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Media (Apple) Media Microsoft Patents

Microsoft Leveraging iPod Patent? 487

willie3204 was one of several readers who noticed this story about Microsoft cashing in on the iPod Patent that they apparently beat Apple to. Since this song looks to be played to the tune of $10/iPod, I imagine someone will be singing the appeal song.
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Microsoft Leveraging iPod Patent?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @10:05AM (#13329867)
    Using common sense, a disgusting move far from surprising from a company who's main innovative power seems to be located in the Legal department rather than in R&D. What's next, a patent for "creating software"?
  • by FatRatBastard ( 7583 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @10:05AM (#13329876) Homepage
    Two words: Prior Art. MS filed two months after the debut of the iPod. Apple got caught with their pants down by filing late, but I doubt seriously MS will be able to collect a dime on the patents.
  • by HTTP Error 403 403.9 ( 628865 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @10:06AM (#13329889)
    The US Patent Office has ruled that Microsoft has the right to charge competitors a licence fee for each iPod sold.
    I know there was a denial of a patent but when did the Patent Office say Apple needs to pay a license fee? Sounds like crappy reporting using speculation rather than facts.
  • Sky News... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gowen ( 141411 ) <gwowen@gmail.com> on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @10:06AM (#13329894) Homepage Journal
    ... is shit. The $10 figure is almost certainly a coke-fuelled[0] invention of some lazy-ass semi-literate tech-journalist needing desperately to fill space, who's noticed that such a patent exists (probably read it on some other tech news site, but felt the story needed spicing up). Until MS or Apple actually make a statement on it, this is just moronic conjecture.

    [0] I mean Coca-Cola, obviously.
  • Re:Facts are wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

    by heinousjay ( 683506 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @10:10AM (#13329912) Journal
    Ah, yes, the Wizbang blog, pinnacle of journalistic endeavors on this here internet. I now feel silly for not checking there first.
  • patent reform (Score:3, Insightful)

    by colmore ( 56499 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @10:12AM (#13329934) Journal
    Lots needs to be done to reform patent law, but it seems like an obvious first step would be, if devices "based" on your patent have been out for years and you still don't manufacture anything similar, the patent is null and void.

    Patents were designed to protect actual products, not simply stick flags in the ground and say "mine."
  • by Enrique1218 ( 603187 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @10:12AM (#13329937) Journal
    Apple is a pretty large company with a strong legal department. I am sure if there is a loophole or prior art, they will find it. If not, Apple has billions in the bank. I am not losing any sleep though I cringe at the thought of giving Microsoft money. Ah, who I am kidding- there is no way to use a computer without paying something to those guys.
  • A Dangerous Game (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @10:14AM (#13329955) Homepage Journal
    I develop with Microsoft software. My desktops are all Windows desktops (though I run Linux in virtual sessions). I target the Microsoft environment because, in my analysis and for the industry I target, it is the best choice. I've even been accused on Slashdot of being a Microsoft astroturfer countless times for shooting down misguided and misinformed anti-"M$" FUD. While I've been a bit put off by some of Microsoft's prior actions, I could always see their position. I have never owned a Mac, and I don't own an iPod.

    Yet this action absolutely disgusts me.

    Microsoft seriously risks turning off, and scaring away, the people who have the influence and persuasive power and technical know-how to maintain Microsoft's position. Hearing some scumbag talking about "licensing their innovation", when he's really talking about a deplorable abuse of the patent system, really makes one ponder what's the next (we already got hints from the sad reality that Microsoft considered buying Claria). Previously it was Microsoft the Evil to the conspiracy theorists and the people with an axe to grind. The title is becoming more real to the mainstream.
  • by JonTurner ( 178845 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @10:16AM (#13329970) Journal
    Except that it doesn't work that way. Our patent system (flawed as it may be) works on rewarding patent to the first to invent, not the first to register for patent. Since Apple can demonstrate that they were shipping product well before MSFT submitted their patent applications, this should be an easy appeal for Apple to win. It's still a hassle, though and in the end the only ones who will benefit are the lawyers.
  • by Average_Joe_Sixpack ( 534373 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @10:17AM (#13329982)
    but I doubt seriously MS will be able to collect a dime on the patents.
    That's not the strategy. MS wants to tie [insert competitor here] into a lengthy expensive legal fight.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @10:19AM (#13329992)
    MS still doesn't have the patent, and probably won't get it. This is still a dead topic. No shoe's have dropped.
  • by ThosLives ( 686517 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @10:22AM (#13330018) Journal
    Essentially, lawyers have replaced soldiers.
    Let's see how your lawyers fare when soldiers use guns on them.

