Apple has been granted a patent for its iTunes Store interface, almost eight years after the company filed the application in 2004.

Apple’s patent is for “Graphical user interface for browsing, searching and presenting media items,” according to the official document published by the US Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday.

The patent’s abstract reads: “Improved graphical user interfaces suitable for reviewing, browsing, previewing and/or purchasing media items are also disclosed. The graphical user interfaces are suitable for reviewing or browsing numerous media items. The graphical user interfaces are also suitable for previewing or purchasing media items in an on-line manner. The graphical user interfaces are particularly useful for a system that provides purchase and distribution of media in a client-server environment.”

In other words, Apple has, at long last, won the patent for its iTunes Store, which was first launched as the iTunes Music Store back in April 2003.

Apple describes its iTunes Store interface in great detail, describing the advantages of the invention: “One advantage of the invention is that purchased media items are able to be securely downloaded to a user's machine. Another advantage of the invention is that media items can be purchased with a single user interface action. Still another advantage of the invention is that media items available for purchase can be searched or browsed in an efficient, user-friendly manner. Yet another advantage of the invention is that media items having offensive content or descriptors can be distinguishably displayed and/or altered to signal the presence of or remove of the offensive matter.”

The patent document concludes: “Since numerous modifications and changes will readily occur to those skilled in the art, the invention should not be limited to the exact construction and operation as illustrated and described. Hence, all suitable modifications and equivalents may be resorted to as falling within the scope of the invention,” suggesting that Apple will continue to develop and improve the iTunes Store.

Apple credits Jeffery L. Robbin, Dave Heller, Peter K. Wagner and Mike Wiese as the inventors of the patented interface.

It has recently emerged that Apple is working on the iTunes 11, the next major release of iTunes for Mac and PC. This is welcome news for struggling iTunes users, who are hoping for a complete overhaul in the next update after having difficulties with the software.