Apple Trying To Patent Not Letting You Use Your Nike+iPod With Non-Nike Shoes

from the this-raises-some-questions dept

I know plenty of folks (including my wife) who have purchased the Nike+iPod device to use with non-Nike sneakers. The device puts a sensor in your shoe, which communicates with a separate dongle connected to your iPod (or built in to the new iPod Touch), and tracks your running stats, which you can then upload. Many Nike sneakers have a little cutout underneath the insoles where you can stick the sensor, but you can buy (or make) a little pouch and connect it to shoelaces on non-Nike shoes. However, not only is Apple thinking about ways to stop this — it’s trying to patent those ways. It’s got a patent application in for smart garments which would create basically a DRM for devices — forceably pairing a device like the Nike+iPod sensor to a specific shoe.

This seems odd for a whole variety of reasons. First, it seems positively silly for Apple to do this, as it severely limits the market for the devices, and lessens the value of the iPod. You can see why Nike might ask for it, but it’s hard to see why Apple would implement it. Second, however, is that this seems highly questionable as a patent. I mean why would you patent something that makes your product less desirable? Would Apple actually sue someone else (say, Microsoft) for doing the same thing? That would (oh no!) force Microsoft to make its product more useful and more valuable. Finally, as a patent, how is this not “obvious”? It seems like a bad idea to implement, but that doesn’t make it non-obvious. If any engineer wanted to create such a system, it wouldn’t take much thought at all. The whole thing seems rather pointless.

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Companies: apple, nike

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Comments on “Apple Trying To Patent Not Letting You Use Your Nike+iPod With Non-Nike Shoes”

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XS says:

I think this is probably more of a self-preservation technique meant to prevent some other company getting a patent on this and lock out iPod on other brand of garments. Also, this would probably give Apple a lot of pull in garment industry where they can choose to license the patent to producers that conform to their demands. Or are we really going to see iRan brand of shoes?

hegemon13 says:

Dumb move

“You can see why Nike might ask for it…”

No, I can’t actually. Presumably, Nike makes money off every sensor sold. People aren’t going to switch shoes to match the sensor. They will happily buy a different fitness product to match their preferred shoes. Making the product less valuable in the market is a dumb move, even for Nike. What they have done now is already the best option: create shoes that are already the “best” for the sensor by having the pocket built-in, but allow anyone to buy it. There are plenty of pedometers out there, and though having it connect to an iPod is convenient, it is not convenient enough to convince someone to wear shoes that don’t fit right.

Boost says:

Re: Re: Dumb move

Clearly spoken by someone who has never set foot in a pair of running shoes and went for a run longer than the distance to the couch. Nike shoes do not, I repeat, DO NOT fit everyone well. Some people’s feet fit best in New Balance, some in Addidas, etc. If you go out for more than a couple hundred yards of a run, you’re going to notice pretty soon if your brand new Nike-Irun equiped shoes are not going to make your running experience enjoyable…or even barable. Ask any running expert and they’ll tell you the biggest cause of injury in runners is shoes that do not fit correctly.

Olternaut says:

Re: Re: Re: Dumb move...EXACTLY!

If Steve were to start training for a half marathon then and only then would he suddenly realize “omg I’ve been ignorant about this!”. THEN you would see Apple come out with some serious training gear.
Oh how I wished Apple would wake up about this because I know if they would only put their mind to it they could create some INCREDIBLE training equipment that merged with their music products.

Jonathan Lang (user link) says:

Something worth considering.....

I think something you guys don’t consider is that many companies such as Apple may get patents on new ideas they are considering using no so much so that they can sue someone else if they use it, but so that someone else can’t see that they are doing it, get a patent on it themselves, and then sue the company for using the idea. Last I checked having a previous patent usually prevents or invalidates any future patents on the same concept, doesn’t it?

kurt says:

Not odd at all

You have been following apple for years. You can NOT be surprised by this. Apple keeps everything as closed as possible. That is how their business model works. You can’t buy apple computer or ipod licensed clones. You can not legally play purchased music from iTunes elsewhere. DRM on iTunes. Approval of iPhone apps before release. Recall of disliked iPhone applications. Too many more examples to mention.

The funny thing is, Apple will make even more money as the apple faithful will just buy Nikes. Fanboys will buy, and apologists will defend, Jobs will laugh all the way to the bank.

Twinrova says:

My twelve cents (inflation)

“The whole thing seems rather pointless.”

What isn’t pointless anymore?

Every day, Corporate America continues to bed each other in hopes consumers are too stupid to catch on what’s going on while overcharging them for the simplest of products.

And to think the entire point of advertising is to reduce the cost of the good, not increase it.

I’m expecting legislation to start to begin limiting how companies can advertise.

This is getting beyond frustrating.

