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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 May, 2004, 14:16 GMT 15:16 UK
Microsoft in apple patent blunder
Bill Gates
Software giant Microsoft has won apple patent rights - not those of its arch-rival Apple computer - but a special variety of fruit tree.

Microsoft's apparent new horticultural interest came after the US Patent Office mistakenly granted it the rights to the "Burchinal Red Delicious" apple. US Plant Patent 14,757 was supposed to be granted to Robert Burchinal of East Wenatchee, Washington, instead.

Paperwork was misfiled with a group of applications from a legal firm.

The tree is notable for producing fruit that achieves a deep red colour - remarkably similar, one would imagine, to the blushes on the faces of the lawyers responsible.

The tree was discovered in the early 1990s in the Wenatchee area, famous for its apple-growing.

Branching out

The tree's fruit is sold commercially as the "Adams Apple" and there are currently about 1,000 samples of the tree growing in the area of Wenatchee.

Wenatchee, which prides itself on being "the apple capital of the world", lies about 90 miles east of Microsoft's home town of Redmond.

If the patent application really had been from Microsoft it would have taken its battle with rival software giant Apple to a whole new level.

Intellectual property rights have been at the forefront of Microsoft's drive to protect itself and boost cash flow.

However, its brief foray into the gardening world is likely to be a one-off as the company has no known strategy to branch out into fruits, plants or shrubs.

Microsoft said it was arranging a 'certificate of correction' with the Patent Office which will ensure the apple tree rights are soon back with the rightful owner.

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