Apple’s AuthenTec sells off embedded security solutions division, keeps the fingerprint & NFC tech

In July, a 10K filing showed that Apple acquired security company AuthenTec for $356 million. At the time, we noted Apple was presumably after the company’s various fingerprint-related technologies, while companies such as Samsung, Motorola, and others entered in deals with AuthenTec for its secure VPNs, encryption algorithms, and security-related products. Today, NFCWorld (via TechCrunch) reported Authentec has now sold its embedded security solutions division to NFC company Inside Secure. The sale would seem to indicate that Apple was indeed specifically after the company’s fingerprint and NFC solutions:

The sale suggests that Apple’s interest in acquiring Authentec lies with the company’s innovative combined fingerprint and NFC solution, which is not part of the division being acquired by Inside Secure, and will lead to renewed speculation that Apple will include NFC in future iPhones and other devices…. NFC and contactless chip provider Inside Secure is to acquire the embedded security systems division of Authentec, the fingerprint and secure solutions specialist which Apple agreed to buy for US$356m in July 2012. The transaction is valued at up to US$48m.

To get a hold of AuthenTec’s Embedded Security Solutions Division, Inside Secure will reportedly pay $38 million in cash and another $10 million “subject to completion of certain post-closing transactions.” Products the division is responsible for are currently used in hundreds of millions of mobile and networking devices worldwide, with customers ranging from Samsung, Nokia, LG, and Motorola to HBO, Cisco, and Texas Instruments. Last year, the division brought in sales of $25.3 million. Read more

Apple pressures EU regulators to set FRAND licensing rules

After taking a beating by Motorola over FRAND patents this month, Apple issued a letter to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute asking the body to establish consistent royalty fees for patents deemed essential to wireless standards, reported the Wall Street Journal. The body has a role in setting the standards related to GSM, 3G UMTS, and 4G LTE radio technologies.

Apple is involved in nasty patent disputes with Motorola, HTC and Samsung in courtrooms around the world, and it previously asserted in court documents that handset maker Motorola refused to license its essential patents on “Fair, Reasonable, and Nondiscriminatory” (FRAND) nature at rates offered to Nokia, Samsung and other vendors. According to the Journal:

Many mobile technology companies, such as Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., hold patents that became part of industry-wide standards. Standards bodies often require the patent holders to offer to license their patents to any company on a basis known as Frand, or fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory. Questions about such commitments have arisen amid a flurry of patent suits between rivals in the mobile-device market.

Apple’s lawyer wrote in the letter: “It is apparent that our industry suffers from a lack of consistent adherence to FRAND principles in the cellular standards arena.” A copy of Apple’s letter was posted online by the FOSS Patents blog. Motorola recently likened its enforcement of FRAND patents to bank robbery: “It only takes one bullet to kill.” Samsung and Motorola reportedly demanded that Apple pay a 2.4 percent and 2.25 percent royalty, respectively, illustrating what the iPhone maker called are unreasonable FRAND licensing terms.

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Apple researching social fitness tech sporting real-time sharing of performance data for competitive workouts

In the future, hitting the gym along with your iPhone-toting pals could spur competitiveness in ways unlike ever before. Apple’s mobile devices run a variety of fitness apps and third parties provide useful accessories ranging from casual jogging to some serious working out. Not content with resting on its laurels, Apple is looking to ratchet it up a notch with a new patent filing titled “Interfacing Portable Media Devices And Sports Equipment” that surfaced Thursday in the United States Trademark and Patent Office database.

It outlines new fitness technology letting you share performance data with your friends in real-time, as you are working out. Mentioning that traditional sharing through a third-party website is so last century, the filing goes on to describe immediate data sync between friends exercising on a similar equipment. Moreover, unlike Apple’s fitness center app patent or this fitness freak filing, it does not even pretend to mention Nike+. This suggests Apple could be developing its own solution that might some day augment or even replace Nike’s technology with numerous bells and whistles.

Fancy yourself working out on a treadmill next to your boss and being able to brag about your lower heart rate and blood pressure all the while covering greater distances. Heck, you could be even working out at your local gym while boss is running on a treadmill at his office in Tanzania.

Speaking of competitiveness…

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Apple gets a break as EU antitrust watchdog launches full-blown probe into Samsung over essential 3G patents

European Union regulators today announced the launch of a formal investigation of Samsung over mobile patents to determine whether the South Korean conglomerate breached EU antitrust rules in its legal dealings with competitors. The investigation is focused on so-called FRAND patents, a common rule that stipulates a patent applying to the standard must be adopted on “fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms” (FRAND). According to the press release, EU regulators want to figure out whether Samsung “used certain of its standard essential patent rights to distort competition in European mobile device markets, in breach of EU antitrust rules.”

The Commission reminds that Samsung a decade ago promised to let rivals license its mobile patents under FRAND terms. The full-blown investigation comes in the light of the lawsuits Samsung filed against Apple at courts in Germany, France, the Netherlands and other countries around the world, asserting copyright infringement related to patents essential to wireless telecommunications standards.

