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Patents Media Media (Apple)

Apple Tries to Patent iPod User Interface 426

Posted by michael
from the rip-mix-patent dept.
harlows_monkeys writes "Apple's trying to patent several aspects of the iPod user interface. This one is particularly interesting because the claims are written in fairly clear and simple language, easy to understand by anyone. If this one is granted, it won't be because an overworked examineer was confused by deliberate obfuscation by the application (which is what I think happens for a lot of the ridiculous patents). About half the claims are for things that were implemented in prior players (e.g., Archos), and the other half are for things that are in many other common device interfaces (DVD players, PVRs) and the only novelty is that Apple put them on a portable music player."
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Apple Tries to Patent iPod User Interface

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  • by Operating Thetan (754308) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:03AM (#8694148) Journal
    If it was Microsoft doing this, we'd have seen a long judgemental rant with a biased link at the end. Good to see some things never change on Slashdot
  • Question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by jwthompson2 (749521) <james@@@plainprograms...com> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:05AM (#8694154) Homepage
    I am stupid when it comes to most things related to patents.

    What does this mean, does Apple secure exclusive rights to the specific combination of all the features of the iPod or to the individual features?

    If this patent is approved what would be the impact on the portable music player market?
  • by c.r.o.c.o (123083) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:05AM (#8694157)
    I see one of the three people in the inventors list is Steve Jobs. I guess the guy standing with the whip behind the engineers deserves some credit, but this is ridiculous!

    *grin*
  • Too far? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScooterBill (599835) * on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:06AM (#8694164)
    It's a pretty slick interface and one that would also be easy to copy. I can't fault Apple for trying to protect against a horde of Asian clone iPods. If a patent is granted and Apple has the common sense to only enforce it in obvious cases of someone copying the interface, then great. If they get the patent and then sue anyone and everyone who has something that sort of works like the iPod, then that sucks.

    M
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:08AM (#8694180)
    Are we reading the same article? I don't see anything pro-Apple in this submission.

    Good to see astroturfer same-ole same-old -- at least it's predictable.
  • by andy55 (743992) * on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:08AM (#8694181) Homepage
    If it was Microsoft doing this, we'd have seen a long judgmental rant with a biased link at the end.

    A fair point, but I think we all agree here that a patent filer deserves to be flamed if their implementation of the patent is garbage (ie, MS WMP). iTunes/Apple has legitimately pioneered most of this new territory everyone else now has no problem ripping off. There was a post a few days ago by someone noting how Apple just doesn't get innovative software handed to them from a magical gnome cave--they spend a lot of money and hire the top talent.
  • by Phidoux (705500) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:10AM (#8694188) Homepage
    iPod sales are going through the roof. So much so that Apple doesn't even have enough stock to supply it's European market. I think Apple is being very wise and protecting itself from the likes of Microsoft, who I'm sure would take advantage of any "deliberate obfuscation" to find loopholes and use the same interface when they decide to produce their own BillPod.

  • Re:Too far? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bradkittenbrink (608877) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:10AM (#8694189) Homepage Journal
    If they do that, then they risk getting their patent overturned in court. I think it's unlikely that they'll be that stupid.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:14AM (#8694203)
    Read the claims before your lame attempts are citing prior art.
  • So? It's their's. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SphericalCrusher (739397) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:15AM (#8694207) Homepage Journal
    Well, I mean, if you created something that helped a piece of hardware sell a lot, then you're going to want to make sure the world knows its yours.. and doesn't steal it also. Right?
  • by petabyte (238821) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:16AM (#8694211)
    They're patenting aspects of the iPod user interface. iTunes is very important to the iPod but isn't apart of the iPod AFAIK (I've never actually seen one).

    We're flaming Apple because they're patenting something semi-obvious (though most posts will return to the usual flaming of the totally broken US Intellectual Property system). That I have no problem with.
  • Um (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:18AM (#8694219)
    What makes you so sure Jobs didn't have some sort of legitimate hand in designing the iPod?
  • by BasilBrush (643681) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:21AM (#8694233)
    My car uses a wheel for controlling it's most important features too. And it also isn't covered by anything in this patent. Why don't you at least try skimming the patent before posting the first thing that comes into your head.
  • by dbirchall (191839) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:22AM (#8694235) Journal
    At this point in history, the vast majority of patents that are filed draw upon previous inventions. Very few people think far enough outside the box to come up with things that bear no resemblance to those which have come before, and share no parts with them. Does that mean inventions that combine or enhance existing technologies and methods in ways that have not been seen before should be barred from being patented? Some Slashdotters seem, from their knee-jerk reactions, to hold that view.