    Lawyers only work when everyone agrees to abide by the lawers and judges. People generally only agree to this because some "soldiers" somewhere are willing to enforce what the lawyers and judges say. I only care about lawyers and judges because of the guys with guns behind them.

    People in the US in particular seem to forget that the only real way to enforce anything is with force.

  • by Erwos ( 553607 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @10:25AM (#13330049)
    "Our patent system (flawed as it may be) works on rewarding patent to the first to invent, not the first to register for patent."

    First to _invent_, not to implement. If Microsoft can produce documentation that they thought of this idea well in advance of Apple's iPod release, they can still retain the patent.

  • by millennial ( 830897 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @10:29AM (#13330075) Journal
    From here [testmy.net]:
    Apple's application, filed a year after the iPod was introduced, was rejected July 13. The documents do not identify the iPod by name, a common omission in such petitions. It describes a "portable, pocket-sized multimedia asset player" capable of managing MP3 music files including "a song title, a song artist, a song album, a song length."
    Regardless of whether Apple released the iPod before the patent (which they did), Apple failed to secure a patent before Microsoft did. November-ish 2002 would have been too late. Since Apple doesn't own the patent, they still have to pay licensing fees.

    Our legal/IP system at work.
  • Re:I'm confused.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Marc2k ( 221814 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @10:32AM (#13330092) Homepage Journal
    Agreed that would make a little too much sense. I realize that it's "first to invent", but with a IP/Legal team like Microsoft's, I'd imagine that when they want a patent, they have a filing in the USPTO's mailbox by 3:45pm the same day. Thus, I can't imagine any court believing that TWO companies, both very much aware of patent law, sat on the same invention/patent filing, one of them already having a product using said covered invention already invented and shipping.

    I mean really, with this logic, I could send dated, notarized legal correspondence with some plans on how the UI for a teleportation device would work, then not only wait until someone puts a product to market, but until it actually becomes widespread and profitable, before filing a patent for the technology, so long as the company that makes said teleporter forgets to file a patent.
  • by GreyPoopon ( 411036 ) <gpoopon@g[ ]l.com ['mai' in gap]> on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @10:34AM (#13330109)
    Regardless of whether Apple released the iPod before the patent (which they did), Apple failed to secure a patent before Microsoft did. November-ish 2002 would have been too late. Since Apple doesn't own the patent, they still have to pay licensing fees.

    Umm, no. They released the iPod in November, 2001. Although they were late applying for their patent, and therefore can no longer receive a patent on their technology, the fact that they have a product that was on the market before Microsoft even filed for their patent would automatically invalidate Microsoft's patent. Wouldn't it? We call it prior art, don't we?

  • by WhiteWolf666 ( 145211 ) <sherwinNO@SPAMamiran.us> on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @10:37AM (#13330137) Homepage Journal

    It is not the USPTO's job to invalidate patents, generally; it is the courts.

    The only problem might be in Microsoft's claimed date of invention.

    I believe MS claims they invented one aspect of the ipod's interface before Apple released the iPod. Then it will come down to a very messy lawsuit revealing internal company documents to try and show which company developed that aspect of the interface first.
  • by EggyToast ( 858951 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @10:46AM (#13330203) Homepage
    Most likely, if the patent goes to court, it will be invalidated, since the court cares about products on the market prior to the patent date. After all, what's stopping any random joe on the street from simply filing patents after seeing something on the shelves? The product was available prior to the patent filing, so Apple wouldn't be liable.

    To me, what this more likely means is that anyone can produce products with an ipod-like interface.

