Apple awarded patent for look and feel of iTunes store

By on April 18, 2012, 3:30 PM

After nearly 8 years of waiting, the USPTO has granted Apple a patent which aims to protect their iTunes Store interface. The patent covers the look and feel of the store, including how users browse, search for and purchase content through iTunes. Or, as Apple puts it, "Graphical user interface for browsing, searching and presenting media items".

The patent abstract provides the following synopsis:

Improved graphical user interfaces suitable for reviewing, browsing, previewing and/or purchasing media items are also disclosed. The graphical user interfaces are suitable for reviewing or browsing numerous media items. The graphical user interfaces are also suitable for previewing or purchasing media items in an on-line manner. The graphical user interfaces are particularly useful for a system that provides purchase and distribution of media in a client-server environment.


Although seemingly broad, the patent keeps its focus narrowed on the iTunes GUI. Filed in 2004, patent 8,161,411 still refers to Apple's media sales gateway as the iTunes Music Store. At this time, Apple hadn't yet started selling videos, books or apps and the iTunes Music Store housed only 200,000 songs instead of 20 million, the amount its vast library contains today. In fact, the music-centric market place didn't get the name "iTunes Music Store" until 2003, a year before the patent was filed.

It is also interesting to note that Apple was being publicly traded at $25 per share in 2004 instead of $610. This is at a time when the company was nowhere close to becoming a trillion-dollar business and just several years prior, Apple had even flirted with bankruptcy

Say what you will about iTunes' interface, but since this patent was first applied for, iTunes has become nearly ubiquitous following the prolific adoption of iPhones, iPads and iPods during the past 4 years. Perhaps surprisingly, it has barely changed at all over the past 8 years. However, later this year, the company is expected to completely redesign the iTunes Store. The overhaul aims to make the store friendlier and easier to use, which may actually invalidate the company's long-awaited patent.

User Comments: 15

Got something to say? Post a comment
Guest said:

How does Apple patent an interface design that clearly copies other designs? Technology patents are beyond broken.

davislane1 davislane1 said:

I can only imagine how lucrative it would have been to patent the wheel or "spontaneous warmth-emitting light piles." I can see the concept diagrams already, drawn on a cave wall with someone's clan logo carved into the surface as an overlay.

bexwhitt said:

Why anyone would want to copy the mess that is itunes is beyond me.

killeriii said:

Why anyone would want to copy the mess that is itunes is beyond me.


Besides that,

I didn't know the way stores organize their shelves was patentable.

Only on the internet!

9Nails, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I organize letters to form words. Why can't I patent this idea?

Apple organizes data in boxes and calls it iTunes. What's so special about that?

psycros psycros said:

Apple organizes data in boxes and calls it iTunes. What's so special about that?

More magical?

Guest said:

The USPTO need their collective heads examining.

TJGeezer said:

"Beyond broken" - a good description. Kinda like the tax code - who has the most lawyers and biggest congressional bribes, wins.

Guest said:

Check this video out, about the derivative nature of creativity.


Guest said:

This is copy protection effectively gone mad, patent awarding is a buisness these days and sooner or later the US and its corporate funders will want anything patented even by a household owner just to "protect copyrights" for some reason they feel copyrighting will allow them to stop others innovating and thus break competition and they can sit on their hands while this happens milking the cash cow that is patents.

Next let them patent their philosphy: "Lets sue and patent everything we can even if it isn't ours orignially and then claim it is. And come up with lame lawsuits in between to stifle competition by litigation." They can patent that motto so no one else can follow them?

Guest said:

you are reading it wrong.

cookiedude cookiedude said:

Does this patent only apply to the US or is it worldwide??

Guest said:

So eventually people may begin to understand the real problems with software patents it seems...

Guest said:

Reading it wrong?

Hardly, i can only assume you are taking my reply based on this one article about how apple have been behaving and you havent kept a broader view of things overall even so this article summarises the mentality over at apple, i actually hope they keep wasting their own time given the direction of that path im sure they will get what they want but not what they need...

Guest said:

Looks like a Smalltalk browser from Xerox back from 1972. Steve Jobs got most of his ideas (UI, Tablet) from PARC (Smalltalk UI, Alan Kays Dynabook) at that time. If prior art applies this patent is already obsolete.

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