    Perhaps if I went searching through old articles, I would find someone posting that the Segway wasn't worthy of being patented, because it used gyroscopes, handlebars, wheels, and even a grip-throttle - all of which everyone knew had been around for ages in other devices.

    Perhaps a flying car wouldn't be worthy because it used parts from cars and airplanes, both of which have been around in some form or another for a hundred years.

    See where I'm going here?

    If you take enough different ideas or things from enough different places, and put them together in a way that hasn't been seen before, and the result is something that significantly improves upon what had been seen before, to the extent that people look at it and say, "Wow, that's sure new and different," you've basically had an original idea. Sure, you've been standing on the shoulders of giants - but so has everyone else.

  • by Ohreally_factor (593551) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:22AM (#8694240) Journal
    1) Apple can do no wrong. Drink the Kool Aid, bathe in the warm glow of the Reality Distortion Field, and shut up.

    2) This patent seems to involve the graphical display of content and features of a MP3 player through a hierarchical menu structure and through playlists.

    3) They are patenting a feature on a physical device, not a software method. They're not patenting the software. The technology they are patenting is embodied in a physical device.

    4) A patent can be based on other work, even other patented work. If any previous art that Apple has built on is patented and that patent is owned by another company, Apple must still pay that other company. If a third party wants to license the technology, they must pay both Apple and the other company.

    5) Patents mostly suck, unless Apple applies for them, because of 1).
  • by harikiri (211017) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:23AM (#8694247)
    The slashdot crowd roots for the 'underdog', in this case it's Apple vs Microsoft (and others who try to clone the iPod interface).

    We bitch and moan about Microsoft because of the behemoth it is. Apple has 'slashdot-cred' because they produce cool stuff (OS X, iPods, powerbooks... drool).

    You must be new here... (obligatory!) ;)
  • So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:32AM (#8694284)
    Thats no excuse for utter hypocrisy.
  • by falcon5768 (629591) <[Falcon5768] [at] [comcast.net]> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:47AM (#8694350) Journal
    and can you blame them? Apple wasnt so patent happy back in the old days and look what it got them, they lost their interface design to the company making their Office software wh then turned around and made a 2nd rate OS based on it.. iMac is released and 4 seperate comapnies make a PC with EXACTLY the same design original iPod comes out and Dell and Rio make iPod clone that look EXACTLY like the iPod sans the good looking interface... one of them even uses Apples font! The company makes designs that then get hacked apart by cheap knockoffs... why is it not cool for a software/hardware company to protect its design , but perfectly fine for your shoe company, or your coffee pot maker to protect it... you really would be surprised how many companies protect their products by patening them... AND if they are patenting the thing I think they are, its the combination trackpad button setup of the iPod mini and rumored redesign on the 4th gen iPod they are patenting, not the player itself... which is understandable cause It really is a VERY good design
  • Re:Haha (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Bull999999 (652264) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:49AM (#8694355) Journal
    He already filed to get "You're fired!" trademarked.
  • Re:Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by actiondan (445169) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:50AM (#8694366)
    It doesn't mean that they're _eliminating_ the competition; they're just FORCING the competition to make something _better_ instead of copying what Apple already has.

    errr.. have you read the patent application.

    Here is the summary:

    In a portable multimedia device, a method, apparatus, and system for providing user supplied configuration data are described. In one embodiment, a hierarchically ordered graphical user interface are provided. A first order, or home, interface provides a highest order of user selectable items each of which, when selected, results in an automatic transition to a lower order user interface associated with the selected item. In one of the described embodiments, the lower order interface includes other user selectable items associated with the previously selected item from the higher order user interface.


    That sounds an awful lot like a menu system to me.

    I don't have an IPod. Could someone with some experience of them fill me in - is there anything especially clever and non-obvious about the design of the menu system that warrants patent protection?

    Dan.

  • by AEton (654737) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:55AM (#8694380)

    Agreed re: 1) and 5). I'm trying to find a way to say tactfully and nontrollfully that there's a bizarre element of doublethink going on here.

    Slashdot posts about one "gee, that's a silly patent" story per week. There's usually a good mix (I read at +4, +3 for that brief time that the server was too slow to hand out enough mod points) of comments saying "the patent isn't so broad as the submitter made it out, and really this is perfectly legitimate" or "I know how to make money! I'll patent the use of cookies as incentives...in a porable media player!" or "This is another example of why the patent system is seriously messed up and needs to be reformed" or "I found prior art!" or "This patent is frivolous because algorithms are copyrightable speech, not patentable inventions" or "This patent is utter nonsense because it's common sense" or something else.

