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Apple's Billion Dollar Patent & Other Stories From Patentland 130

Posted by Hemos
from the it's-time-to-get-your-learn-on dept.
DECS writes "It has been widely reported that Apple secured a patent worth a "billion dollars." According to a patent attorney involved in the issue, Apple will be "after every phone company, film maker, computer maker and video producer to pay royalties." The good news is that all the news reports were based on misleading hyperbole. " Don't let the title fool you; the essay is a good background on patents, the horror stories of some of them but also why companies feel compelled to seek patents as a business "safety" precaution.
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Apple's Billion Dollar Patent & Other Stories From Patentland

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  • by DorkusMasterus (931246) <dorkmaster1&gmail,com> on Monday December 04, 2006 @12:01PM (#17099818) Homepage
    Apple patented porn?
  • by The Zon (969911) <thezon@gmail.com> on Monday December 04, 2006 @12:03PM (#17099852)
    "Apple Attorney Secures Patent For Film, Phones, Computers" If somebody had actually pulled this off, putting out a press release seems almost humble.
    • Re:Press Releases (Score:4, Insightful)

      by MECC (8478) * on Monday December 04, 2006 @01:02PM (#17100660)
      Actually from here [yahoo.com] 'Starkweather wrote the patent in 1996 for a Vermont inventor who originally didn't show interest in patenting the idea or understand its value. The concept consisted of a desktop computer holding multiple songs with an interface allowing a hotel guest to select three songs and play them on an electric grand piano. Starkweather saw the broader value and broke the patent into three elements; remote music storage, selection of music to download and playing music on a music device. Starkweather realized that downloading movies was an obvious variation to downloading music. It was data manipulated in the same way. "Sometimes it's easy to break an invention down to its key components," Starkweather says. "That's why patent writing is an art, not a science, and requires creativity."'

      I would correct Starkweather's last statement to be "That's why patent writing is a dark art, and requires the surrender of all ethical bounds checking".

      • by modecx (130548)
        Starkweather realized that downloading movies was an obvious variation to downloading music.

        You see, even the patent author thought downloading movies was an obvious variation to something that's already pretty obvious, so, how did this stupid patent get approved?
      • Wait - so all it takes is for me to point out that I've downloaded porn clips from usenet before 1996 and the whole thing evaporates into a puff of prior art?
      • "Sometimes it's easy to break an invention down to its key components," Starkweather says. "That's why patent writing is an art, not a science, and requires creativity."'

        The only things this sentence misses are the stage directions, which should have him sitting in a high-backed leather chair, petting a cat, and subsequent maniacal laughter...
  • In my opinion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by El Lobo (994537) on Monday December 04, 2006 @12:04PM (#17099854)
    In my maybe subjective opinion, if there is one company I would fear in the patent and legal feald, this is not MS, nor Sun nor IBM , but Apple. Apple's legal hounds are legendary by their actions going after even individual users for such small things like "making a MacOS theme for Windows XP", or such things. What could they do for such things like a billion dollar patent... I'm scared.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bperkins (12056)
      Hey mods, just because you don't agree doesn't make it flamebait.

      Apple has shown some very litigious behavior for many years, I think it's a valid point if a bit overblown (and not really relevant if you RTFA, but heck this _is_ slashdot).

      If you think it's not a valid point, why not refute it?

      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        I agree. There are some real ModTards floating around. And I have a feeling the meta-mods are just as bad, fueling a bad situation.

        Disagreeing with a statement and modding it troll = ModTard
    • by evilviper (135110)
      "making a MacOS theme for Windows XP", or such things.

      Microsoft would sue if anybody made a Windows XP theme for MacOS. Luckily for them, NOBODY wants it.
    • Apple's legal hounds are legendary by their actions going after even individual users for such small things like "making a MacOS theme for Windows XP", or such things.

