Earlier today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that would allow customers to legally sell or loan used iTunes content to another person. The patent is titled "Managing access to digital content items" and is outlined in three separate applications dating back to September 2011.

The system would allow a user to loan or sell content they purchased through iTunes to friends, family or complete strangers. For example, let's say you purchased a movie through iTunes but now you no longer have a desire to own or watch the film again. The system would allow you to sell your digital rights to the movie to another user. Once the transaction has taken place, you'll no longer be able to access the film but the new owner will.

Amazon was recently awarded a similar patent although their system is based on a centralized marketplace. Apple's plan would be to skip the marketplace altogether if the user chooses, allowing people to transfer media directly. The patent does, however, reserve the right for a proceed of the resale to be paid to the creator or publisher of the digital content and / or the entity that originally sold the digital content (iTunes).

It's worth pointing out that digital items aren't required to be stored locally for the system to work, meaning goods stored in iCloud could be sold as well. Furthermore, the application outlines scenarios like temporary transfers, partial transfers, delayed transfers and loans. Apple could have a tough time convincing content owners to try this method, however.