    This time reading at +3/4 I see only vocal supporters of Apple. After reading the list of claims that seem pretty broad on something kind of intuitive - reading an MP3 file...on a portable media player! And correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't these claims cumulative rather than limiting? That's quite a lot to assert.

    It seems like for whatever reason Apple gets the benefit of the doubt a lot more often than other companies; I'm not sure why. Every corporation seeks to maximize its profits.

  • Re:Good for them (Score:5, Insightful)

    by servoled (174239) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:56AM (#8694385)
    Please don't read the summary. The summary doesn't get any legal protection and is just there to give a general idea what the patent is about. If you want to know what they are trying to patent READ THE CLAIMS!!

    It's times like this that I wish the flash tag was still around...
  • by Bull999999 (652264) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:57AM (#8694387) Journal
    So the slashdot crowd roots for IBM because IBM's the 'underdog' in the case of SCO vs. IBM?
  • Re:Too far? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SirShadowlord (32925) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:57AM (#8694388) Homepage
    Alternatively, realize that Apple may quite likely be filing this patent as a defense mechanism.

    It would be demonstrable incompetence in their Intellectual Properties division if Apple was succesfully sued for patent infringement for the iPod by another company?

    Now, if this technology cannot be Patented/is not patentable, then Apple is covered, because then Apple can't be sued for patent infringement.

    Alternatively, if they are awared a patent on several of their claims, then it makes for good counter-ammunition when someone else trys to sue them.

    99% of the time, Patent Portfolio's are built up as a defensive mechanism, kind of like mutually assured destruction.

    Any company large enough to have a patent attorney will be doing this sort of thing.

  • by Ilan Volow (539597) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @03:06AM (#8694413) Homepage
    In the several years I've followed Slashdot, I've read countless article after countless article bashing Apple for things like not making their Cocoa UI open source, or suing rival hardware manufacturers for copying their latest innovation, or going after theme-makers who attempt to copy their Aqua for use on other platforms. Maybe some of those concerns are legitimate, but there's another legitimate concern whose presence is never expressed: why is it always Apple who has to be the one inventing these great things? In my opinion, there should be equal outrage about the rest of the computer industry (Open Source included) not furthering technological progress for the common man.

    • Why can't we have outrage over all the non-innovative cloners not taking innovative risks to make life better for end users? Why can't we have articles like "dell refuses to innovate" or "Gateway poo-poos idea that would make things easier for end users because it was deemed too risky"? Why can't we have these kinds of articles in addition to "Apple sues dell for copying their innovation" or "Apple threatens gateway for look-and-feel infringement"?


    • Why can't we be outraged over Creative Labs or Diamond Rio or anyone else not being the first to make an ergonomically excellent hard-disk based portable mp3 players with a superior UI? Why can there only be outrage over Apple preventing these people from copying the UI that they themselves weren't willing to make in the first place?


    • Why can't we have outrage over Open Source/Free Software projects caring little about things like interface design or not coming up with innovative UI's? Why can't we have articles like "linux distribution spends $700,000,000 on dot-com buyouts and $50 on usability research" or "$DESKTOP_PROJECT coordinator tells HCI person with legitimate UI complaint 'quit whining about what you get for free' while telling industry pundit 'quit spreading M$ FUD About Linux Being Hard To Use'"? Why can we only feel outrage over articles like "Apple threatens $DESKTOP_PROJECT over copying Expose" or "Apple Sues Linux Distribution For Copying Aqua Theme?"



    We shouldn't be pissed about Apple trying to horde and brutally protect it's innovations, we should be pissed about them being the only ones creating innovations worth hording and brutally protecting.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 28, 2004 @03:06AM (#8694415)
    Find out who the examiner is and send him all the data on this and public domain stuff that does this, he has to accept valid information.

    Come on slashdotters! You can do this!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 28, 2004 @03:35AM (#8694496)
    Read any Apple story, and it's clear that there's a dedicated group of moderators ready to mod up the "pro-Apple" opinions (no matter if they are thoroughly demolished by others), and even mod-down the "anti-Apple" posts.

    This can be easily seen on the "Apple is not the Fastest" story earlier today.

    On the Linux/MS stories you see a lot of "I agree" mods, but you don't see the attempts to mod down dissenters. I understand that Apple fans have been on the recieiving end of tons of Bad News and FUD over the years, but that's hardly an excuse for fascist moderation tactics in a free discussion forum.

