“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.
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