      Apple's legal "hounds" would be negligent if they didn't go after people attempting to dilute their trademark/tradedress rights. As a quick rule of thumb, you can assume than any litigation that could possibly be associated with trademarks or trade dress is a business necessity for the company bringing suit. Lawyers are expensive and such li

  • by FunkeyMonk (1034108) on Monday December 04, 2006 @12:04PM (#17099860) Homepage
    Did Apple patent the Billion Dollar Bill?
  • Not getting it (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman (238306) * <akaimbatman@gmail.cFREEBSDom minus bsd> on Monday December 04, 2006 @12:05PM (#17099870) Homepage Journal
    The story contains some great facts for people who are unaware, but the author doesn't seem to be going anywhere with it. First he talks about the "billion dollar patent" then goes off on a tangent about IP without ever explaining how any of it ties back into the original issue.

    I'd give it an A for research, but a C- for usefulness.

    Also, what is up with the "we're being censored by Digg" bit at the end? Following his Digg links, it seems like everything is working fine. The only thing I found on the subject was this accusation [googlepages.com] claiming that Roughly Drafted is trying to game digg. The only thing I can figure is that some of the new algorithms (which favor users who have gotten stories to the front page) killed the stories from getting to the front page. Whether someone is gaming the system or not, he needs more established users in order to get his stories to the front page.
    • Re:Not getting it (Score:4, Informative)

      by ZachPruckowski (918562) <zachary.pruckowski@gmail.com> on Monday December 04, 2006 @12:22PM (#17100062)
      A lot of digg users bury Roughly Drafted stories on site. There's no algorithym change involved in his claims of being censored. Digg users just think he stories are very biased pro-Apple, and also are annoyed because he has dozens of digging sockpuppets.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by VGPowerlord (621254)

        Digg users just think he stories are very biased pro-Apple

        That's probably his stories are very biased pro-Apple. It took me one look at the Roughly Drafted Magazine [roughlydrafted.com] page a few weeks ago when his site hosted the Leopard vs. Vista article (linked to here on /.) to realize that. I didn't even have to read the aforementioned comparison, because I could already tell what it was going to say. The sad part is, I navigated to the RDM page to find Page 1 of the Leopard vs. Vista review thinking that maybe someone

        • I must have written that in a hurry, because I completely agree with you. I'm glad he's off Digg. I'm just saying it was a community reaction as opposed to some sort of TPTB smackdown.
    • Re:Not getting it (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DECS (891519) on Monday December 04, 2006 @04:03PM (#17103444) Homepage Journal
      Hi - Thanks for the A. I described patent law and Apple's disasterous pit of litigation in 1988-1994 to answer the claim that Apple will, as the patent attorney says, convert from a hardware company to a patent lawsuit machine.

      The www.roughlydrafteded.com site is censored by Digg, not because stories are ranked poorly, but because the system automatically bars URL submissions from sites that have had a given number of submitted articles buried.

      The anonymous poster of your link (ba01162.googlepages) is "Lackawack," a Digg user who announced he would set up a "vigalante army" of fake accounts on Digg and take down any articles that had been submitted from RoughlyDrafted. That was in response to unflattering reviews and general taunting of the Zune.

      That resulted in Lackawack getting his user banned on Digg, but he immediately resurfaced as lackawack2 and started buring old articles that had been on the front page. He also attacked everyone digging any RDM articles. He started keeping a McCarthy list of "suspicious Digg users" who digg RDM articles, which is the page you advertise in your post.

      Of course, if any of those users were fake, lackawack2 could have just submitted them to Digg and the site would ban them. Since he couldn't do that, he just raised a FUD screen of "sounds suspicious!!!" and kept working to bury old stories until enough articles on Digg had been sequentially banned so that Digg blocked further submissions.

      That mechanism is designed to prevent domains from dumping a bunch of junk into Digg, but it is entirely worthless, as plenty of spam anonyblog domains caputure Digg's front page. All the "top 10 lists of stuff you already know" that link to anonymous googlepages full of Adsense, or domains all run by the same group of pay for say astroturfers (some of which have been outted on RDM) happily consume much of Digg's bandwidth.

      The thing is, if you need to repress someone else's speech with your own noise, you're probably lying. I try to contribute original, worthwhile writing on subjects to balance the sensationalist and often poorly thought out press release regurgiations that are much easier and profitable to do. If you don't like my stuff, you can ignore it, but presenting a liar's troll campaign as a credable attack is just lame.

      The vast majority of comments on RDM articles on Digg were very positive. It is only the miniority of anonymous trolls there who want to censor opinions that fail to hail everythign from Microsoft with effusive kowtowing. Digg just has systems in place that allows that type of abuse. That's making it increasingly less interesting to use Digg.

