Microsoft, Apple in iPod patent tussle

While Microsoft has struggled to challenge the iPod in the market, the software giant's lawyers have managed to slow Apple Computer's attempt to patent its digital music technology. In a ruling issued last month, a patent examiner rejected Apple's attempt to patent some of the user interface concepts behind the popular digital music player, noting that Microsoft developer John Platt filed for similar claims five months before Apple did.

A Microsoft executive noted on Friday that the company is always open to licensing its technology.

"In general, our policy is to allow others to license our patents so they can use our innovative methods in their products," David Kaefer, Microsoft's director of intellectual property licensing, said in a statement. "Microsoft and Apple have previously licensed their respective patent portfolios to one another and we maintain a good working relationship with Apple."

But in an interview, Kaefer agreed that it may be a bit premature to speculate that Apple will have to send Microsoft a check for each iPod. Although the decision is considered "final" in patent office terminology, Apple will have the opportunity to try and redefine the scope of its patent so it does not overlap with Microsoft's patent application. It is also unclear what, if any role, a 1997 agreement between Apple and Microsoft will have. Although the five-year deal has expired, it is theoretically possible that the claims raised in the patent applications might somehow be covered.

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News source: ZDNet

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