Apple patented by Microsoft

Calm down--it's not that Apple, it's an actual, edible apple. An entire tree: the Burchinal Red Delicious. By Microsoft. At least that's what the patent says.

Apparently, intellectual property does grow on trees.

Microsoft, amid an IP spree that has won the company patent protection for everything from XML dialects to video game storage methods, mistakenly received a patent on Tuesday for a new variety of apple tree.

U.S. Plant Patent 14,757, granted to Robert Burchinal of East Wenatchee, Wash., and assigned to Microsoft, covers a new type of tree discovered in the early 1990s in the Wenatchee area, a major commercial apple-growing region. Dubbed the "Burchinal Red Delicious," the tree is notable for producing fruit that achieves a deep red color significantly earlier than other varieties. It is sold commercially as the "Adams Apple."

According to the patent, there are currently about 1,000 samples of the tree growing in the area of Wenatchee, a rural town about 90 miles east of Microsoft's home base of Redmond.

Other than the assignee field, the patent makes no reference to Microsoft to explain the software giant's apparent new horticultural interest.

Burchinal declined to comment on the patent, but a member of his household said the Microsoft assignation was likely an error.

A Microsoft representative confirmed that the assigning of the patent to the company was a mistake, after the apple paperwork was misfiled with a group of applications from a legal firm commonly used by the software giant. Microsoft has filed with the Patent Office for a certificate of correction to re-assign the patent to Burchinal, the representative said.

The apple claim, however brief, is the first botanical entry in Microsoft's patent portfolio. But the software giant has been a prolific patent generator in other areas. The company embarked on a campaign late last year to generate more revenue from its patent portfolio, offering to license widely used inventions such as its ClearType font technology and FAT storage format.

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