      NewsFactor [roughlydrafted.com] looks interesting.

       
      • Digg blocked further submissions.
        I'd call that a bad heuristic. But in a noisy spammy world, there are lots of bad heuristics.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        RD content was buried consistently due to inaccurate claims made by the author, suspicious activity related to his storys and a refusal to ever correct his mistakes.

        Rather than use the critiques to become a better writer he instead lashed out and cried censorship envisioning some massive conspiracy to squelch his glorified blog.

        This is the kind of garbage he was submitting over and over again:
        http://digg.com/apple/Windows_5x_More_Expensive_th an_Mac_OS_X [digg.com]

        And here we see that Daniel agrees with his own articl
        • by DECS (891519)
          Lackawack, your links don't support the claims you make.

          Windows 5x More Expensive than Mac OS X [roughlydrafted.com] presents an accurate and fair history of the deliverables of Apple and Microsoft from 2001-2006. The only thing you didn't like about it was that it refuted the wild claim by Paul Thurrott that Mac OS X "costs users something like $750." I presented that not only does Microsoft charge more for retail copies and upgrades of Windows, but that Apple has released five times as many major updates and over fifteen ti
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Sj0 (472011)
            With all due respect, you lose a lot of credibility by dedicating article space to this minor personal spat, and even more by participating in this red herring of a conversation.
  • by jimstapleton (999106) on Monday December 04, 2006 @12:15PM (#17099980) Journal
    interested in initiating lawsuits except in self defense from other lawsuits.

    Guess the author never heard of the "FreeType" library, I believe Apple threatened to sue them for the parts of their text rendering engine, that allowed them to effectively do things like antialiasing. Apple also, as mentioned in the article, tried to sue Microsoft for various violations.

    He also never mentioned what the actual patent was about did he?

    The article seems to have very little to do with the title, and the evidence is lackluster for the case, at best.
    • by gandreas (908538) on Monday December 04, 2006 @12:28PM (#17100138)
      Apple never sued FreeType - see FreeType's own account about this myth [sourceforge.net]
      The patents Apple has in TrueType also have to do with grid-fitting of curves, and not antialiasing - basically a way to provide hints to adjust control points for curves on limited resolution contexts, effectively so that you don't have to do any antialiasing (which on a B&W device is impossible).
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jimstapleton (999106)
        I never said they did, I said they /threatened too/, this was a couple of years ago, when the bytecode interperater wasn't turned off. Now they ship it with that functionality turned off to prevent such litigations.
    • In each of those cases, the patents involved affected only one company (FreeType or MS), whereas this patent threatens the entire phone and digital music industries. It's visible in the image on the right that the article covers downloading music to a computer and putting it on a portable device (most MP3 stores, podcasts, etc), or downloading directly to a portable device (phones). This is a "killer patent", and in my mind, one that has the potential to stagnate the industry until it's killed.
    • by Cruise_WD (410599)

      The article seems to have very little to do with the title,

      From the summary: "Don't let the title fool you; the essay is a good background on patents."

      He also never mentioned what the actual patent was about did he?

      Seeabove, and from TOA: "the clear intent of the press release...was really all about the patent attorney,"

      But, for the sake of reference, one more click gives you:
      "Patent that covers the downloading of music and video with the ability to play music and video on a device."

    • by DrDitto (962751)
      it's interesting that they say apple isn't...interested in initiating lawsuits except in self defense from other lawsuits.

      Not really. This is how things are done nowadays...especially in the BioTech sector. Its called "Mutually Assured Patent Destruction". Since it isn't really feasible to do anything without infringing on some company's patent, the best defense against lawsuits is a counter lawsuit. In the BioTech area, you will not get any kind of venture capital funding without a portfolio of pat
      • but given my full comment, it's still wrong.

        Apple /is/ interested in initiating lawsuits, just against people who have no patent shield.
        • by DECS (891519)
          I am sure there are lots of examples we'll never hear about, but can you provide any known examples of this?

          Obviously Apple has to protect its trademarks and copyright, and uses patents to protect its inventions, just like every other company, but when I tried to find recent examples of Apple killing viable products with nonsense patents (which was the premise of the press release issued about the Billion Dollar Patent [roughlydrafted.com]), I couldn't find any.

