A near three-year-long attempt by Apple Computer to patent the menu-based software interface of its popular iPod digital music player has ultimately proved unsuccessful, AppleInsider has discovered.The report suggests that Apple may now have trouble protecting the iPod interface from knockoffs. However, the discussion of what was actually patented makes me think the whole thing is ridiculous:
The company's patent application, which lists Apple vice president Jeff Robbin and Apple chief executive Steve Jobs as two of its primary inventors, received a final rejection last month from the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Standing in Apple's way appears to be a prior filing by inventor John Platt, who submitted a patent application for a similar software design for a portable device in May of 2002 -- just five months before Robbin submitted his claims on behalf of Apple.
"Platt discloses an apparatus and a method of assisting user interaction with a multimedia asset player by way of a hierarchically ordered user interface, comprising: displaying a first order user interface having a first list of user selectable items; receiving a user selection of one of the user selectable items; and automatically transitioning to and displaying a second order user interface having a second list of user selectable items based upon the user selection."Although this kind of thing seems too common, I'm still a little surprised that one could patent something as obvious as a hierarchical view of a playlist. That's silly.