  • by alispguru ( 72689 ) <bane&gst,com> on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @11:11AM (#13330429) Journal
    ... will be for Microsoft to drop the Mac version of Office, and Apple to release an Excel-competitor. I'll be skeptical of the all-out-war theory until those two things happen.
  • MusicMatch? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by khazad ( 900803 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @11:18AM (#13330494)
    Basically it's software that allows you to pick several songs as positive seeds, and at least one as a negative seed, and based on your choices it will generate a playlist from your music library.

    MusicMatch has been doing this forever with their customizable radio stations. That is guaranteed to be prior art.

  • Re:Facts are wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @11:23AM (#13330548)
    Ah, yes, the Wizbang blog, pinnacle of journalistic endeavors on this here internet.

    As opposed to slashdot, the FAQ for which clearly states that the editors make no effort to check the veracity of articles that they post, and that has been fooled on a number of occasions in the past.
  • by ThosLives ( 686517 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @11:24AM (#13330550) Journal
    This wasn't a troll at all, just an observation. Let me clarify.

    Your use of the horse and water analogy is not appropriate here because of a misunderstanding of the capabilities of force. Force cannot be reliably used to cause someone to do something. Force can only reliably be used to prevent someone from doing something (and by 'something' I mean something over which the subject has direct physical control). All uses of force to cause an action may or may not fail, but if an action is attempted it is always possible with sufficent force to stop that action. If I punch you in the gut and say "punch me!", you may or may not punch me. I could attach your arm to a machine that punches me I suppose, but then that's not you doing the punching. However, if you punch me, I can always (assuming I'm strong enough and fast enough, or I shoot you, or put a wall between us, etc.) forcibly prevent your fist from causing me harm. I hope this makes the distinction clear.

    As far as justice goes, I can't comment on what you mean there without an understanding of what you mean by "just" and "unjust". The evaluation of the merit of the force the US has used is not the intent of my post; I just meant to present the observation that from a pure physical standpoint, force is the only way to ensure certain actions are stopped.

  • by Vitriol+Angst ( 458300 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @11:28AM (#13330591)
    It is not the USPTO's job to invalidate patents, generally; it is the courts.

    Shouldn't it be though? All these companies want to get this patent crap going in Europe and they still haven't "fixed" ours. The Patent Office MUST do a better job in not making it the job of the courts to fix their bad patents. It costs a lot of money for companies to secure what they innovated. Patents are becoming more of a hinderance to innovation and the consumer than a way for innovators to get a period of profit.

    This really needs to be fixed.
  • Isn't there a WinAmp plugin with the same sort of functionality?
  • by JoeHillTheViking ( 908038 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @11:47AM (#13330759)
    I agree they are lashing out, but maybe the bigger issue for them is to sow the seeds of uncertainty and disrupt Apples iPod's success. It seems to me that Microsoft's MP3 player "innovations", like their software, don't have the appeal of the offerings of other companies. Such that they can only compete by trying to disrupt our (the consuming public's) perception of their competitors. It's kind of like when politicians make personal jabs at each to avoid focus on their own weak platforms.

    With this maneuver, it seems like they are trying to steal some of Apple's legitimacy as a media innovator. Has anybody ever thought of Microsoft as innovative or visionary? (Besides their own PR guys, I mean). Ultimately, I have to hope that a company that so completely lacks integrity will accrue more and more of the public Bad Will they so richly deserve.

    Lately, it seems that the computer software giant has done more trash-talking. In the past month, I've heard of them taking aim at Google, Adobe and now the Apple iPod. But would anybody choose to use Microsoft products if they didn't ultimately feel forced to? It's hard for me to imagine people listening to a MS digital media player in the urban sprawl (no doubt constantly rebooting), while proudly displaying their catchy logo Microsoft MS-POD: We invented these!
  • Not Really (Score:3, Insightful)

    by b4k4_teh_1337 ( 902224 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @11:47AM (#13330760)
    Not really. Its more of an expansion as the previous article was about the fact that microsoft had the patents. This article focuses on the "fact" that microsoft is trying to use the patents to squeeze money out of apple. However, as I haven't seen this article anywhere else yet, and i've never heard of SKYNews I am skeptical as to weather this is fact yet or not. I wouldn't be suprised if it was though
  • by Vitriol+Angst ( 458300 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @11:54AM (#13330806)
    Yeah, this congress hasn't F'd up everything under the sun yet. So much yet to ruin.