          Clearly, Apple could have used iPod patents to attack Creative firs
          • I already gave an example. Also, you are calling MS a have not, but suggeting that somehow Apple isn't? MS has a lot more than Apple.
            • by DECS (891519)
              Apple is currently making fat profits, is expanding, and has huge potential to further expand into new markets.

              Microsoft growth has stalled, and all of its new efforts to expand outside of servers/windows/office have been commercial failures. All. Now its 3 monopoly positions are under attack from Linux and open source: Linux in the Enterprise, OpenOffice and Ajax web apps like Google's, and Linux and alternatives on the desktop. That makes Microsoft a have-not.

              Apple is much smaller, but the company is gro
  • by inKubus (199753) on Monday December 04, 2006 @12:17PM (#17100000) Homepage Journal
    This is a novel method of storing data on light and color intensities of a frame of reference, captured with a lens system and matrix of light sensitive transistors. The resulting data is stored in a file called an "Image".

    OR worse

    This is a novel method of representing nothing. In the past, nothing was always something. We propose a special character that represents nothing (the lack of something) to be used in communication purposes. We shall call this character the "zero."

    • Good, they we can convert to the more interesting Mayan character for null/nil: a turtle!
    • by MaGogue (859961)
      Or even worse
      This is a novel method of securing revenues from non-production by means of establishing a system for documenting on a first claim basis, cataloguing and categorising basic ideas to be later exploited for securing the mentioned revenues without having to explicitly produce any concrete manifestations. The resulting device is to be called 'vague patent'.
    • Microsoft beat them to the zeros (and the ones) in 1988. [theonion.com]
    • Wozniak's idea for a patent.

      Woz: It's about nothing.
      Jobs: Right.
      Woz: Everybody's doing something, we'll do nothing.
      Jobs: So, we go into the patent office, we tell them we've got an idea for a patent about nothing.
      Woz: Exactly.
      Jobs: They say, "What's your patent about?" I say, "Nothing."
      Woz: There you go.
      (A moment passes)
      Jobs: (Nodding) I think you may have something there
  • by Anonymous Coward
    In case you don't know, this article was submited by Daniel Eran who was caught spamming Digg with his useless articles...

    Check out how he was caught:
    http://ba01162.googlepages.com/RoughlyDraftedBUSTE D.html [googlepages.com]
    • plus, this story submitter's link (DECS) points to "roughly drafted" ...
    • ...at the total inability of digg to scale. 60 users can control the entire site?
      • If the site allows wars like this to go on, apparently they need to rework their moderation engine. Still I'm very glad Digg is existing, as slashdot became a lot more useable. It's very nice that the noisy people found their medium and soulmates there.
    • Nothing screams legitimacy like some random googlepages screed in all caps.

      You should have pointed to your Digg posting, similarly burried, which ranted about my "GAMING DIGG!!!! PROOF!!!" or the handful of snotty comments you post on digg because I criticized Microsoft's business strategies and marketing of the Zune.

      Perhaps you need to find something more useful to do with your life than anonymously hang on my coattails, Lackawack2. You're not that fun to hang out with and you have nothing interesting to s
  • by MrSquishy (916581) on Monday December 04, 2006 @12:26PM (#17100114)
    phone company, film maker, computer maker and video producer
    Hmm... phone company, film maker, computer maker and video producer.
    It also doesnt exist in "Prior Art".

    My god, they have found 3) ????:
    3) Patent the letter "E"
    4) Profit!
    • by Anonymous Coward
      G3n3sis

      Chapt3r 1
      1:1 In th3 b3ginning God cr3at3d th3 h3av3n and th3 3arth.
      1:2 And th3 3arth was without form, and void; and darkn3ss was upon th3 fac3 of th3 d33p. And th3 Spirit of God mov3d upon th3 fac3 of th3 wat3rs.
      1:3 And God said, L3t th3r3 b3 light: and th3r3 was light.
  • Some info on the patent itself is at: http://www.appleinsider.com/article.php?id=2275 [appleinsider.com] From the article: "The initial concept consisted of a desktop computer holding multiple songs with an interface that allowed a hotel guest to select three songs and play them on an electric grand piano."
  • A link within TFA showed:

    "A recent out-of-court settlement between Apple Computer and the owner of the patent that covers the downloading of music and video with the ability to play music and video on a device (technology essential to the iPod and other music and video technology)"

    That's pretty major.

