16 August 2005

iPod, Patents and the media

In a somewhat quiet week, this article seems to have been the catalyst for some much more headline-grabbing press. Basically the article seems to suggest that Apple has lost a patent application about some part of the iPod interface, and that the winner is... Microsoft! (note: you have to read other articles to find that the patent filer is a Microsoft employee)

From what I can gather, despite good and early rebuttals of the relevance of this from Andrew Orlowski at The Register, some people have just added 2+2 and come up with 42. The Independent (obviously missing Charles Arthur's insightfulness while he is away) came up with this ridiculous extrapolation based (apparently) on nothing more than the original Appleinsider story and a complete lack of knowledge of patent law.

I personally found this article to be the most clear cut in its analysis of both the situation AND the media's failings.

Now, I've also got a conspiracy theory to add in. Perhaps Apple wanted a story like this to do the rounds just to distract everyone from endless speculation and discussion about the next iteration of iPods and other goodies to be announced at Apple Expo in Paris in about a month's time? This seems a pretty innocuous way of getting the rumour sites to focus on something else!

But should this story turn out to have a grain of truth - if Microsoft really gets royalties for managing to patent an interface that was publicly available on a device from it's arch-rival, with its submission MORE THAN 5 months after this device was publicly released, then it might surely be the beginning of the end for current patent law as we know it? That's long overdue when it leads to such obvious stupidities as granting a patent for a stick and the many other grants for patenting the bleeding obvious since the era of business process patents.

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