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Thursday, May 11, 2006, 07:15 am PT (10:15 am ET)

Apple files for new touch screen, media file patents

Apple Computer filings published on Thursday show the iPod maker to be working on multipoint touch screens and an advanced media file format that embeds sale and marketing information.

Multipoint touchscreen

A filing with the United States Patent and Trademark Office made on May 6, 2004 and published for the first time on Thursday describes a "multipoint touchscreen" that relates to "a touch screen capable of sensing multiple points at the same time."

According to the filing, the touch screen is comprised of a pixilated array of transparent capacitance sensing nodes and would appear as a transparent panel that is positioned in front of the display.

"Unlike conventional touch screens, however, the touch screen shown herein is configured to recognize multiple touch events that occur at different locations on the touch sensitive surface of the touch screen at the same time," the filing reads. "That is, the touch screen allows for multiple contact points to be tracked simultaneously, i.e., if four objects are touching the touch screen, then the touch screen tracks all four objects."

"The multiple objects may for example correspond to fingers and palms," the filing continues. "Because the touch screen is capable of tracking multiple objects, a user may perform several touch initiated tasks at the same time. For example, the user may select an onscreen button with one finger, while moving a cursor with another finger. In addition, a user may move a scroll bar with one finger while selecting an item from a menu with another finger. Furthermore, a first object may be dragged with one finger while a second object may be dragged with another finger. Moreover, gesturing may be performed with more than one finger."

"multipoint


Digital media file with embedded sales/marketing information

A second company filing, made November 5, 2004 and also published for the first time on Thursday, describes a "digital media file with embedded sales/marketing information."

In the filing, Apple notes that current digital media file formats are limited by what types of information can be stored in the file headers, which restrict marketing methods and distribution options. "For example, a music promoter may want to upload a low-quality digital music file of a popular recording artist's hit song without DRM restrictions to a file-sharing service or promotional web site for advertising purposes," the company said. "Unfortunately, if the distributor wants a recipient of the file (e.g., downloader) to subsequently buy a higher quality file or to buy tickets to a concert by that recording artist, there is conventionally no convenient and quick way to direct the downloader to the distribution/sales point of the distributor's choice."

It's also noted that there is no simple way for the distributor to track the file once it has been downloaded. "From a marketing perspective, it would be very useful to be able to know where the downloader of an unprotected file obtained the file in order to judge which methods of distribution are most effective," the filing continues.

Apple software engineers explained that invention can be implemented in numerous ways, including as a method, system, device, apparatus, graphical user interface, or computer readable medium.

"In one embodiment of the invention, e-commerce information is embedded into a digital media file, typically in the digital media file's header," they wrote. "The embedded information is accessible to a media management application, which, in turn, allows a user to purchase the subject matter of the e-commerce information. The subject matter can be electronic media such as music or video files, event tickets, or even merchandise. In a first example, a low-quality music preview file contains embedded e-commerce information that enables a user who plays the music preview file to purchase a high-quality version of the music preview file. In a second example, a movie trailer file contains embedded e-commerce information that enables a user who plays the file to purchase tickets to an upcoming movie."

In another example, the engineers describe a digital media file where embedded e-commerce information is obtained by downloading or by copying a file from a file storage device. "Next, a user employs a media management application to access the embedded e-commerce information in the digital media file," the wrote. "Finally, the user directs the media management application to purchase one or more rights associated with the digital media file. These rights include, but are not limited to, the right to play the digital media file on a media player, and the right to copy the digital media file onto removable storage media. In one embodiment, a user who has downloaded a digital media file which may not be burned to a CD uses a media management application to purchase the right to burn the file to a CD based on sales data embedded in the digital media file.