Apple explores customizable layers for future Apple Maps app – new patent application

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We’re pretty selective in the Apple patent applications we cover here, simply because Apple patents all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons, and for every one of them that makes it into an Apple product, there are hundreds of others that never will. But this is one we think might.

The core concept is nothing new: layered maps. The existing Apple Maps app already allows us to choose between standard mapping, satellite view or both, and Google Maps on the web allows us to switch on or off layers like traffic, weather, public transit lines and so on. But what the Apple patent application describes would, if you’ll excuse the pun, take this idea to a whole new level …  Read more

Apple working on innovative solar charging system for MacBooks, iPads and iPhones

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An innovative approach to solar charging revealed in an Apple patent application published today (via Patently Apple) could make it more practical to power both MacBooks and iOS devices from the sun.

The voltage and power generated by a solar panel varies with the amount of sunlight. To turn the power supply into something that can safely be used by an electronic device, you need a converter or regulator to deliver the correct specs to the device, adding cost and bulk to the panel.

What the Apple patent describes is building the necessary power management circuitry into the MacBook, iPad or iPhone so that it can accept whatever power the panel supplies. This potentially allows for cheaper and more portable panels …  Read more

Samsung fails to obtain Presidential veto from Obama for Apple/ITC import ban case

Samsung-Gavel

With a U.S. import ban previously issued by the ITC set to lock out certain Samsung devices at midnight last night, Bloomberg reports that the company has failed to obtain a veto from President Barack Obama:

The Korean company had argued that the ban should be overturned on public policy grounds, especially since a similar order it won against Apple was vetoed by the administration in August. Samsung can now seek a delay in the ban from a U.S. appeals court that will consider the entire case on legal grounds.

“After carefully weighing policy considerations, including the impact on consumers and competition, advice from agencies, and information from interested parties, I have decided to allow” the import ban to proceed, Obama’s designee, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman, said in a statement today.

In August, the US International Trade Commission ruled in favor of Apple and issued a sales ban on certain infringing Samsung devices in a long-running case that stemmed from a countersuit originally filed by Apple back in 2011. The news came shortly after the Obama administration’s decision to veto an ITC import ban on certain iPhone and iPad models that Samsung won in a separate case. Like Apple, Samsung was going to attempt to get a veto on the decision by the US President, the only person with the power to overturn ITC import bans.  Read more

Apple’s motion to intervene in Lodsys cases is thrown out

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Ars Technica is reporting that a judge has denied Apple’s request to intervene in Lodsys’ current patent disputes against app developers. Apple originally filed a motion to step in to the case in June, 2011. However, the judge has disregarded Apple’s statements saying that it is out of the scope of the active trial in an order dated September 24th.

Apple continues to oppose the alleged patent infringements, saying that their license covers third-party developers to use their technology. The contention in the current ruling was a debate of scope. Apple was insisting that its motion was on behalf of all iOS developers, not just the seven developers in the current cases.

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Apple invents a flexible material to create truly seamless enclosures for MacBooks & other products

The US Patent & Trademark Office today published a new Apple patent application (via PatentlyApple) that details a flexible material that could be used as a hinge to create a seamless enclosure for devices like the MacBook, for example. Apple details a technical process of using specialized machinery to laser cut “flex apertures” and interlocking features in a rigid material to allow it to bend and function as a hinge. On top of creating a seamless enclosure, Apple claims the process would allow it to reduce the size of devices that are often increased due to traditional hinge solutions. Imagine if the enclosure of a MacBook didn’t include that black plastic hinge and instead appeared to be a seamless piece of aluminium connecting the display to the bottom half of the unibody.

While MacBooks might seem like the obvious application for Apple’s invention, it also notes the usual list of devices that could potentially use the technology including everything from smartphones to televisions and game consoles. The patent also shows the material being used on headphone cables to allow a flexible connection from the cable to the earbud to prevent damage, and on what appears to be an iPad Smart Cover-like accessory: Read more

Obama administration vetoes Apple iPhone 4, 3G iPad 2 U.S. import ban

President Obama and Vice President Biden with an iPhone

President Obama and Vice President Biden with an iPhone

United States President Barack Obama and his administration have issued a veto on a potential ban for iPhone 4 and 3G-capable iPad 2 models in the United States. The news comes by way of a notice from the U.S. Government. The official ruling comes from Michael Froman, a trade representative for the United States:

In addition, on January 8, 2013, the Department of Justice and United States Patent and Trademark Office issued an important Policy Statement entitled “Policy Statement on Remedies for Standard-Essential Patents Subject to Voluntary FRAND Commitments” (“Policy Statement”).2 The Policy Statement makes clear that standards, and particularly voluntary consensus standards set by standards developing organizations (“SDO”), have incorporated important technical advances that are fundamental to the interoperability of many of the products on which consumers have come to rely, including the types of devices that are the subject of the Commission’s determination. The Policy Statement expresses substantial concerns, which I strongly share, about the potential harms that can result from owners of standards­essential patents (“SEPs”) who have made a voluntary commitment to offer to license SEPs on terms that are fair, reasonable, and non­discriminatory (“FRAND”), gaining undue leverage and engaging in “patent hold­up”, i.e., asserting the patent to exclude an implementer of the standard from a market to obtain a higher price for use of the patent than would have been possible before the standard was set, when alternative technologies could have been chosen. At the same time, technology implementers also can cause potential harm by, for example, engaging in “reverse hold­up” (“hold­out”), e. g., by constructive refusal to negotiate a FRAND license with the SEP owner or refusal to pay what has been determined to be a FRAND royalty.

The would be, no-longer affected Apple devices include the iPhone 4, iPhone 3GS, iPad 2 3G, and the original 3G-capable iPad. This ruling mostly affects the iPad 2 and the iPhone 4 as those are the pertinent products that Apple actually currently sells in the U.S. The President’s block of the ITC ban is the first block of this kind since the 1987 Reagan administration.

Newer iPhone and iPad models, such as the iPhone 5 and 3rd/4th generation iPad, are not affected because they use a different cellular chipset design.

Both Apple and Samsung have both responded to the news. 

You can read the full letter from the government below:

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