    Here's the link:
    http://biz.yahoo.com/prnews/061130/lath054.html?.v =80 [yahoo.com]
    • by Kreigaffe (765218)
      Throw that out, prior art ABOUNDS. music and video existed on the internet (and even earlier) LONG before Apple got into the game. The iPod was not nearly the first mp3 player. iTunes was not nearly the first source for searching and downloading music to put on an mp3 player. This is.. dumb.

      Really, really dumb.

      Strangely I feel as if I should go grab my gun, now. Is it time yet, guys?
  • by ThosLives (686517) on Monday December 04, 2006 @12:40PM (#17100306) Journal

    My favorite is the line in the article about how without patents there would be no incentive for pharmas to, say, develop a new treatment.

    Innovation will always be driven by necessity, not by profit. That, and laziness: if I can invent a cotton gin so I don't have to spend hours and hours picking seeds out of cotton by hand, what do I care if I don't have a patent on it? My life is still simpler. What about drugs? If enough people are getting sick, then people will pool together their resources and develop a treatment. Sure, it might not happen in the same way we know things today, but I think that patents are a form of competition, and I'm beginning to think that cooperation is a more powerful force in economics than competition, despite the prevalent thinking.

    • Eli Whitney cared (Score:5, Insightful)

      by kansas1051 (720008) on Monday December 04, 2006 @01:07PM (#17100718)
      That, and laziness: if I can invent a cotton gin so I don't have to spend hours and hours picking seeds out of cotton by hand, what do I care if I don't have a patent on it?

      Eli Whitney, and the U.S Congress certainly cared. Although Whitney was able to patent his cotton gin, the U.S. patent laws at the time (under the first Patent Act of 1790) were so weak he was unable to enforce his patent and nearly went bankrupt. Whitney himself sold few cotton gins as large manufacturers could undercut his prices due to their established distribution chains. The next two patent acts (1810 and 1836) were drafted with Whitney's story in mind and provided greater protection for inventors (Abraham Lincoln's famous "patents are the fuel for the fire of innovation" quote was referring to the 1836 act).

      So, out of all the examples you could pick as to why patents don't matter, Whitney's cotton gin isn't one of them (it is probably the worst possible example).

      • by ThosLives (686517)

        Ok, so maybe Eli Whitney's case isn't the best to use to support my case; however, my example is that particular device - or something similar - would be invented anyway even without patents. Indeed, your example proves my point there; the cotton gin was invented without the benefit of a good patent system!

        I think as long as people have enough resources and free time, innovation will occur just because some people like to innovate.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward
          The cotton gin is the perfect example. After all, it was invented? So the system did not make him rich. BFD. Had he NOT spent his time trying to collect royalties (rent seeking), and instead produced value, then maybe he would have faired better. Back then, the big guys took his shit and ran with it. Add 200 years of reform and what happens: the big guys just take shit and run with it. No matter how clever your patent, if you try to sell something using it, other aspects of your device may be covere
        • by Lars T. (470328)

          Ok, so maybe Eli Whitney's case isn't the best to use to support my case; however, my example is that particular device - or something similar - would be invented anyway even without patents. Indeed, your example proves my point there; the cotton gin was invented without the benefit of a good patent system!

          I think as long as people have enough resources and free time, innovation will occur just because some people like to innovate.

          Or things get stuck at a low level, because an improvement doesn't mean any more money for those who could develop something new. Or the new development is kept a secret, using violence to keep it that way.

      • So, out of all the examples you could pick as to why patents don't matter, Whitney's cotton gin isn't one of them (it is probably the worst possible example).

        Not that this article [wikipedia.org] is authoritative, but I have heard similar claims in the past and wouldn't doubt them a bit. Apparently there are several possible inventors of the cotton gin around the time Eli Whitney got his patent. Most likely several people influenced the design, but Eli Whitney just happened to be the first to submit a patent application
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Necessity for drugs is not going to drive development. Money is. Do you think that a group of just plain nice people . . . are going to get together . . . and decide, "Hey! Let's invent the next drug to cure $someDisease?" That hasn't happened yet, and I don't think it's likely to in the near future either.