    (Someone should redo the 1984 commercial and put Apple logos on all the prols. That would pretty much describe apple.slashdot.org.)
  • Re:Question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by C10H14N2 (640033) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @04:02AM (#8694560)
    Moreover, what we be the impact on anyone writing recursive indexes. *poof* Apple owns your b-trees as soon as they are populated with "artists" and "albums." This is asinine.
  • form factor patent (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nonoche (138802) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @04:08AM (#8694573)
    you know, if Nintendo can patent a gamepad with a cross-shaped directional button (check it out, no other gamepad has it), I guess Apple can very well patent their scroll wheel.
  • by Lord Kano (13027) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @04:09AM (#8694576) Homepage Journal
    Are we reading the same article? I don't see anything pro-Apple in this submission.

    That's his point. The submission was very neutral. No bias towards or against Apple. Had it been Micro$oft, it wouldn't have been a neutral submission.

    I agree with him, but I also think that MS is much more potentially dangerous to the rest of us than Apple is.

    LK
  • Re:Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Maestro4k (707634) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @04:12AM (#8694584) Journal
    • I am stupid when it comes to most things related to patents.

      What does this mean, does Apple secure exclusive rights to the specific combination of all the features of the iPod or to the individual features?

      If this patent is approved what would be the impact on the portable music player market?

    If history is any indicator, the portable music player market could forget having a user interface even remotely similar to Apple's in any shape, form or fashion. If they did, Apple would unleash the lawyers and sue them into oblivion. Do you remember the whole thing with Amazon and 1-click ordering? Same process, just a different area. Apple has also shown interest in following up with lawsuits, remember the PC makers who got sued for making colored PCs that were just a bit too iMac looking? One of them basically asked for it (IIRC, it looked exactly like an iMac, just had a PC inside and a different company logo), but at least one of the others was more general, having a colored monitor/case.

    Basically it'd be at best a major nuisance, and at worst force everyone else to have ungainly user interfaces. (At least accepting that iPod's UI is good and easy to use, my (admittedly limited) experience with it was one of great frustration personally.)

    In any case since elements of the user interface have existed in other products prior to the iPod, prior art should invalidate the patent claim. The US Patent Office has issued many questionable patents where prior art existed, and the excuse so far has been the patent was written to obfuscate, or was confusing, so they didn't pick up on it. This time the patent is written clearly, so the interesting thing will be to see if the US Patent Office issues a patent in face of prior art when the patent isn't hard to understand. Many would consider their issuing this patent a sign that the whole patent process is broken beyond repair.

  • by Lord Kano (13027) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @04:13AM (#8694587) Homepage Journal
    Apple put a new spin on existing technology, and they found success with it. The iPod was just a better implementation of the MP3 players that had been on the market for years beforehand. iTunes is just Apple's flavor of a media player, like WinAmp or WMP.

    Apple once again found the sweet spot with iTunes, but they didn't really break any new ground.

    LK
  • by sc00p18 (536811) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @04:31AM (#8694640)
    It seems like for whatever reason Apple gets the benefit of the doubt a lot more often than other companies; I'm not sure why. Every corporation seeks to maximize its profits.

    I think the main reason apple tends to get the benefit of the doubt in a lot of cases is because most of the time they focus on and succeed in creating products that are technologically better than the competition. People on slashdot tend to notice good technology when they see it, and are appreciative of it. They get bonus points for using an open source kernel in their OS. They get bonus points for creating rendezvous and documenting it nicely so others can use it. They get bonus points for expose, which is a truly useful innovation. The list goes on...
  • by harlows_monkeys (106428) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @04:34AM (#8694643) Homepage
    you know, if Nintendo can patent a gamepad with a cross-shaped directional button (check it out, no other gamepad has it), I guess Apple can very well patent their scroll wheel

    That would be an interesting comment if Apple were trying to patent their scroll wheel. However, this patent application has nothing to do with that. Go look at the claims--they are fairly clearly written and not hard to read.

  • Re:Good for them (Score:2, Insightful)

    by shingebis (766061) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @04:35AM (#8694646)
    This would be a good opportunity to ask something I've been wondering about patents for a while: to infringe on a patent, do you only have to violate one claim (in which case this patent covers everything which has a second-level menu, and should be thrown out as overly broad / prior art) or all of them (in which case, because it specifically talks about MP3s, you could happily take their UI and throw it lock stock and barrel into an OGG player)?
  • by dedazo (737510) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @04:39AM (#8694655) Journal
    they lost their interface design to the company making their Office software wh then turned around and made a 2nd rate OS based on it

    I find this so very funny. In fact it gets funnier every time I read it.

    Head on over to folklore.org and read the stories posted there by ex-Apple employees (which alone makes them semi-qualified in the topic) about the Jobs-Gates rivalry and dealings.

    People like you like to paint Apple as a poor little garage-run company who had its candy taken away by the mean evil Corporation, who then laughed all the way to the bank.

