying their lawyers to waste time.. kinda like a Christmas bonus

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