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Patent Monkey: Microsoft Stakes DRM Patent Claims

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across devices and were curious about how much effort they have put into DRM.

In early 2001, Apple made a dynamic move signing major labels to deliver legitimate music downloads, albeit with a good amount of restrictions FairPlay. Fair enough, a number of folks at the time thought that DRM was a good way to get the digital party legally started. While iPods sold and Microsoft worked on playsforsure and planned Zune, we pulled together more of the picture on DRM which adds insight to Steve’s Thoughts on Music.

Recently, Microsoft was issued US Patent 7185363 covering a means for a first device to transfer rights for DRM to a second device. When reading this, Zune squirting is pretty easy to see in the write up, though, not specifically addressed. From a strategy standpoint, Microsoft appeared ready to jump into DRM seeing the traction in the market. Unfortunately, markets move.

Reviewing Microsoft’s DRM patents (list of Microsoft-DRM patents), the initial count sums up to 32. A curious example of DRM that speaks for itself: “If [a digital license is] unavailable, the DRM system attempts to silently acquire the license from a license server without the intervention of a user.” Hearing you loud and clear Windows Genuine Advantage.

Despite Apple’s raging success leveraging DRM to get into its current position, they don’t appear to have anything in the way of issued patents that covers music DRM. In our opinion, Apple doesn’t need DRM since the game (re: money) is more about slick devices than about media sales. All of this adds some insight into Steve Job’s pronouncement that DRM should die. Stating that 97% of music on iPods are not bought from iTunes is a big admission by Apple. Adding that to the sales of iTunes v. the rest of Apple makes the point crystal clear. DRM isn’t going to put a dent in the Apple product machine.

With so much marketing push baked into Zune squirting, Microsoft will have some brand, product and patent retooling if DRM is finally lifted.

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