Apple isn’t known to be that bullish on NFC use in mobile devices, but a new patent application originally created earlier this year and published by the USPTO today (via AppleInsider) shows it’s thinking about the tech in a few ways at least. The application describes a means for transferring iTunes content from device-to-device, via NFC when two people are in physical proximity.
The patent describes a couple of different media “gifting” scenarios facilitated by NFC. In the first, it would enable the kind of existing media gifting already possible on iTunes via email, where one user buys content for another at time of purchase. But the second scenario is more interesting, because it deals with transferring already-owned media from one user to another.
This kind of “used” digital media sales is something we’ve seen Apple key in on before in patents; Apple previously applied for a patent for a system that would allow for the transfer of previously-owned digital media from one user to another in a patent filed in June, 2012 and published in March.
In both that application and this one, transfer of digital goods is facilitated by use of an authorization key that tells Apple’s servers that the receiving party has permission to access the track, movie, book, etc. The original application was mostly about resale, whereas this one focuses on gifting (and the use of NFC for in-person transfers) but both applications are so similar in basic concept that it seems very likely Apple is seriously looking into how it can make ownership of digital media more like ownership of physical media.
While you could technically just copy files from your library to someone else’s with the current DRM-free iTunes audio media files (though that’s not exactly kosher), it’s still much better to imagine a system in place where gifting and transfer are built-in to digital media marketplaces. And the mention of NFC might give hope to those wishing Apple would start investing in that tech to help encourage its widespread use.