    If you read through those stories (which I repeat are written by the very people who were there) you'll see how this is just a pile of apologetic crap. "Boo-hoo, M$ is evil we're so nice and cool and we want justice"

    Here's a company (Apple) that has developers who rewrite entire graphics subsystems a few weeks before "ROM freeze"; assembly gurus who can fit an entire OS into a little fucking chip, and yet is apparently petrified by the threat of Microsoft revoking the license to "SoftBASIC". A goddamn BASIC interpreter, for fuck sakes. Right.

    This is a company who willingly and knowingly signed over so much shit to Microsoft for some unseen reason. A company with an army or lawyers facing another army of lawyers. Yet it's all portrayed as some slick under-the-cover last-minute backstabbing deal by the evil Mr. Gates. One morning Stevie woke up and Microsoft had (as you so succintly put it) made a second rate OS largely by stealing it from Apple and there was nothing anybody could do about it. Riiight.

    Here is Steve Jobs swaggering around the Apple offices holding his crotch and chanting "here we come motherfuckers", a beacon of strength and go-get-em bravado suddenly turning into the equivalent of one of those scared blinking anime dolls, taking it in the ass every time someone from Microsoft walks in the building. Riiight.

    Revisionist bullshit. Apple knew damn well what they were doing, and they did it anyway.

    Oh I won't contest that Microsoft plays hardball with everyone, nope. But in the case of Apple it was mostly their own stupidity that did them in.

    Other than that, I find your defense of this appaling. But then again, this is Apple, eh?

  • Re:Question (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 28, 2004 @04:51AM (#8694690)
    You're right.

    This is a good reminder: Apple products are better than those of Microsoft but Apple is no less evil...

    Interesting in the 'PIRATE' context.

    Thanks for those who are vigilant.
  • by Christ-on-a-bike (447560) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @04:57AM (#8694703)
    You might be right that software makers don't innovate enough. But you've overdone the outrage.

    Have you ever stopped to think that maybe, just maybe, software isn't innovative because developers are scared to death to implement any feature that could be patented?

    The patent system is broken for software. Every time you pay to get a designer in for a new, innovative interface, not only do you risk producing something that puts off users because of its novelty, you also risk treading on the toes of Adobe, Microsoft, IBM, and now Apple (the list goes on). Every one of these companies is prepared to nuke small developers into oblivion if it will help their bottom line.

    Software patents are inevitably overbroad, overly durable and unnecessary legal instruments. This is obvious. Developers are so afraid of submarine patents that it is understandable to avoid creating anything that is even remotely similar to a possibly-patented product. Apple and others are crushing innovation with their patent bullshit, and you post here claiming they're a force for good in software? Delicious.

  • Re:Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sahala (105682) <sahala@ g m a i l . com> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @05:08AM (#8694736)
    Basically it'd be at best a major nuisance, and at worst force everyone else to have ungainly user interfaces.

    How would it force everyone else to have "ungainly" UIs? If they can't directly copy the iPod interaction design then *GASP* they would instead have to innovate and come up with a new and perhaps better way of going about playing music on a portable device. Imagine that...

    (At least accepting that iPod's UI is good and easy to use, my (admittedly limited) experience with it was one of great frustration personally.)

    Well there you go...you even say that you find the iPod frustrating to use. It's quite entirely possible that someone could come up with something better, perhaps the design to rule them all even to suit your taste in device interactions.

  • Re:Question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by TheOnlyCoolTim (264997) <tim.bolbrock@nOspaM.verizon.net> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @05:15AM (#8694757)
    Because whether or not they were trying to innovate their UI, there would be certain UI conventions that were verboten, like the scroll wheel.

    Tim
  • Re:Question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by peachawat (466977) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @05:36AM (#8694797) Journal
    If history is any indicator, the portable music player market could forget having a user interface even remotely similar to Apple's in any shape, form or fashion.

    Yes and they should. And the market should come up with a user interface that is better, more intuitive than iPod's. And original. The keyword is be innovative. When it came out, the iPod UI doesn't look like anything on the market at that time. And I think Apple deserve credit for that. Now every player wants to look and feel like iPod.

    Is it a Slashdot mindset that it is always bad if you can't copy anything at will? Why can't other player maker come up with better UI? Why can't we come up with something better and original? Why does every Linux Desktop UI has to look like Windows or Aqua?
  • by inkswamp (233692) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @05:42AM (#8694815)
    Why is everyone here assuming that the claims in the patent (you've actually read and/or skimmed the claims portion before posting, right?) apply to the current iPod? The way I'm reading this, it seems that it could apply to something we have yet to see. There are fresh rumors out there of a significant update to the iPod operating system and perhaps this is a preemptive attempt to protect that. It seems illogical, as much as the claims can or do apply to the current iPod, that Apple would be finally getting around to patent it now. Why not a year ago? Why not when the iPod was released? Seems to me that there is a good possibility that this is for something we may not have seen yet.