    Energy, Healthcare, Science, Defense, Bankruptcy, Search and Seizure, Privacy.

    Privatizing water and air is next. Some much left to do. Evil work never ends.

    Backround checks and a license to protest are next. Seems we need to know more about people who complain than we get to know about public servants. Know what I mean?
  • by piecewise ( 169377 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @12:09PM (#13330930) Journal
    Excuse me, but you're an idiot if you insist on taking tiny little segments of a person's statement to support your argument, even when the context of the literal statement contradicts with your point. And it's not revisionist history. Look at it this way - Do you really think if Apple went in and stole everything PARC did, those same PARC employees would go work for Apple? Larry Tesler has said in interviews that Xerox didn't get it, didn't want it, and wasn't going to do anything with it -- but Apple understood it and knew how to improve it, so he was excited to work for them. Furthermore, in PBS's series on the topic, a former Xerox PARC employee confirms that Xerox was paid by Apple and they released rights to Apple to improve and use the technology.

    This has nothing to do with Apple's market share. It has to do with responding to a comment that was utterly ridiciulous. Doesn't it make YOU upset when people do that? Turn on the news - they do it all the time.

    There's a difference between reasonable criticism and a rant based on quotes you made up. If you think that's okay, you must enjoy Slashdot quite a bit!
  • by ivan256 ( 17499 ) * on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @12:11PM (#13330951)
    The short answer is, yes, the patent is invalid and will probably be over turned. [...] Thus they are hobbling Apple for a bit and presumably generating a bit of fear, uncertainty and doubt as to iPod.

    More likely, Apple will pull some patent they've been hanging onto that some newish version of Windows violates. Both sides will realize that both patents will probably be overturned at great expense, and a cross licensing agreement will make this all go away. This will happen without the average iPod user ever even hearing about it, much less having it influence their purchasing decision.
  • by debrain ( 29228 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @12:15PM (#13330992) Journal
    Force is not quite what you think, I believe. The most powerful force is widely regarded to be compound interest (Einstein himself so said). Rule of law is up there as well. They both supercede, and subsume, soldiers with guns. Economies command armies. Lawyers command armies. Soldiers with guns die as pawns.
  • by stanmann ( 602645 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @12:18PM (#13331021) Journal
    Actually, the description in Stranger doesn't contribute as "prior art" but as not "non-obvious".
  • by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @12:22PM (#13331060) Homepage Journal
    1. The whole MS monopoly thing

    Being a monopoly isn't illegal, and in some industries (such as software) is the natural state. I had a problem with some of their activities with partners, but it wasn't the clear villain/victim often portrayed. Of course I'm in the land of Slashdot, where every year is the year that Linux will abolish Microsoft (hell I remember hearing it was the "Year of Linux" about 4 or 5 years ago), to flipping and crying that Microsoft is a monster monopoly.

    2. The crushing Netscape to make way for the blight of the net known as IE

    I was using IE to create internal webapps half a decade ago that Mozilla is just beginning to be able to partly accomplish. IE was, by a long ways, the leading browser technology for some time. Blight indeed. Netscape, led by Andreeson, was declared as the replacement for Windows, and the fact that Microsoft challenged the threat is hardly surprizing. It's also interesting that Netscape, the company that basically released their browser for free to consumers to undercut commercial offerings (such as SpyGlass), all to entrench themselves to be able to sell to the backoffice, is sainted in this imaginary revised history.

    3. Stolen/copied/embraced/bought out technologies from the DOS days to the present

    Um, okay. I'm sure the bought out people are just so sad, sitting on their millions, and we should villify Microsoft for that.

