The IPKat has been trying to avoid making any comment on the Apple/Microsoft spat over the so-called "iPod patent", if only because it seems to have been so over-exposed in the media. However, so many people have been asking him for his comment that he feels compelled to break his silence.
First, he is astonished at how a simple story can be so swiftly distorted by the media. What started off as a simple tale of an Apple patent application being refused by the US Patent and Trademark Office because an earlier Microsoft application appeared to anticipate it has now become, according to some, Microsoft having an iPod patent which will enable it to extract billions of dollars from Apple (and others) for the manufacture of MP3 players.
The best account the IPKat has read is that contained in The Register, drawing on a piece in AppleInsider. He encourages his readers to take a look.
The AppleInsider story says the Apple application "to patent the menu-based software interface of its popular iPod digital music player has ultimately proved unsuccessful". The Register points out that this isn't the case and that several key aspects of the iPod are adequately covered by separate Apple IP applications.
The Register concludes by linking to Channel Register, which cites two infringement suits that Apple is facing over the iPod, one from Hong Kong-based Pat-rights (arising from its US patent number 6,665,797, which covers the provision of “identity information of the rightful user thereof for accessing a network central computer to obtain service(s) or software product(s) or alike”), which it maintains is infringed by Apple’s Fairplay digital rights management system. Pat-rights seeks 12% of profits earned by Apple's iTunes and iPod sales. The second suit, which has already been filed in a US federal court, charges Apple with infringing Chicago-based Advanced Audio Devices' US patent 6,587,403, which was granted in July 2003 and relates to “a music jukebox which is configured for storing a music library therein”.
The IPKat is sure that, given the tendency of US companies to drift easily into licensing and cross-licensing agreements, Apple will not face any obstacle in the continued manufacture of its highly popular (if overpriced) MP3 players, but he wonders how new entrants ever manage to enter the market if they don't have their own portfolio of patents with which to (i) threaten infringement actions and (ii) offer to cross-license.
Tuesday, 16 August 2005
Posted by Jeremy at 5:04:00 a.m.