Erik (profile) says:

Nike = Sweatshop

I will never buy Nike again after learning about their manufacturing processes. I buy New Balance shoes, they fit me better and are mostly made in the USA. Apple is shooting themselves in the foot by limiting this cool tech to Nike. I would guess that much of the push is coming from Nike to protect their special arrangement with Apple. At least, I’d hope so.

iJay says:

Not so bad

Consider the following:
a. Nike+ is definitely not a profit-oriented branch of Nike. It is actually a huge marketing machine for sneakers. Nike definitely does not earn a lot of money by selling the sensor pairs, and has running costs on the web site.
b. Apple does profit from every Nike+ pair sold, since w/o iPod, it simply will not work. Being the tech-savvy partner of the two, Apple is the one who is able to ensure the connection ipod-Nike is solid and does not get sucked up by other shoe manufacturers.
c. Given that Apple has to develop a system to authorize accessories, why shouldn’t they at least try to patent it, obviousity aside? Apple has to pay a licence fee for their “visual voicemail” feature, so it would be bordering on misconduct not to patent every single idea that is deemed interesting by more than 2 Apple Engineers. Not only can they pull in licensing fees from every company that tries the same, it can also add a patent imfringement lawsuit to everyone who tries to circumvent the mechanism it implements.

That said, from a consumer standpoint, this is totally useless. If I’d be a runner, I’d rather pay 20 bucks/y. for something like World of Joggercraft, where I can upload my running data from any shoe I like. But I don’t see anyone offering the ease-of-use, reliability and market strength on the horizon. In fact, I don’t see any competition at all.

Olternaut says:

Re: Not so bad..........PLEASE! *rollseyes*

Any competition at all? *sigh* The nike+ stuff is cute but…call me when Apple decides to get serious about tracking data from runners. Until then, if your interested in some REAL data tools for SERIOUS runners then head on over to polarusa. Suunto is also looking good. Looking at how Steve Jobs presents his nike+ products its obvious that he hasn’t ran more than a mile in his life.

Lemme see Steveo try to market that crap to Michellie Jones or Ryan Hall. Oh, it would be wonderful if I didn’t have to use a seperate mp3 player with a heart rate monitor/pace tracking plus watch set of devices. A totally unified system that played music, tracked my heart rate and pace plus had an intelligently designed software package that simplifies the data analysis process and gives you the bottomline how your training is progressing would be ideal. And with Apple’s software know how that would be simple for them to do.
But unfortunately, Steve does not seem to be able to make that mental connection.
Again, when Steve wakes up about it and decides to get serious….call me.

some old guy (user link) says:

I run alot

I run alot (5-10 miles a day), and while I don’t use it every day, I do like my nike+ thingy on my ipod. It’s especially helpful for someone like me, who can’t pace himself.

That said, I have one of those lace pouches. I’ve already gone through three pairs of running shoes since I got it. Each time I got new shoes, I actually looked for a nike+ shoe. All the ones I could find, were absurdly overpriced. I always wound up buying nike shoes, they fit me well, and I can find them cheap.

So Nike is getting my money. Apple is getting my money. So.. exactly what is this patent supposed to do for either of them? Convince a competitor to create a similar product that’s not stupidly encumbered? Alright! bring on more competition.

Keith says:


This seems like a backward move for Apple. I remember circa 2002 that Apple only had a version of iTunes that worked on Mac OS. This limited sales of the iPod to Mac users. When they made a version of itunes for the PC this spurred new growth in sales of the ipod to pc users. They seem to want to do the opposite for a product they don’t even make. Does Apple really need Nike in order for this product work? Seeing as Nike’s name is on the product allowing it to work with anyone’s shoes would be a boon for them as well.

Making this product only work with Nike shoes is the equivalent of making your Nike shoes fail if your not wearing a Nike shirt,head band and shorts. (oops maybe I gave them an idea).

casey says:

It's all moot

I’ve tried Nike+Ipod. The pedometer is inaccurate over moderate-to-long distances (a few miles or more), and the Nike shoes gave me horrible blisters.

Even the shoe salesman said that Nike is, er–let’s say, not the leader in making running shoes.

If they were to market a GPS Nike/iPod device, then I would definitely buy one. Of course, I would probably adapt it to fit in my New Balances, but that’s just me…

JK says:

Anticompetitive by definition

It is bad enough when a company works to tie a product to a particular service and keep out competition, e.g. iPod and iTunes. However, doing something to tie one product to another and prevent compatibility is well established as improper anticompetitve behavior. You can’t sell a car than was designed not to start unless it is wearing Goodyear tires (nevermind that it would be silly to do so), or if the oil isn’t changed at the selling dealer. It has been confirmed in court that you can’t use DRM and DMCA threats to keep a company from making ink or toner that works in a given brand of printer. So why should anyone be granted a patent on a way to make a product only work in proximity to a Nike shoe when the only reason to do so is to create an illegal tying arrangement?

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