Microsoft Chuckling At Apple Patent Mishap

    August 12, 2005
    WebProNews Staff

An iPod patent has been rejected by the USPTO due to Microsoft having filed a similar patent five months earlier.

Somewhere in Silicon Valley, a law firm specializing in patents has probably just finished placing orders for Bugatti Veyrons for its partners. It appears Apple will be spending a bit of cash with their patent attorneys, as has noted a final ruling from the US Patent Office, rejecting an Apple application to patent the iPod’s software.

An application filed by John Platt of Microsoft predates the Apple application by five months. Mr. Platt’s patent lists a method of displaying a menu of media items for a multimedia asset player. The Patent Office pointed to that May 2002 patent as it cited reasons for rejecting the Apple filing.

Now, Apple must begin the long process of appealing that decision. AppleInsider notes the company’s options as filing an appeal, requesting the Patent Office to reconsider its decision, or filing a continuation of the application. That process could lead to a battle in federal court, should Apple not receive the relief it expects from the USPTO.

Meanwhile, this series of unfortunate events has a couple of staggering implications for Apple. Without patent protection, the iPod software design could be copied. And since they don’t hold the patent, Apple could be compelled to pay Microsoft for using its technology in the iPod.

“Our policy is to allow others to license our patents so they can use our innovative methods in their products,” David Kaefer, director of intellectual property licensing and business development at Microsoft, said in a Bloomberg report.

The iPod and the iTunes Music Store have been key to Apple’s resurgence. Apple holds a number of other patents on the iPod, so they probably expect to eventually win this fight. But precedent frequently counts in legal battles, and the Patent Office decision may become what the media player industry has been seeking: a true iPod killer.

David Utter is a staff writer for WebProNews covering technology and business. Email him here.