Report: Apple unsuccessful in patenting iPod interface | iLounge News

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Report: Apple unsuccessful in patenting iPod interface

Following a lengthy attempt of nearly three years, Apple has reportedly failed to patent the software interface of the iPod.

“The company’s patent application, which lists Apple VP Jeff Robbin and Apple CEO Steve Jobs as two of its primary inventors, received a final rejection last month from the United States Patent and Trademark Office,” reports AppleInsider. “Standing in Apple’s way appears to be a prior filing by inventor John Platt, who submitted a patent application for a similar software design for a portable device in May of 2002—just five months before Robbin submitted his claims on behalf of Apple.”

Platt’s application describes his invention as a system that “generates playlists for a library collection of media items via selecting a plurality of seed items, at least one which is an undesirable seed item,” according to the Apple enthusiast site. “The process by which the iPod’s software displays its own menu-based interface is very similar to the process Platt’s filing goes on to describe.”

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Comments

1

Apple’s application seemed a bit too broad to be granted.  I bet this John Platt is happy right now.

Posted by Talking Madness in Los Angeles on August 9, 2005 at 3:30 PM (CDT)

2

You wanna see something funny…? 

Type “John Platt” into google and the first hit will probably be “John Platt’s Home Page”

Check out his job title: Manager of the Knowledge Tools Group at Microsoft Research.

Are Bill Gates and Microsoft gonna get the last laugh on this little patent battle?

** Note that I have not confirmed this to be the same John Platt from the article, but it would be a wise guess that it is if you look through his resume and see what areas of research he’s worked in.

Posted by Talking Madness in Los Angeles on August 9, 2005 at 3:43 PM (CDT)

3

Patent #20030221541 is by John C. Platt of Bellevue, WA and talks about: “The present invention relates to systems and/or methods that generate playlist(s) for a library or collection of media items via selecting a plurality of seed items, at least one of which is an undesirable seed item.”

Do a patent search at:

http://appft1.uspto.gov/netahtml/PTO/search-adv.html

for the terms:

IN/John and IN/Platt and ABST/playlist

Posted by ash8080 in Florida, USA on August 9, 2005 at 3:59 PM (CDT)

4

It’s him…he works for Microsoft…how ironic is that?

Posted by Talking Madness in Los Angeles on August 9, 2005 at 4:16 PM (CDT)

5

Probably a result of industrial espionage.

Posted by sef on August 9, 2005 at 4:31 PM (CDT)

6

ooops, if Microsoft Patents the iPod interface???  However, what about the first use, Apple actually can show first use can’t they?

Posted by stingerman on August 9, 2005 at 5:03 PM (CDT)

7

The patent isn’t owned by Microsoft.  It’s owned by Platt himself.  Big difference, methinks.

Posted by Rae on August 9, 2005 at 5:53 PM (CDT)

8

I saw similar “dialer” interfaces used on several CDi interfaces in the early 90s. As I recall, some of the MOD tracker sequencing software in the 1980s also used “dialing” for rapid menu selection among many similar, hierarchical objects.

Posted by Demosthenes on August 9, 2005 at 6:05 PM (CDT)

9

Rae-

Yes, big difference.  But, who knows what will come of this.  Maybe he will be sued by Microsoft if he developed it in their lab or on their dime.  Maybe he will partner with Microsoft to exploit the patent rights.  Maybe he will get $5 for every future iPod.

Just a bit of irony (or tragedy depending on your POV) that someone in the Microsoft lab is being credited with a patent over Apple (Jobs & Robbin).

And, I find it especially ironic because Apple is lauded for their creativity and intuitive interfaces, but their prized possession is patented by someone at Microsoft.

Posted by Talking Madness in Los Angeles on August 9, 2005 at 9:57 PM (CDT)

10

You can download a copy of the Platt application here:  http://pat2pdf.org/patents/pat20030221541.pdf

The Apple application:  http://pat2pdf.org/patents/pat20030095096.pdf

Note, these are patent APPLICATIONS, not patents (the Platt reference is not a patent).

About 95% of all patent applications get rejections…all of this means little to whether or not Apple will get a patent in the end covering this technology.

Posted by Nipper on August 10, 2005 at 1:02 AM (CDT)

11

There has been no patent awarded for the Platt application, at least yet. Apple’s application was rejected as a matter of course because Platt’s filing beat them. But even Platt’s application seems to tread on prior ‘art’, as it were. Despite basing his ‘invention’ on the handling of media content in the creation of playlists, it seems to me that this whole thing still smacks of a fancified glossing of a database hierarchial query interface, something data managers and their staff have been programming into their user interfaces for decades.  The difference is that instead of a pretty click wheel, thumbwheel, panel buttons, or like access devices, the older interfaces used punch cards, keyboards, touch screens and mouse clicks, and instead of looking up inventory, credit data, or something equally mundate, it’s used to parse the data of a song or video database.  But the concept’s still the same. Is this something that’s legitimate enough to base a patent on, regardless of whether it’s Platt OR Apple?