    Give me a break. Historically Microsoft had some transgressions (kinda expected for a company of that size), but overall they were a fairly responsible, considerate company. Lately, perhaps as the revenue stream gets threatened, that has changed.
  • GP is not trolling (Score:4, Insightful)

    by philbert26 ( 705644 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @12:28PM (#13331119)
    Errr its a nice attempt at a troll but you let yourself down here... the US is the FIRST nation to enforce by force... and the last to resort to justice.

    Justice is merely force that is applied in the right places (ie, the force is justified). The grandparent is not a troll. All law depends on enforcement. A lawyer can make a case and a judge can sentence a criminal to jail, but that's all just empty words unless someone is willing to use force to make the sentence happen.

    That's not to say that all force is justice, and I don't believe the grandparent said that either.

  • by Bun ( 34387 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @01:11PM (#13331506)
    More likely, Apple will pull some patent they've been hanging onto that some newish version of Windows violates. Both sides will realize that both patents will probably be overturned at great expense, and a cross licensing agreement will make this all go away.


    From the article:

    "Microsoft and Apple have previously licensed their respective patent portfolios to one another and we maintain a good working relationship with Apple."
    ...Microsoft wants something specific from Apple and is using this as a lever.
  • Change the law (Score:3, Insightful)

    by robertjw ( 728654 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @01:53PM (#13331851) Homepage
    You are correct, but it definitely seems screwed up to me. Personally, I think if you can't get around to filing for the patent before someone else can make a product and successfully market it you don't deserve a patent.

    What Microsoft did is clearly just an opportunistic exploitation of the patent system. They didn't think their idea was worth patenting until someone else made money off a similar idea. The patent system was, in theory, designed to protect inventors from having their ideas stolen. I come up with ideas all of the time that I don't think I have the time or money to capitalize on. Does that make it wrong when someone else comes up with the same idea independently and makes millions of dollars on it?
  • by Vitriol+Angst ( 458300 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @02:23PM (#13332066)
    If it were On Topic, I could provide you links for all the bills I'm talking about. Then I could spend an hour on each one to tell you how it screws you and helps a campaign donater. My perspective has a bit to do with information--and not just "feelings".

    Here is a quick preview;
    Energy Bill of 2005 -- this wonderful bill gives about $14 billion to oil companies, just so companies like Exxon will continue to give us oil while bringing in $64 Billion in the last quarter alone. The Energy bill was written by energy Lobbyists. The rest goes to Nuclear and a pittance to some alternative technology which is just keeping up with previous government support, just rolled into a nice steaming piece of pork.

    The recent Healthcare reform act spends tax money to pay drug companies to give an ~ 17% discount to seniors, depending if they got the correct discount card among 75 options. Before this bill went into action, drug providers raised their rates about 20%--just in time. By the way, they also are having record profits, reporting double digit year over year growth for the most part. All for a mere $450 Billion (projected). Wonder why kids in your neighborhood beg door to door for school books now?

    Science. The science advisor now reports to an intern, in case any real science actually came out to refute all the good "there is no global warming" science paid for by Exxon, et al. This administration has been critisized (first in history) by over 2000 scientists (I forget the petition they signed). Of course, if you stop believing in science, theory holds that it will "just go away". We'll see. If the Intelligent Design crap didn't convince you of an anti-science stance...

    Defense... did you not notice a few things we have been doing? Our security is FUBAR but at least this is keeping up employment and exports. Once they add it to the balance sheet, the fantasy economic numbers might look even worse or need more fantasy adjustments.

    Bankruptcy Reform Act. Written by Credit Card Lobbyists (forgot the name of the guy, but he bragged about writing it whole cloth--I suppose for his resume). The Dems couldn't get a limit of 40% interest for Credit Card issuers. It makes it more difficult and expensive (ironic, no?) to declare bankruptcy. Most bankruptcy is due to health care expenses of people who actually have insurance. Credit Card companies are experiencing record profits.

    Search and Seizure--um Patriot Act I & II. Heard of it?

    Privacy. Homeland security; Much of what they do is tantamount to domestic spying. Didja know, that Tom Delay used them to find house members to vote for redistricting in Texas? Also good source for direct marketing. Too tired to do more research. Google; Herbert Hoover, big jerk. For fun, look for parallels.

