A patent has been published which implies that Apple may soon bolster its game rentals service through iTunes.

At the moment, there are 20 games available through the iTunes Store for use with the latest line of iPods, in addition to a dozen others reserved exclusively for the old fifth-genration iPod classics.

But the introduction of the delayed iPhone and iPod touch software developers kit will open the floodgates for perhaps hundreds of possible games; and Apple is making preparations for this.

The patent describes a method that would automatically determine which games on the iTunes Store are compatible with iPods or iPhones tied to a customer's iTunes software.

It would also determine, and automatically update, games that had previously been purchased by a user as soon as these updates are available.

And the rental side of things will also be developed.

"One aspect of the invention pertains to acquiring compatible game software for a portable electronic device by way of an electronic download from a server device to a client device. Subsequently, the game software is provided from the client device to the portable electronic device", writes Christopher Wysocki, the Los Gatos-based Apple employee behind the patent.

"The acquisition of the game software can be through on-line purchase or rental from the server device, which can host an on-line media store. Another aspect of the invention pertains to acquiring updates to game software that has previously been acquired and provided to a portable electronic device."

"Game software updates for a plurality of different hardware platforms are available from a server device. A client device associated with the portable electronic device can interact with the server device to obtain any game software updates that correspond to the hardware platform utilized by the portable electronic device associated with the client device."

Wysocki's adds that a client device will be able to provide "automated backup storage for game play data produced on an associated portable electronic device" and that "game performance data associated with a user's performance of a game on a portable electronic device can be provided to a game server by way of a client device associated with the portable electronic device".

No comment from Apple as yet.