The US Patent Office has awarded Apple another patent tonight, this one for the Cover-Flow interface that showed up in iTunes 7.0 in 2006, and then in the Finder as a view option in 2007 with Mac OS X Leopard and the iPhone itself.
US Patent Number 8,230,360 is credited to Jeffery Ma, Gregory Dude, Rachel Clare Goldeen, Justin Henzie, and Fainer Broderson, with Apple as the assignee. This patent was filed on January 14, 2008, which is a far less amount of time than the mouse cursor one granted today as well, but still – four years?
Here’s a portion of the first claim of the patent. You can see how incredibly detailed the wording needs to be to cover all eventualities of this type of interface. It’s odd to read about something that can be much more easily expressed in visual or animation, but that’s how the patent system works.
“A computer-implemented method, comprising: receiving, at a computing device, one or more content items from one or more resources, wherein content items include multimedia content, audio content, video content, image content, and user generated content; displaying the content items, wherein the display includes a group of content items, wherein a pre-determined amount of two or more content items in the group are initially selectable, wherein the remaining content items in the group are initially non-selectable, wherein the group of content items is capable of having multiple states within the display, wherein the multiple states include a starting state, a middle state, and an ending state, wherein a starting state initially includes a flat content item on the left and one or more tilted content items on the right…”
See what I mean? It’s clear, over-wordy, specific legal language aimed at creating the most complete word-picture of the as-yet-unknown Cover Flow interface. I’m glad I’m not a patent applicant.
There are, of course, lots of pictures involved, including the above. The background documentation makes it clear that Apple had big plans for this interface, with references to many different devices and sources of media.