Apple patent: digital media file with embedded sales/marketing information
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Apple patent: digital media file with embedded sales/marketing information

Background of the invention

Currently, online media services such as Apple Computer's iTunes. Music Store, RealNetwork's Rhapsody, MusicMatch's On Demand, or Yahoo's Launchcast. control consumer access to media content by various methods, including by streaming media (but not downloading) to a networked media player or by using copy protection schemes which limit the consumer's ability to redistribute downloaded digital media files. For instance, Rhapsody allows unlimited media streaming and allows consumers to burn CDs (but prevents media files from being stored on a hard drive). A second type of access control is used by iTunes, where files are protected using FairPlay Digital Rights Management (DRM) encoding, which prevents the playback of purchased media files on unauthorized media players.

While many consumers are content with streaming media, some prefer to have direct access to media files, enabling them to access the files in situations where there is no access to streaming media. Thus, digital media files have become very popular, and the entertainment industry is constantly searching for new ways to market and sell media content to an increasingly sophisticated audience.

Typically, when a music or other digital media file is created, the file contains both media content as well as information associated with the media content. This information is typically stored in the digital media file's header section. The information may include, for example, copyright information and digital rights management information, as well as descriptive information including title, author, and publisher.

However, current digital media file formats are limited by what types of information can be stored in the file headers, thus restricting 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. 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. Also, 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.

Currently, many enhanced CDs and DVDs contain hyperlinks to additional media content, often stored on web sites. Further, the process of accessing one or more hyperlinks through a media application, such as Apple Computer's Apple's QuickTime is known. However, there has previously been no conventional way to integrate advertising, sales, marketing, and distribution of digital media files.

Thus, there is a need for techniques to encode sales/marketing information and/or tracking data into digital media files in order to improve the process of distribution, marketing, and/or sales of digital media files, as well as related items, such as merchandise or event tickets.

Summary of the invention

The invention pertains to techniques for facilitating e-commerce by utilizing sales, marketing and/or tracking information ("e-commerce information") that has been embedded in a digital media file. These techniques can allow a user of a media management application to purchase digital media files or other subject matter based on the embedded e-commerce, information.

The invention can be implemented in numerous ways, including as a method, system, device, apparatus, graphical user interface, or computer readable medium. Several embodiments of the invention are discussed below.

Movie trailers tied to ticket sales

In one embodiment of the invention, e-commerce information is embedded into a digital media file, typically in the digital media file's header. 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.

Purchasing the rights to burn content to a CD

In another embodiment of the invention, a digital media file with embedded e-commerce information is obtained (e.g., by downloading or by copying 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. 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.

In still another embodiment of the invention, a client request to purchase the subject matter of e-commerce information embedded in a digital media file is received. The request is then authenticated, and a payment for the subject matter of the e-commerce information is processed and verified. After verification, the subject matter of the e-commerce information is sent to the requesting client.

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eCommerce system

Patent FIG. 2A is an e-commerce system 200 for media items according to one embodiment of the invention. A digital media file 202, including media content and embedded e-commerce information, is stored on a client computer 204. Digital media file 202 may be downloaded via a computer network 206 (such as the Internet), or copied from a CD-ROM, flash memory card, MiniDisc, DVD-ROM or other portable digital data storage device 207. The embedded e-commerce information is accessed by using a media management application 208, which may display information, including digital media file indicators and, if applicable, e-commerce indicators (discussed below in reference to FIG. 2B.) If a user wants to use the subject matter of the embedded e-commerce information in some manner (e.g., [url=http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2006/apr/04rhcpeppers.html]to purchase a song or a concert ticket[/url] or to visit a web site), then a request is sent to a remote e-commerce server 210, which controls user authentication, payment processing, and, if applicable, on-line delivery of purchased media items or license keys. Remote media content server 212 delivers media items via computer network 206 to client computer 204 upon receiving delivery instructions from e-commerce server 210 (directly or via the MMA 208).

Notice

Macsimum News presents only a brief summary of patents with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application and/or grant is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent applications and/or grants should be read in its entirety for further details.

The sole inventor listed on the patent is Avie Tevanian.

Neo's Notes

Where this could be going is what's interesting to me. The patent presents us with an example of watching an Apple QuickTime Movie Trailer and being able to pre-purchase a movie ticket. Ah, now it's getting interesting. The kind of ticket that will be available in the future is an e-ticket loaded unto your iPod. Then all that you'll have to do is simply go to the theater ticket counter, flash your iPod that has the embedded e-ticket into their ID reader, and in you go. This kind of system has been in use in Japan for more than a year now via NTT DoCoMo's iMode, which is related to i-motion and other services.

