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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