Apple patent covers hidden biometric sensor, fingerprint tech for security & wallet applications

With Apple’s $356 million purchase of mobile security firm AuthenTec, for its nearly 200 patents covering fingerprint and sensor technologies, there has been a lot of talk about how Apple might integrate the technology into future devices. Adding to the rumors are recent reports that Apple signed a deal with Sydney, Australia-based Microlatch to develop NFC apps using its fingerprint authentication tech. Today, we get a look at some possible areas Apple might be exploring with the technology thanks to a patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and detailed by Patently Apple.

As highlighted in the image above, Apple’s patent covers a hidden color-matched or transparent “window”—next to the iPhone’s home button in this case—that could reveal “components by causing the electronic window to change opacity, allowing the components to suddenly appear as from out of nowhere.” In other words, Apple could build a biometric sensor or camera into a device’s bezel but have it remain invisible to the user—at least when not in use. One embodiment of the invention described using fingerprint tech during the unlocking process (pictured right):

In Apple’s patent FIGS. 12 and 13 shown below we see a biometric sensor in context with a fingerprint reader which is initially concealed behind a closed window on an iPhone. Upon the iPhone’s activation in a locked state, a lock screen 160 may be displayed requesting a user to slide a finger across the display to unlock the device. The electronic device may request user authentication to access the handheld device. The device may then display an instruction screen requesting that a user provide biometric data via their fingerprint which will be read by the fingerprint reader.

The patent also covers similar methods using face recognition and eye recognition rather than fingerprint sensors; the invention would also not be limited to unlocking devices. The patent continued by describing e-commerce and wallet applications, which would line up with the earlier reports regarding Microlatch: Read more

Samsung employs protesters to ‘wake up’ Apple users?

UPDATE:  Samsung just officially denied any involvement with the “Wake Up” protest held outside of an Australian Apple Store earlier this week. According to SlashGear, the company stepped forth Friday and denied any ties to the affair: ”Samsung Electronics Australia has nothing to do with the ‘Wake-Up Campaign’.” Read more at 9to5Mac.

Samsung reportedly hired marketing agency Tongue to lead an advertising campaign for its upcoming Galaxy S III launch, and its first demonstration occurred at an Apple Store in Australia earlier this week, but the event resembled more of a protest or call to arms, rather than a promotional stunt.

A mysterious black bus donning the phrase “WAKE UP,” coupled with hordes of chanters waving coordinating signs in the air, roamed through the streets of Sydney on April 22. The show paraded in front of George Street’s Apple store and left the entire city in confusion.

According to Australian website mUmBRELLA, the staged fuss also boasted a series of billboards posted around the area, as well as “WAKE UP” written on the bottom of Bondi Ice Bergs’ pool, and an equally-mystifying website at wake-up-australia.com.au. The URL is registered to ad agency New Dialogue, which underwent rebranding and now goes by the name “Tongue.”

The website allegedly counts down the Galaxy S III launch, but it is set to end at 3 p.m. May 6. The highly anticipated Android-powered smartphone is the primary rival to Apple’s iPhone, and it is unveiling May 3 in London, so circulating rumors indicate the “WAKE UP” countdown is actually the device’s landing date for Australian markets.

Samsung previously hosted a teaser website at tgeltaayehxnx.com, which is anagram for “the new galaxy,” that also contained a countdown. It redirected users to thenextgalaxy.com when the clock ran out last Monday. Samsung embedded a video on the subsequent page that promised its next Galaxy device will “stand out from everyone else” while depicting a slew of sheep in a field for the closing frame. The imagery and language is a definite jab at iPhone users, who are often mocked as “iSheep,” over speculation that they blindly follow Apple.

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Federal Judge lifts Samsung Galaxy Tab ban in Australia, Apple appeals

A new twist in the Apple vs. Samsung legal proceedings spanning more than two dozen lawsuits across continents as the Federal Court in Australia lifted sales ban on Samsung’s Galaxy Tab tablet today. The court unanimously overturned a ruling last month from Justice Annabelle Bennett which required that Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 be banned from sale in Australia.

Sydney Morning Hearld quoted the ruling:

Samsung will be permitted to launch the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia provided it keeps accounts of all transactions involving that device in Australia.

Samsung’s Australian subsidiary says it is “pleased with today’s unanimous decision”. Reacting to the decision, Apple plans on appealing to the High Court. The Federal Court also honored Apple’s request that its injunction remain in effect until Friday at 4pm, to allow the company time to prepare an appeal. A full hearing on copycat accusations is set for March 2012, which could still result in a permanent injunction.
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Apple’s EU Honeycomb sue-age may carry a huge risk

Yesterday, Apple blocked Samsung’s Galaxy Tab in the EU as it had in Australia previously. Today, it is blocking Motorola’s XOOM.

According to Reuters, this is a high risk strategy for Apple maintaining its market share lead. The cases could take months, if not years to come to court and Apple will have to provide more substantial evidence in subsequent court cases that the design of the Galaxy infringed its patents or copied their designs in order to make any bans permanent. So, they aren’t done deals. And if Apple Loses, it will owe Samsung a lot of money.

If Apple loses it will be liable for the business lost by Samsung in the meantime.

“Apple has a strategy of filing patents, getting some protection and trying to prevent other people from entering the market in the short-term,” said Nathan Mattock, an intellectual property lawyer at Marque Lawyers in Sydney. “If Apple’s wrong it will have to pay Samsung a considerable amount of damages, so it’s potentially quite risky.”

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