Apple Files for "iPhone" Patent Protection

Apple Computer, maker of the uber-popular iPod digital music player, has filed a patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in relation to a device that could prove to be the hyped-up "iPhone"--a combination of the iPod and a mobile phone--industry analysts and pundits have been speculating on for months, Bloomberg.com reports.

Said patent--made publicly available on Thursday--was filed with the USPTO back in August, and it relates to a separate patent filed in the summer of 2004, according to Bloomberg.

Analysts and writers have suggested that Apple may offer up the iPhone as early as January, and that Apple CEO Steve Jobs could unveil the device at the Cupertino, Calif.-based firm's MacWorld conference that month. It has also been reported that Apple already ordered some 12 million iPhones from Chinese electronics manufacturer Hon Hai Precision Industry.

An Apple spokesperson did not comment on Bloomberg's request for additional information regarding the patent filing.

The device Apple is attempting to patent will be "tube-like" in form and built of zirconia and alumina so it will be "cost-effective, smaller, lighter, stronger and aesthetically more pleasing" than existing music phone designs, Bloomberg reports. Zirconia casing on the outside of the device could also be colored to make it more visually appealing, according to Bloomberg.

Apple's newest iPod nanos are available in a variety of colors, and they're also encased in metal.

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