    Just because I'm paranoid doesn't make me wrong. This is OT but it is important.
  • by swelke ( 252267 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @02:46PM (#13332240) Homepage Journal
    Does this mean that Microsoft has given up on software patents in Europe?
    Everybody has been saying that the pro-software-patent folks in Europe (MS is the leader of the pack there) killed their bill deliberately to wait until some of the heat died off. Given that, you'd think MS would try to play down their more "evil" patents in the US so as not to scare Europeans any more than necessary.
  • by KarmaMB84 ( 743001 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @03:00PM (#13332356)
    But what if Microsoft thad really invented it first and simply hadn't gotten their designs out or weren't going to release hardware themselves? In that case, they would be right to try to get the patent before Apple screws them and their partners with an iPod patent.
  • by Zhe Mappel ( 607548 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @03:24PM (#13332524)
    Exactly. We should call this latest perversion Microsoft's Law:

    If you can't beat 'em, license 'em.

  • by symbolic ( 11752 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @03:42PM (#13332739)

    How would "first to file" be of any benefit over what we currently have? This would just seem to make it easier for patent speculators to churn out patents without producing, or intent to produce, a damn thing, and then leaching off the sweat of everyone else's brow.
  • by Geek Yid ( 798534 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @03:42PM (#13332746) Homepage

    We have all been getting wrapped up in hysteria. The USPTO's examiner rejected Apple's application, supposedly as not patentable over a Microsoft patent application, or so it appears.

    I used to be a patent examiner (1999-2000; left in large part due to the fact that I didn't feel the job could be done properly with the resources and time available). I've read, as many of you have, the respective applications, notably the claims. Keep in mind that only claims can be infringed upon. Patents are granted solely on an applications claims, not on any other stuff described in the application. While the full disclosure in application M can be used to reject application A's claims, A only infringes on M if it is claimed by M.

    The claims of the M$ application [uspto.gov] (PDF) [pat2pdf.org] are not infringed upon, IMHO, by the Apple application [uspto.gov] (PDF) [pat2pdf.org]. M$ claims a way of generating a playlist, whereas Apple claims a method of interfacing wherein a user directly picks items to be played. Even though M$ claims -- in a dependent claim that their system might be included in a media player, that still does not mean Apple is infringing on the M$ patent, should the M$ patent stand. It only means that Apple cannot patent its device over that which M$ disclosed in its application.

    Further, IMHO, independent claim 1 of the Apple application specifically cites selecting items "through a rotational action with respect to said user device" -- something which I cannot find in the M$ application. Therefore, there is no reasonable case for infringement. The only question is whether that 'rotational' step alone makes Apple's app patentable over the M$ app (again, still assuming we don't even bother to knock out the M$ app), or whether Apple will need to narrow its claims a bit first.

    I am not worried about the iPod infringing on the M$ app/patent in question. However, iTunes' creation of Smart Playlists appear to be a much closer match to what M$ discloses. That is where Apple should be worried, unless they can show a different, non-infringing algorithm for auto-creating their Smart Playlists.

  • by rodgerd ( 402 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @06:23PM (#13334393) Homepage
    Remind me again which company sued claiming more-or-less exclusive rights to create GUIs? Which company sues over putting too much candy-coloured translucent plastic on a computer case?
  • stupidity (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cahiha ( 873942 ) on Tuesday August 16, 2005 @06:38PM (#13334495)
    The US Patent Office has ruled that Microsoft has the right to charge competitors a licence fee for each iPod sold.

    The USPTO doesn't rule about whether companies have the right to charge, beyond allowing a patent.

    Also, talking about a "patenting the iPod" does make sense. Neither Apple nor Microsoft invented portable MP3 players or even disk-based MP3 players. The patent in question seems to be about a particular feature of iPods.

    Finally, given Apple's and Microsoft's cross-licensing agreements and close business ties, I also find it unlikely that any money is going to flow. Apple and Microsoft aren't enemies anymore, if they have ever been, and Microsoft doesn't want to see Apple disappear.

Disraeli was pretty close: actually, there are Lies, Damn lies, Statistics, Benchmarks, and Delivery dates.