It seems that Microsoft has won the ‘first round’ in this digital audio ownership battle. Apple’s patent application regarding the mighty iPod’s user interface (the method of using hierarchical menus to steer through the iPod’s contents) has been rejected by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Why? Because Microsoft filed for a similar patent five months before Apple did.
It’s still a bit early to expect Apple to start sending royalty cheques to Microsoft for every iPod sold, there are still many arguments to this story and Apple will most likely appeal the ruling.
The following further contributes to the many twists and turns this story can take.
- A 1997 agreement between Apple and Microsoft (although already expired) may cover the claims raised in the patent applications.
- There is the argument that even if Microsoft filed for the patent first, Apple “invented and publicly released the iPod interface before the Microsoft patent application cited by the examiner was filed”.
- Apple and Microsoft may yet kiss and makeup and enter a cross-licensing deal.
The latter is something that people say is a better alternative. “Microsoft and Apple could soon cross paths in court if they don’t cross licence,” according to Attorney Mark Goldstein of the SoCal IP Law Group.