      Here's why it's not going to happen, and here's also the argument for why pharma companies need strong patent protection:

      Pharma research costs big money, because 1) paying your PHDs to do the research, an
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by GigsVT (208848)
        Necessity for drugs is not going to drive development. Money is.

        Exactly, and there's no reason patents are needed. Other industries still make products there is demand for, without ever registering a single patent.

        Pharma research costs big money, because 1) paying your PHDs to do the research, and maintaining research facilities, costs quite a lot, and 2) the FDA approval process is costly and takes years.

        They spend more on advertising than they do on research. The FDA thing is another government created
        • by Anonymous Coward
          This is just another grokdot patents are evil I know because I pulled anecdotal evidence out of my $%^$%^ argument.

          The argument is POINTLESS and INNANE due to the fact that people have spent great effort (multitudes greater than what is on face here) researching hard data in attempts to determine the effects of patent policy on innovation. The conclusions that the overwhelming majority reach fall somewhere in between 'patents are worthless' and 'patents are perfect'. Without even attepting to build on this
      • by DECS (891519)
        Right - there are incredible contributions made by academia. There is also a huge amount of research and development directly financed by the US government, which is also not profit based. In the projects I was involved in at an academic environment (San Francisco General Hospital is primarily staffed by the University of California, San Francisco), about half were government funded; another half were funded by indepenant groups, including pharmaceutical companies.

        Where does academia get its money? Outside
    • by 4bznth (1035492)
      pharmas will always be driven by profit. When af drug patent is filed it is usually during the 1st, 2nd or 3rd year of development. Making the drug "ready" for the market then takes another 10 years and cost billions and billions of dollars. The most common scenerio - at leats for the big companies is that the company has 5-7 years to earn back all the money used on development. This results is very high prices and licenses. (a patent usually last for 20 years)
      • by mccoma (64578)
        It gets worse when you think of the insurance / lawyers you have to have (every drug will kill someone) and the number of drugs that do not make it to market. Ask Phizer about the pain of a failed clinical trials cycle.
    • by evilviper (135110)

      if I can invent a cotton gin so I don't have to spend hours and hours picking seeds out of cotton by hand, what do I care if I don't have a patent on it?

      If it costs you more to develop, than the inital direct benefit to you, then you just won't do it.

      If, however, you know you can sell thousands of them, because your patent prevents other from copying the design you spent so much time/money on, you might just have an incentive.

      This is definately the case with "pharmas to, say, develop a new treatment." Afte

      • by ThosLives (686517)

        What is the incentive in cooperation? What is to prevent one single non-cooperative company (anywhere in the world) from ruining it?

        Unfortunately, I agree that "powerful" != "practical". What I mean is that consider MS vs Linux vs Apple; if, instead of all the people competing on three different fronts for the "best" OS, what would happen if all those people were working on the same "best" OS? Granted, this is all kind of a "what-if" kind of proposition, but it does bear consideration.

  • by Animats (122034) on Monday December 04, 2006 @01:14PM (#17100806) Homepage

    So we have an press release about a supposed Apple patent. The article doesn't identify the patent or give the patent number. Then we have a blog entry about the press release about the supposed patent. That doesn't identify the patent. Then we have the Slashdot article about the blog entry about the press release. Which doesn't identify the patent either. The end result is a clueless Slashdot article.

    The actual patent is US# 5,864,868 (Contois, January 26, 1999), "Computer control system and user interface for media playing devices". The main claim is:

    1. A computer user interface menu selection process for allowing the user to select music to be played on a music device controlled by a computer, comprising the steps of:
    a) simultaneously displaying on a display device, at least two individual data fields selected from music categories, composers, artists, and songs;
    b) selecting at least one item from at least one of the data fields;
    c) in response to step b), redisplaying all data fields not having an item selected therefrom with data related only to the at least one item selected in step b), and simultaneously maintaining all items originally displayed in the data fields with at lest one item selected therefrom;
    d) selecting an item in the songs data field in response to step c), and
    e) playing the selected song item from step d) on the computer responsive music device.

