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.