No high-profile rocker has done more public obsessing over the quality of recorded sound than Neil Young. Young's first solo album used a short-lived experimental recording process, and his qualms over what he saw as the limitations of digital sound slowed down the release of his back catalog on CD. From his experiments with filmmaking to his compulsive tinkering with his own career archives, Young has also fostered a healthy reputation as something of a crackpot inventor. So maybe it's not that surprising that Young has filed for six trademarks with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, with an aim to improving recorded sound quality in the MP3 age.

The trademarks, which have such names as 21st Century Record Player, Ivanhoe, and Thanks For Listening, were filed last June. Last week, they were approved for publication as part of a formal process intended to allow anyone who may feel that Young's ideas threaten or infringe on their own work to challenge them before Young can crack his knuckles and gets down to the thrilling business of completing his official government paperwork. A few months ago, Young was at the D:Dive Into Media conference at California, talking about how "some rich guy" really ought to look into creating "an iPod for the 21st century" that would enable listeners to enjoy digital music that hadn't been compressed to the point that the technology failed to "transfer the depth of the art." Nothing would have been more out if character for Young than to leave it to some other rich guy to follow through with his idea, though he does say that he had been picking Steve Jobs' brain before his death. According to Young, Jobs and he were simpatico on the issue. "Steve Jobs was a pioneer of digital music,"Young says, "But when he went home, he listened to vinyl." [via Rolling Stone]