    So it's an interface for a specific format of playlist interaction. Some players might have to change their interfaces a bit. Big deal.

    • that is a big deal. This is apple taking what is more or less the standard way of interfacing with a media device, patenting it, and then taking people to court if they don't want to change. Lets say i start a laptop manufacturer. My laptops are okay, but still don't really sell very much. Well lets say that I use the money that i have made to hire a bunch of lawyers. We find out that it has not been patented to power a laptop with a portable source of power. So we patent it, then sue everybody who
    • Anyone sued for violating the patent can argue that displaying the artist, title, and/or track is a necessary or essential part of an MP3 player and therefore not patentable.

      If this patent were so valuable, why haven't they started enforcing it?
    • "Some players might have to change their interfaces a bit. Big deal."

      Well, that and the cost of damages for prior infringement over the last ten years, attorney fees, and any additional punitive damages for willful infringement or inequitable conduct before the US PTO. Of course, changing the interfaces to get around this patent may render a portable audio player uncompetitive. Other than that, not a big deal.
  • Cheaper To Fight It (Score:3, Interesting)

    by DrKyle (818035) on Monday December 04, 2006 @01:25PM (#17100992)
    If I was one of the corporations that Apple tried to extort by buying this patent I would just form a nice alliance of lawyers with the other "infringers" and fight the thing tooth and nail. There is probably a better chance of spending 100 million getting the patent voided than giving Apple a billion and bending over.
    • by GigsVT (208848)
      Either way that's 100 million taken out of the economy for "broken windows". Patents, for the most part, no longer fulfill their constitutional mandate of "promoting science and the useful arts (engineering)".
    • If I was one of the corporations that Apple tried to extort by buying this patent I would just form a nice alliance of lawyers with the other "infringers" and fight the thing tooth and nail. There is probably a better chance of spending 100 million getting the patent voided than giving Apple a billion and bending over.

      If you were one of the corporations that Apple tried to extort, you'd be a sociopath, willing to fund a shadow war of assassination and terror to dominate your market. Sue you for patent inf

  • to even get a patent when there is so much obvious prior art already in exisitence?
    Are the patent office asleep?
    More to the point, why can apple think they stand a chance in court?
    Surely everyone apple attempts to sue can easily get out of it by proving they had prior art?
    • by cbuskirk (99904)
      Apple knows it would not stand up in court. It also knows it is valid enough that they could get sued, so Apple bought the patent from the company who threatend Apple with it before they got tied up in a messy legal battle dealing with another stupid patent aka the Creative BS.
    • More likely they're overworked and underpaid.
  • If Apple follows through on a "good" patent and pisses off a lot of people, it might just be the spark to get the current patenting overturned and software patents outlawed.
  • by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Monday December 04, 2006 @02:45PM (#17102250) Homepage Journal
    Science Friday had a good episode [libsyn.com] last week covering some of the more absurd patents and the culture at the USPTO.
  • Maybe Apple isn't just getting this patent to create an offensive, but rather as a defense.

    Companies are attempting to overcome their lack of creativity/ingenuity by litigating a profit.
    Thanks to the patent office's less-than-picky gratning process, there are a LOT of seemingly obvious and redundant patents floating out there.

    I think that more situations will come up as companies attempt to assault Apple's #1 iPod/Music Store slot and incresingly their other software and hardware ventures.

    What I'm talking a
    • This is often my take on software patents. Its kinda like the old mutually assured destruction scenario with respect to nukes. The problems here though is that:
      • you've got a lot more companies with patents then you have countries with nukes (making it difficult to determine who's your friend and who's your enemy... Apple is my friend, the cute commericials tell me so...)
      • And I, like many others, are effectively the 3rd world countries in the game. Without "bombs", so we just hope that the big boys
    • by Maarek_1 (740578) *
      Is this why Apple settled out of court by paying creative 100 million dollars? Sorry but your whole Apple playing nice comment has no standing in the actual facts of this matter (or their approach to legal dealings on other matters). Not sure if you followed the story but prior to the ipod's release, Apple approached Creative about a joint product based on the Jukebox design. It fell through and amazingly the Ipod comes out a few months later with a remarkably similar UI design. Had Creative been awarded th
  • welcome our new billion dollar patent weilding overlords

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