Thursday, August 11, 2005

Apple's iPod Patent Rejected

NewsFactor Network writes about Apple's failure to receive a U.S. patent for the iPod's interface. According to the article, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office "rejected Apple's application, citing a similar patent already registered by a Microsoft researcher." In 2002, John Platt, a scientist at Microsoft Research, filed a patent request for a method of "generating playlists from a library of media items."

Jupiter's Michael Gartenberg said Apple's failure "is obviously a setback," and he thinks Apple will "simply find a way to tweak it" and file again. The article questions whether this opens the door for others, such as Microsoft, to steal some of iPod's market share. Gartenberg doesn't think so. "It's essentially Apple and the other guys."

On the topic of Apple potentially having to pay Microsoft licensing fees, Yankee Group analyst Nitten Gupta added, "The user experience is in the scroll-wheel hardware, not software."

Over at the Technology Pundits blog, Rob Enderle analyzes the ramifications. He writes that "Apple's need for secrecy, got them in trouble because, instead of filing for a patent before the iPod was released they waited for a year and then recently discovered Microsoft had filed one first. If Microsoft’s patent is upheld Apple will have to get license a from Microsoft."

Enderle notes "there are at least two other patent infringement sutes naming Apple and targeting the iPod" and thinks it might lead to a serious problem if "Microsoft (and/or the other two) prevail." The result Enderle predicts would be the winners licensing "the technology broadly while requesting a license from Apple."

Enderle does point out that Apple has "other patents that surround the iPod and may still protect it. However, companies often hinge on IP ownership and Microsoft protects its IP as aggressively as Apple does and remains better resourced."

In the end, it's an embarrassment to Apple, especially when it's Microsoft that has gained the upperhand...