The case is “a matter of priority,” the document reads. Patent blogger explained, “The European Commission can’t wait until Samsung finally wins a ruling based on such a patent and enforces it, potentially causing irreparable harm.” The full text of the European Commission Antitrust Commission announcement can be found below.

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Does Siri infringe old Excite patents?

Shawn Carolan of Menlo Ventures, an investor in Siri Inc., prior to Apple acquiring the company, recently sat down on Bloomberg to discuss the technology. Apart from talking about the initial demo that attracted him to the investment and meeting Siri Co-Founder Norman Winarsky, Bloomberg host Cory Johnson pressed him on exactly how Siri is able to take voice-recognition data and determine intent.

Around the 3:20 mark, Carolan discussed Siri’s unique approach of taking all words as “one big block” and mapping “those strings of words across” a group of 10 domains of expertise. This approach sounds familiar to at least one technology journalist who claimed the method is similar to patents owned by search portal Excite in 1994. Robert Cringely explained:

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Apple granted patents related to solar, multi-touch, and iOS devices

Apple has won 16 new patents published by the the US Patent and Trademark Office today (via PatentlyApple) that cover everything from possible methods of charging future Apple products via solar power, to key multi-touch technology and iOS camera related patents. Certainly more fuel for the ongoing patent wars between Apple and the rest of the smartphone industry.

We already know Apple is experimenting with solar power from past patents, even going as far as considering which company would produce panels for future products. We also heard reports in March of a superthin solar panel layer from French company Wysips that could be rolling out to handset manufactures within a year. Today one of the 16 newly granted patents gets us a step closer by detailing “methods and apparatuses for operating devices with solar power”.

PatentlyApple explains:

“a solar power tracking apparatus includes, but is not limited to, a voltage converter and a controller coupled to the voltage converter. The voltage converter includes an input capable of being coupled to a solar power source and an output capable of being coupled to an electronic load, such as, for example, a portable electronic device. The voltage converter is configured to monitor or detect an amount of power drawn by the electronic load at the output of the voltage converter. In response to the monitored power drawn, the controller is configured to control the voltage converter to reduce amount of power to be drawn subsequently if the monitored amount of power exceeds a predetermined threshold. As a result, the output voltage from the solar power source is maintained within a predetermined range.”

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Apple goes to court in Netherlands to ban Samsung’s Galaxy devices from all of the EU


Apple is intent on stopping Samsung from marketing and selling “copycat” Galaxy devices in all of the European Union.

Apple has already tried to ban the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in most of Europe (injunction lifted), but today they are going even farther with their legal proceedings, asking a Dutch court to ban all Galaxy series devices. The ban includes the widely popular Galaxy S II, which has seen some success in Europe.

Apple’s complaint, seen by Webwereld, a Dutch IDG publication, seeks an injunction for the entire Galaxy series. This includes smartphones — the Galaxy Ace, Galaxy S and Galaxy SII — and tablets: the Galaxy Tab 7 and Galaxy Tab 10.1. Other Galaxy devices, like the Gio, Nexus, 551, Europa, Apollo and Mini are also involved, albeit only in a footnote in which Apple states, “It is expected that these devices are also covered by one or more of the patent rights invoked.”

On top of trying to ban sales, Apple is trying to push the thought of Samsung sending a letter to all of their partnered retailers within 14 days to end sales. Stated strongly:

For the record we would like to mention the fact that by storing, offering and/or selling of the above mentioned Galaxy smartphones [and tablets], you commit infringement of the intellectual property rights of Apple Inc.

The trial will take place in The Hague, Netherlands September 15th, and the judge said  if he grants any injunctions, they would take effect no sooner than October 13, reported Webwereled (via Computerworld)

Who has the most patents? Apple sues despite smaller patent portfolio

It’s no secret patent-related legal disputes have become the subject of most media coverage lately…Whether it’s Apple halting sales of Samsung’s tablets, HTC going after Apple, or Google snatching up Motorola to beef up their patent portfolio, it’s clear the company with the most patents will have an advantage over others in the legal proceedings that we’re bound to continue encountering down the road. This is why we’re intrigued by the graphic above (via GigaOM) from mobile analyst Chetan Sharma charting the number of issued patents (in the US and Europe) between 1993 and 2011.

While these estimates of mobile communications related patents don’t take the quality of patents into account (which is obviously a huge factor in determining their long-term value), you can see from the breakdown below that Nokia and Samsung top the list, with the other expected players including IBM, Microsoft, Sony, Motorola, and Intel following.

Noticeably far down the list is Apple, the one company who seems to have had more success than others fighting patent-related issues recently. Again, these numbers in no way represent the quality of patents and the ability for companies to protect their IPs in the courtroom… which is also a good indication that perhaps we should be looking more closely at the quality of patents rather than the sheer number.