In a [url=http://www.macsimumnews.com/index.php/archive/apples_new_tron_bombshell/]Next Wave chapter[/url] last year I noted Frank Casanova stating that "Major cell phone carriers Verizon Wireless, Sprint, and Japan’s NTT DoCoMo and KDDI already use QuickTime on their servers that manage media for photo e-mailing and other new services."

So it would be appropriate at this time to take a look at some of those new services that NTT DoCoMo is offering which very much relates to where Apple's "embedded sales/marketing information technology" could lead to in the not too distant future, using a next-gen iPod.

The following are examples of NTT DoCoMo's new i-mode services using a cell-phone

Smart event-hall and theater check-in with imode FeliCa

NTT DoCoMo's i-mode FeliCa handsets can be used as tickets to cinemas and entertainment venues. Simply access i-mode before the movie to check seat availability, purchase a ticket online and download the ticket and information. At the theater, just wave your handset over the ticket-vending machine's compatible reader/writer (external device) to enter. With i-mode FeliCa, ticket purchase is effortless and you can see a movie leisurely and at ease.

image

Tickets for events

From ticket search to purchase and admission, all goes smoothly with i-mode FeliCaPIA Corporation, the ticket agency, has started the i-mode FeliCa-based e-ticketing service. Up to now, the "@e-ticket PIA" service has been providing online ticket search and purchase, as well as mobile phone-based e-ticket admission. For authentication at the e-ticket reader "Digigate", however, users had to open the exclusive use i-appli application and use infrared transmission.

By using the IC chip equipped on i-mode FeliCa, users can enter just by waving an i-mode FeliCa compatible handset across "Digigate." Compared to "@e-ticket PIA" alone, PIA Corporation now provides a smoother, more convenient service to its customers. Also available are i-mode FeliCa-based multiple services like "e-coupon" service, which relays event info and event coupons redeemed at related stores to the mobile phone of an e-ticket user.

image

Key/ID Hayakawa Estate Inc/KesakaSystems Inc

Support the total management system of apartments utilizing i-mode FeliCa Hayakawa Estate Inc. / KesakaSystems, Inc., finds i-mode FeliCa a useful base for its total management system for apartments. Instead of common house keys, just a wave of i-mode FeliCa will lock/unlock doors, display a record of residential exit and entry, time-limited entry control, and issue spare keys by email to third parties. What's more, residents can check the lockup status remotely. By using Edy e-money for utility bill payments or for credit card capabilities, it's easy to see how one i-mode FeliCa terminal turns into a mobile phone, key and wallet.

Online Shopping Sony Finance International, Inc.

image

Secure credit services are available through i-mode FeliCa. Sony Finance International, Inc. handles e-commerce settlements as well as providing credit services, leasing, and a range of insurance products. The company now adds to its services i-mode FeliCa-based online credit services. Exclusively for those members whose cards cover eLIO, the Internet credit service run by Sony Finance International, Inc., the "eLIO Order" service is an extension of the "eLIO cards", and makes it possible for the members to purchase products using i-mode FeliCa. Customers use QR codes or order codes in magazines, catalogs, and posters, access order screens for desired items from an i-mode FeliCa compatible mobile phone, and order products immediately. Since a customer handles payment with a unique ID, the risk of credit card data misuse and card theft is reduced, which leads to realizing a safe online shopping via the Internet.

i-mode FeliCa handsets can also be used for online shopping. When a product in a catalogue, magazine or poster grabs your attention, i-mode FeliCa lets you purchase it with ease at the moment of your greatest desire. A camera on the handset reads QR codes in catalogues and magazines, allowing you to access and order what you want promptly. Registering for e-money and credit card in advance, you can fully enjoy online shopping with simplified procedures ranging from ordering to payment.

The bottom line

The bottom line is that patent mentions that "These techniques can allow a user of a media management application to purchase digital media files or other subject matter based on the embedded e-commerce, information." So once this technology becomes a part of iTMS and is integrated into next-gen iPods, the iPod will have the capacity to be an e-wallet that will eventually work with systems now being implemented in grocery stores, theaters, transit systems and so forth. Obviously Apple will start off with iTune related matters such as concert and movie tickets to get us use to the technology. But it will rapidly cover other services as they work themselves through the market.

In a recent Next Wave chapter titled [url=http://www.macsimumnews.com/index.php/archive/apple_intels_idf_and_getting_personal/]"Apple, Intel's IDF and getting personal,"[/url] I briefly touched on Intel's RDFI presentation and relayed it to how Apple could and would take advantage of RDFI. This patent most certainly opens the door to the e-commerce component required to make it happen on an iPod over time.

In my view, this is crucial patent which provides us with a great peek into the beginning of where Apple could take embedded e-commerce technology in the not too distant future.

If you have an opinion or unique insight concerning today's patent, email me at neo@macsimumnews.com

 

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