    I could be wrong, of course, but I have yet to see any evidence that this applies to the iPod as we know it. That seems to be mostly an assumption.

  • Scroll wheel (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BiggerIsBetter (682164) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @06:19AM (#8694896)
    Maybe I'm missing the point, but the scroll wheel interface has been done plenty of times on other devices, eg car audio, av gear, so why's it so patent worthy because it's on a portable MP3 player?
  • by Badfysh (761833) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @06:55AM (#8694958)
    Or maybe he's doing a 'Simon Cowell'? (Simon Cowell is a record producer, who always plays a triangle or something equally lame on the track and thus is entitled to a cut of the royalties as a performer).
  • by curious.corn (167387) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @07:13AM (#8694986)
    hey, what kind of moblie phones do you exactly use in the US, rotary dial? My very first, gritty Mitsubishi from 5 years ago had a hierarchical menu (and clumsy too); only, it didn't have a sweeping animation on transitions ;-) Last week I played with an SE P800 and it does much more that place calls :-) The SE T610 is another one I've seen (nasty slow interface... shame, shame), don't you have these in the US (ugh, must be savages!)
    My current gritty (and dog old) cell is a Siemens M30... it's a complete prior art: hierarchical, up/down/click to enter subsection thing... the only "design" attribute I give to the iPod is having a wheel adding a sexy circular motion to a very rigid UI. It's a kind of Zen thing I really like.
    So, although typing on a TiBook I must laugh at Apple's claims.
    Ciao
  • Re:Question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Mr. Slippery (47854) <tms.infamous@net> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @08:57AM (#8695244) Homepage
    Why can't other player maker come up with better UI? Why can't we come up with something better and original?

    Because user interfaces are supposed to be similar.

    "Why can't other car makers come up with a better UI than pedals and a wheel? Why can't they come up with something better and original?"

    "Why can't other telephone makers come up with a better UI than a 3x4 array of keys with numbers and letters? Why can't they come up with something better and original?"

    "Why can't other CD player makers come up with a better UI than a Play/Pause, Stop, FF and Rewind buttons? Why can't they come up with something better and original?"

  • by wazzzup (172351) <.astromac. .at. .fastmail.fm.> on Sunday March 28, 2004 @09:24AM (#8695327)

    The wankers over in Redmond are about to release thier self-proclaimed "iPod killer" brick and since it's been proven time and time again that they aren't interested in innovating (just copying and/or smothering). So maybe it's a protective measure against Billy & Co. Apple has been Redmond's R&D lab for many years. Don't beleive me? Go here and read the part about "New graphics with the Desktop Composition Engine" [winsupersite.com]. It still goes on to this day.

    I'd be a little worried if I were Apple. I mean, look at Microsoft's track record - they missed the boat on the GUI, office productivity apps, the internet and now the search engine. They missed the mark early on only to copy and then dominate those respective areas (don't you dare take Google away you bastards!). In typical fashion, Microsoft slowly looks at the digital music phenomena and says to itself "hmmm...there's something bright over here...let's exterminate it".

    Apple may be setting themselves up to take MS to court if they end up having to. At least the EU has proven that they aren't blinded and seduced by corporate money like the current U.S. administration. Admittedly, I have no idea if a U.S. patent makes a rats ass bit of difference over in the EU.

  • Neutral my fanny (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Felinoid (16872) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @09:31AM (#8695368) Homepage Journal
    <i>If it was Microsoft doing this, we'd have seen a long judgemental rant with a biased link at the end.</i>

    No if this was Microsoft doing this we'd have gotten exactly what we got...
    A short judgmental summery.

    I realise the tin foil hats are in fassion for Slashdot it really is out of place when your defending Microsoft.
  • by baxissimo (135512) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @09:48AM (#8695463)
    I'm with you that this doesn't seem like a very patent-worthy innovation. But when you think about it, when you go to a fast food restaraunt or coffee joint, even the plastic lids on the cups are patented. They've been patenting things like that for as long as I can remember. And what's the difference from lid to lid? Basically just a little industrial design. If that's the standard, then yeh, I have to say the iPod is at least as innovative as the plastic lid I got on my last cup of coffee.
  • by jkabbe (631234) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @10:26AM (#8695635)
    The Apple patent application has likely only been published for a limited time (it still hasn't even hit the 18 month mark). Any IP department worth salt regularly looks at the published applications and patents in the gazette to see if anything reads on their products and inventions.