Posted by flatline response on August 10, 2005 at 7:17 AM (CDT)

12

“Just a bit of irony (or tragedy depending on your POV) that someone in the Microsoft lab is being credited with a patent over Apple (Jobs & Robbin).”

It’s actually not that unusual.  Microsoft owns a ton of patents that are necessary for OSX to run and if they decided to call Apple on using those then there’d be no more Mac OS.  The flip side is there’s just as many or more patents Apple owns that Windows requires to run, so neither company is really looking to get into a long protracted legal battle that could wreck both their OSs. 

Besides after the Apple / Microsoft lawsuit after the GUI both companies sort of realize the court isn’t the way to go against each other.

Posted by Jeffery Simpson on August 10, 2005 at 12:03 PM (CDT)

13

I’d be willing to bet that Platt’s patent refers to part of the WinFS file syste (is that redundant?), or a possible feature of WinVista. At least I hope so.
I’ve LONG wanted to be able to append the address bar in Windows Explorer with something like *.txt, and have the current directory be filtered to only display files with the txt extension.
Me hopes we can do this in Vista.

Posted by DJDole on August 10, 2005 at 12:15 PM (CDT)

14

“The patent isn’t owned by Microsoft.  It’s owned by Platt himself.  Big difference, methinks.”

True, but I heard that companies like Microsoft and including Microsoft often apply for patents through their employees. Companies do this in attempt to hide their innovations until the company goes public with a product. Clauses in the employees’ employment contracts give the company the rights to patents obtained by its employees.

Posted by ike on August 10, 2005 at 12:38 PM (CDT)

15

It would seem to me that MS and Apple both are benefiting from each other’s technologies.  Sure we run OSX but what word proccessor do we use?  Which spreadsheet app?  Many use PPT, although Keynote is better.  MS has the office suite clout across the board that it used to have only with its OS. 

I think the big one to watch is who is going to get licences from Hollywood to distribute movie content, Apple or MS.  MS has a stronger DRM in WM9/10, but WM10 w/ DRM does not work on Apple. 

MPEG4 may actually cost the viewer pennies per usage which makes MPEG4 something that may not get adopted well because of its stupid cost schema.  WMV may take over.  Sure, QT has great compression and H264, but not a DRM that Hollywood studios will support. To say nothing about exporting motion picture content to iPods.

Posted by Yakitori Taisho on August 10, 2005 at 1:26 PM (CDT)

16

I don’t think Microsoft is going to go after Apple. Don’t forget, the only reason Apple still exists is because of a large infusion of cash from Microsoft a few years back. Microsoft bought a large portion of Class B (Non-voting) shares to keep Apple alive. This was at a time that Apple could not find any other investors and was days from having to close down the company. They were in worse shape than 3dfx when it closed.
Rumour has it that Microsoft has since sold of the shares, but I haven’t checked to confirm this. Though I think that was just before IE became MacOS’s default browser and Microsoft started to released more stuff for Mac.
I don’t care for either company on an ethical basis.

Posted by Hanneth on August 10, 2005 at 1:36 PM (CDT)

17

I think the fact that Platt has the patent on this technology goes to show that Microsoft has great minds at work but still cannot bring there ideas to market. Microsoft has become a victim of there own creation, to big to quickly adapt to an evolving market.

Posted by Kdog on August 10, 2005 at 1:47 PM (CDT)

18

The Register doesn’t seem to think this is such a big deal:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2005/08/10/microsoft_apple_patent/

Posted by Nagromme on August 10, 2005 at 3:26 PM (CDT)

19

“Don’t forget, the only reason Apple still exists is because of a large infusion of cash from Microsoft a few years back. Microsoft bought a large portion of Class B (Non-voting) shares to keep Apple alive. This was at a time that Apple could not find any other investors and was days from having to close down the company. They were in worse shape than 3dfx when it closed.”

When Microsoft purchased the ~$100 million (?) in non-voting Apple stock, Apple had substantial cash on hand (~$4 billion), as well as blossoming relationships with Akamai and Pixar. 3dfx was far worse off.

Posted by Neutron on August 10, 2005 at 3:45 PM (CDT)

20

As far as companies submitting patent applications through employees, that seems highly unlikely in my opinion.

Whoever made the above point about all inventions originating from an employee being property of the employer IS absolutely correct.  However, if the employer has no interest in the proposed invention, the inventor is freed to pursue the idea independently, at his own cost.

I think this is another example of how Microsoft can’t get out of its own way to bring better products to market.

Posted by rochester on August 11, 2005 at 9:34 AM (CDT)

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