Recently patent expert Florian Mueller took to Twitter following the Google/Motorola acquisition saying he“would caution everyone against overestimating the strength of Motorola Mobility’s patent portfolio,”  he continued, “Apple and Microsoft sued Motorola Mobility anyway”. Remember kids… all patents aren’t created equally.
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Apple Patents: iPhone antenna clip, fingerprint reducing display coating, and solar power

A few more interesting Apple Inc-filed patents have surfaced today (via Patently Apple) as part of the many applications published by the US Patent & Trademark Office recently. Perhaps the most notable include a design for an iPhone antenna clip, new finger reducing oil resistant coating, and a patent describing using solar energy as an alternate power source in portable devices (something we know Apple has been researching from patents and other sources in the past).

One of the more interesting patents with technology that could (and probably should) make its way to iOS devices in the near future is a the method of reducing “finger oils on touch surfaces”. The patent describes Apple’s method of “Direct Liquid Vaporization for Oleophobic Coatings”. Fingerprints have seem to become less of an issue to iPhone users over the years, but are definitely still a major annoyance to users in less than desirable lighting conditions.

From the report:

Apple states that to prevent the deposition of oils on an electronic device surface, an oleophobic ingredient could be bonded to the electronic device surface. The oleophobic ingredient could be provided as part of a raw liquid material in one or more concentrations. To avoid adverse reactions due to exposure to air, heat, or humidity, the raw liquid material can be placed in a bottle purged with an inert gas during the manufacturing process.

The image below shows what appears to be an antenna attached to a small device’s housing via an “attachment member”. Patently Apple reports Apple states the antenna invention could be used in “their iPod family (MP3 players), a radio, an audio/video recorder, a mobile telephone, personal digital assistant, tablet computing device, or other similar device”. They also speculate from the “exploded view above that it might even be an “iPhone-nano-like device”.
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Apple granted iOS related patents for displays and voicemail

Today the US Patent and Trademark Office posted 20 new patents granted to Apple Inc, two of which are valuable patents related to the iPhone, iPad, and iOS. Patents like these have been becoming more important as mobile device manufacturers take each other to court.

According a report from Patently Apple, the three most noteworthy of the patents include one for integrated touch screen technology that allows the display to be “thinner, brighter and require less power” and require less parts to manufacture, another is related to the “Voicemail Manager” for iPhone, and the last appears to be related to “improved installation, retention and removal of hardware components” in Mac Pro or other tower-like personal computers.

Perhaps the most notable of the three is the “Integrated Touch Screen” patent. Below is a snippet of Apple’s summary from Patently Apple.

Apple’s Summary: The patent relates to touch sensing circuitry integrated into the display pixel stackup (i.e., the stacked material layers forming the display pixels) of a display, such as an LCD display. Circuit elements in the display pixel stackups could be grouped together to form touch sensing circuitry that senses a touch on or near the display. Touch sensing circuitry could include, for example, touch signal lines, such as drive lines and sense lines, grounding regions, and other circuitry.

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Quark gets acquired by mergers and acquisitions firm, Apple could benefit

Remember Quark? The developer of popular publishing software QuarkXPress has been sold to merger and acquisition firm Platinum Equity, and, according to a report from Techcrunch, the company is already focusing on finding a new home for the Quark’s IP. In the midst of heated patent battles between smartphone makers, what might the patents and technologies owned by Quark have to offer Apple?

Magazine and newspaper subscriptions are a big focus for Apple, it’s clear with the introduction of Newsstand in iOS 5, an app dedicated to helping manage digital subscriptions. Quark recently launched their QuarkXPress 9 publishing software that will allow publications to “design for and publish to digital devices in a variety of formats”, specifically the iPad, “without requiring the services of a programmer.”

Apple has helped Quark in the past, offering their services to get the publishing platform working on Mac OSX.

The majority of large publications have millions in funding behind them when creating the digital version of their magazines for the iPad. However, if Apple were to integrate Quark software into an SDK specifically for publishers, the subscriptions market on iOS devices might closer resemble the ecosystem currently in place for games. In other words, giving developers without millions in funding the “tools to convert existing layouts to rich, interactive content — or create new iPad content from scratch” may bring with it a rush of quality content with subscription models much more attractive to users than those offered by the larger publications.

Apple is clearly making digital subscriptions a focus in iOS 5 with Newsstand Kit, which provides the ability update issues in the background and auto-update subscriptions, but the SDK certainly falls short of everything Quark software could offer publishers.
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Samsung drops counter-suit against Apple to speed up legal proceedings

In April, Apple originally filed a lawsuit against Samsung saying Samsung’s Galaxy Tab copied the iPhone and iPad. Soon after, Samsung filed a counter-patent suit against Apple and asked to see the iPhone 5 and iPad 3. Seeing the unreleased devices was denied by a judge earlier this year. This week Samsung has dropped their counter-patent suit.

The suit was dropped on June 30th, but Samsung will continue to fight patents with an earlier counter-patent suit.  While Samsung dropped the suit in the U.S., it won’t affect other patent suits they have. Besides the U.S., Samsung has lawsuits against Apple in South Korea, Japan, Germany, and the U.K.

Samsung’s spokesperson Nam Ki Yung told Bloomberg the counter-suit was dropped “to streamline the legal proceedings”. Nam also told Bloomberg, “Samsung will continue to actively defend and protect our intellectual property”.