    So at this point Creative, Archos, and anyone else who thinks they invented the "invention" or publicly used/sold this "invention" prior to October 28, 2001 will be sending into the USPTO documentary evidence of that fact. That's what the publication of the application is for.
  • by _UnderTow_ (86073) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @10:42AM (#8695724)
    A landslide of credit goes to him for bringing iTunes to where it is today in a variety of categories (the most obvious being the UI).

    I tried using itunes for windows a few weeks ago. My motivation was to try downloading the free songs I had won from my mass comsumption of pepsi products. After about a week of use I switched back to what I've been using for over four years, an open source project that used to be called freeamp, but because of a trademark issue is now called zinf (Zinf Is Not Freeamp). Zinf is open source and cross-platform, I use it in windows and in Linux.

    Sure itunes looks nice, but I found the way it handled my music library annoying at best. I wouldn't use it even for the free music that I won. I really don't understand the fawning, sycophantic praise for anything apple generates.
  • Re:Interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by NeoBeans (591740) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @11:00AM (#8695831) Homepage Journal
    In what days do you consider iPod to be a better implementation of preceding players?

    For me... when I switched to iTunes (and Mac) completely about a year ago, it was about three things:

    1. Searching through my MP3 collection was very fast, and easier.
    2. I liked the rating system and ability to add album art. (Ratings didn't exist in WinAmp or MusicMatch at the time)
    3. I could build playlists and export them to iDVD.
  • by mrtrumbe (412155) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @11:50AM (#8696059) Homepage
    Can you say troll?

    I understand that not everyone likes the iTunes interface and that for *some* people, it isn't the most intuitive. Every human is different and each views their experiences through a filter of their own subjectivity. Therefor, not everyone will like iTunes.

    However, rather than assume the praise of the iTunes interface originates from a "fawning, sycophantic praise for anything apple generates," couldn't one just as easily surmise that the praise originates from the effectiveness of the design? For many people, the interface is *very* easy to use and the way iTunes organizes music is *very* intuitive. I think the overwhelmingly positive reviews are a testiment to this ease of use.

    So maybe you could detail your troubles with the way iTunes organizes your library. or add something concrete and constructive to this conversation rather than blindly lashing at anything Apple.

    constructive criticism: good

    pointless complaints about a companies users: irrelevent

    Taft

  • by Bruha (412869) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:05PM (#8696129) Homepage Journal
    From all the descriptions here if granted that patent could apply to:

    Any type of menu, XP Start Menu, Mozilla file menu etc.

    They are also trying to patent the very playlists themselves IMHO Mp3's were the first format out that enabled playlists created from the tags in the songs.

    I had expected to see a patent on the physical interface itself as I thought it was very unique and worthy of a patent. However the process of the playlists are hardly new and worthy of a patent at all.

  • One of the things I think people forget about slashdot is that it is not a monolithic entity. It has at least 750000 registered readers, and it is rediculous to assume that they all agree with each other.

    I saw this article as being an example of a writing style I wish slashdot had more of, relativly neutral, factual articles. Let the rants come in the comments.
  • by dr.badass (25287) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @12:46PM (#8696334) Homepage
    If we admit that Apple's patent is reasonable, we should also admit that OneClick is reasonable.

    Nope, sorry, totally different thing.

    The problem most people here have with OneClick is that it is an incredibly obvious and simple idea that doesn't appear to have required any real work on the part of anyone at Amazon.

    What Apple is trying to do with this design patent is protect the work of those that conceived of the iPod's unique UI. To suggest that imagining the thing in the first place isn't "work" shows an ignorance of industrial design and of aesthetics in general.

    Frankly, I don't think that UI elements should be patentable. It's already extremely difficult to write software without infringing on a patent. I can't even imagine how hard it would be to design user interfaces without infringing on any mechanisms.


    They aren't patenting particular elements of the UI like "menu" and "scroll wheel" (granted, the iPod's scroll whell is patented separately) -- but the combination in form and function that characterizes the iPod. You won't infringe upon this patent unless you're intentionally ripping off the iPod.

    As one of the few companies with dedication to design, and one of fewer that gets it right consistently, Apple gets copied all the time. Why should they not try to protect their work?
  • OTOH, the plastic lids you get at Starbucks is significantly better then any lid you would have got on a cup of coffee 20 years ago.

    Instaed of a flat lid you had to tear a corner out of, someone created one you could actually drink out of.
  • by Paradox (13555) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:41PM (#8696612) Homepage Journal
    That doesn't even follow. That is probably the worst attempt to make a straw-man analogy I've ever seen. "Oh god, Apple is patenting cats!"

