This is it, there is nothing that Apple won’t patent! Once again they’ve patented something that has been in use since pretty much the beginning of the internet. Apple’s latest patent claims ownership of the ability to buy digital stuff online with credits.
We’re shocked that this type of patent would even be awarded. Apple has gone after slide to unlock and even tried to patent the tablet form factor itself when clearly 2001 Space Odyssey came up with the idea first.
The exact nature of Apple’s latest claim extends over any form of buying a “media item” in an online store using credits instead of real currency. That’s all it is. The patent is so broad that it doesn’t specifically explain how one might get the credits. It’s clear that the idea came from My Coke Rewards in which you collected points under bottle caps, since that is the exact example given in the patent. Sorry Coke, you may have thought of it, but Apple patented it.
A number of freemium game publishers use the credit model, notably Zynga and Glu Mobile. Glu’s been making games since 2001, and Zynga’s a billion-dollar business built entirely on the premise that people would rather spend money than wait an hour while their crops grow. Both use credits for in-game purchases. Zynga’s credits, routed through Facebook, are so popular that the game company provides 12% of Facebook’s revenue. We wonder what Facebook & Zynga would do when faced with a lawsuit from Apple? Because clearly Apple isn’t afraid to head to court over their patents.
This patent was filed while Facebook was still in the works in a Harvard dorm room. But with the social network’s explosive growth over the past five years, having the means to shut out companies like Facebook & Zynga may well have been Apple intented use for this patent.
If you want to read the whole legal mess for your self, the recently awarded patent number 8,112,360 was originally filed in May 2006 and is known as Digital Media Acquisition Using Credit. A description of the functions of the patent include, a method for acquiring a media item from an online media store using a credit, said method including at least: (a) identifying a media item from being purchased by a purchaser, the media item having a purchase cost associated therewith; (b) determining whether the media item is permitted to be acquired using an item credit, the determining being based on at least the purchase cost and a country of origin for the purchaser, wherein said determining (b) includes at least: (b1) determining a media type for the media item; and (b2) determining whether the media type is permitted to be acquired using an item credit; (c) determining whether the purchaser has at least one item credit available at the online media store; and (d) thereafter applying the item credit associated with the purchaser so as to reduce or eliminate the purchase cost of the media item when said determining (b) determines that the media item is permitted to be acquired using an item credit.