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Apple patents reveal interest in pre-owned market

Company looking at ways for users to sell rights to games, books and music

Information from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office suggests that Apple is one step closer to finding a way to let users sell their pre-owned content to each other.

Apple Insider uncovered the patent, which concerns passing the rights to digital content between users, essentially allowing them to sell them on or even loan them to each other.

"Techniques are provided for managing access to a digital content item (such as an ebook, music, movie, software application) to be transferred from one user to another."

Crucial to the process is that once the user has sold say a game, they can no longer access it.

"The transferor is prevented from accessing the digital content item after the transfer occurs. The entity that sold the digital content item to the transferor enforces the access rights to the digital content item by storing data that establishes which user currently has access to the digital content item. After the change in access rights, only the transferee is allowed access to the digital content item."

"As part of the change in access rights, the transferee may pay to obtain access to the digital content item. A portion of the proceeds of the "resale" may be paid to the creator or publisher of the digital content item and/or the entity that originally sold the digital content item to the original owner."

The patent covers a number of scenarios (using the examples of Jeff and Sally) in which the original publisher of the content and intermediaries receive different cuts of the resale. There are even a clauses covering "limited edition" content and games specifically.

"As another example, Sally may only consume the digital content item while Sally's device (that is consuming the digital content item) is near one of Jeff's devices (e.g., that was used to copy or transfer the digital content item for Sally). This may be useful in games that can only be played with or nearby the original owner or in an educational setting where students can only, for example, watch a movie in the presence of a school teacher (who may be the original owner)."

Apple is still no doubt a long way off making these patents a reality for users, but the fact that such a powerful platform holder is looking into the sale of pre-owned digital goods suggest a major turning point is on its way.

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Rachel Weber avatar

Rachel Weber

Senior Editor

Rachel Weber has been with GamesIndustry since 2011 and specialises in news-writing and investigative journalism. She has more than five years of consumer experience, having previously worked for Future Publishing in the UK.