    You know, patents aren't the devil. Poorly awarded patents are stupid, but that doesn't make the process inherently something to mindlessly oppose.
  • Re:Question (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jonhuang (598538) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @01:52PM (#8696652) Homepage
    Because a 'good UI' is by definition similar to existing UIs. Have you ever watched a totally computer illiterate person struggle with using a scroll bar? happens all the time.

    Abstractions such as 'scroll wheels', 'menus', and hierachical elements far preceeded Apple's ipod--that why they were good to use. Patenting the use of such elements on media players forces other players into different--and thus counterintuitive--interface widgets.

  • Re:So? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by starseeker (141897) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @02:32PM (#8696886) Homepage
    Slashdot is not one voice - it is many. Get ready to see any and all viewpoints on all issues here. We aren't the borg collective.
  • Re:Question (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Johnathon_Dough (719310) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @03:36PM (#8697282)
    "Why can't other car makers come up with a better UI than pedals and a wheel? Why can't they come up with something better and original?"
    I haven't done the search, but I am willing to bet that dashboard layouts, instrument clusters and other elements of a car's overall UI are patented. A car has not just been a Steering wheel and pedals on a box since the Model-T

    "Why can't other telephone makers come up with a better UI than a 3x4 array of keys with numbers and letters? Why can't they come up with something better and original?"
    If you look at many of the latest Nokia phones, they are attempting to come up with differnt layouts for the numbers on their phones. The problem here seems to be that many people find it unfamiliar, so there fore, "clunky" but, it is being attempted. Again, I bet those atempts are patented.

    "Why can't other CD player makers come up with a better UI than a Play/Pause, Stop, FF and Rewind buttons? Why can't they come up with something better and original?" Yet again, like a car, there are certain functions that are inherent in a cd (or for that matter a mp3 player). What does get pattented is the layout of the buttons, the overall look and feel of that specific player.

    So, yes user interfaces are supposed to be similar, but, this only means that they have to have certain elements in relatively familiar locations. How that is implemented, in whatever product you are discussing, is the UI, not the required elements themselves. --

  • by King_TJ (85913) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @03:52PM (#8697363) Journal
    It's certainly part of the "Apple curse" that anything they build will get attacked by some members of the PC community, claiming it's only "liked because Apple fanatics praise everything the company does".

    IMHO though, this just strikes me as jealousy. (Wow - someone actually has a business that's so well liked by their customers that they're excited whenever they release a new product?! That's just not right! We have to tear that down A.S.A.P.!)

    The fact is, I *rarely* meet a non Apple user who doesn't at least say "Wow, that really is a nice app/feature/design!" if they really sit down and give the products and software a good look.

    The Apple "iApps" are a prime example of this. The point isn't that you can't find flaws in them if you try hard enough. (The new iPhoto, for example, has a bug where photo previews often look blurry... Clicking away from one and back onto it again sometimes makes it snap into focus. Annoying!) But *overall*, they give users a usable, clean interface that's hard to describe as anything but "sensible".

    Even if you don't personally like the way iTunes organizes your music library, the point is - it DOES organize it for you. Not every program does this, you know. It lets you create custom playlists based on all sorts of criteria, has the ability to cross-fade the end of one track into the start of the next (nice for playing MP3 songs ripped from "live" albums where normally, you hear a sharp cutoff when the audience is clapping at the end of a song), has easy, *built-in* ability to write to CD (as music or data format), and lots of other good stuff you want in a player. Plus, it's free.
  • by TheInternet (35082) on Sunday March 28, 2004 @09:39PM (#8699729) Homepage Journal
    On one hand, Apple created something that is truly easy to use. It deserves some protection so that it can extract revenue and continue to invest in future products that we can enjoy. Copying the iPod's concepts doesn't make the copier a good designer. It only helps consumers in the very short term.

    The fact that Apple will create things and Microsoft copies them enough to fool casual consumers means that most people have more frustrating experiences with computers than they need to. As a result, Apple makes less money for making genuinely good products. If Dell and Microsoft can knock off anything Apple makes to the point that consumers don't see any reason to buy from Apple, Apple can't make money and the good ideas dry up. The industry as a whole takes the hit.

    On the other hand, the concepts in the iPod (which actually incorporate some ideas from NeXT) will eventually become commonplace, so it would be silly to have them protected forever. Some ideas in the iPod are logical conclusions, but some are creative and quite unique.

    This takes a very gentle touch.

    - Scott

10.0 times 0.1 is hardly ever 1.0.

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