‘Steve Jobs’ iPhone patent used against Samsung/Motorola invalidated by US patent office, could affect lawsuits

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In October, as pointed out in Samsung filings with U.S. District Lucy Koh, we told you that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issued a non-final decision that declared 20 claims related to Apple’s rubber-banding patent invalid. While Samsung and Apple were back in court yesterday regarding post-trial motions, today FossPatents reported (via MacRumors) the USPTO has issued another non-final ruling declaring yet another Apple multitouch patent invalid.

This time it’s a touchscreen patent, commonly called “the Steve Jobs patent,” that courts previously deemed valid in cases against Samsung and Motorola in the past:

This week, the USPTO issued a first Office action rejecting all 20 claims of U.S. Patent No. 7,479,949 on a “touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics”, which has been referred to by many people, including Apple’s own lawyers, as “the Steve Jobs patent”.

The touchscreen heuristics ‘949 patent has also been asserted against Motorola. Judge Posner declared large parts of the patent invalid and identified only some minor potential infringement on Motorola’s part that he decided would not warrant injunctive relief even if Apple prevailed on whatever little was left of its related claims. Read more

Apple invents advanced presence detection system with intelligent zooming and more

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple today that covers various methods of detecting a user’s presence and augmenting the user experience accordingly. Apple has covered face recognition and presence detection systems in various patent applications in the past, notably for multi-user logins, security features, and an Android-like face unlock feature. Today’s patent application covers even more implementations of Apple’s presence detection technology that would utilize ultrasonic sensors, microwave radar, and camera and audio systems to detect and identify the user. PatentlyApple covered the highlights of the patent including the ability to activate or augment features using presence detection:

In some embodiments, the device may also be configured to track the user movements (e.g., position and velocity) and, in response to certain movements, provide feedback and/or enter or change a state of operation. For example, movement toward the device may activate more features, such as providing more options/menus in a user interface, whereas movement away from the device may reduce the number of features available to a user, such as reducing the number of menus/options and/or reducing or increasing the size of the options displayed.

PatentlyApple also described another interesting possible implementation that would allow for intelligent zooming based on the movement of the user: Read more

Apple takes a cue from users, invents packaging that doubles as iPhone/iPad dock

A number of Apple patents and applications have been published today, one of which details an interesting new design for the packaging of iOS devices that would also double as a stand or dock of sorts. The patent application was originally filed in May 2011, but it was published today by the United States Patent and Trademark Office and detailed by PatentlyApple. The image above is pretty self-explanatory, showing iPod nano-like packaging with a removable lid and base that transform into a dock or stand for the device. It appears the dock would act as a permanent solution, with the image above showing room to accommodate a charging cable as well as small parts to hold the device snugly in place.

This is actually something we’ve seen before. Although many iPhone and iPad users have no problem dropping a decent amount of money on a dock, there are no shortage of users who have come up with innovative ways to turn the current iPhone and iPad packaging into a dock and or stand for free. Below is a video, courtesy of GottaBeMobile, showing an iPad mini box being transformed into a free docking station with very little effort: Read more

Apple has a lot more NFC ideas than just a Wallet app

9to5Mac reported last month that prototypes of the next iPhone contained Near Field Communications hardware. The tech could obviously be used with the PassBook app to create some wallet-type functionality, but that is just the tip of the iceberg.

The US Patent & Trademark Office published more patent applications today from Apple that indicated the company envisioned much more NFC capabilities than a Wallet app. The company apparently filed the applications between 2009 and 2010, and the graphics depict an iPhone interacting and controlling everything from a television and DVR to a standalone camera and a projector.

Patently Apple detailed the patent applications:

Our report mainly focuses on the new system as it relates to an iDevice controlling and interacting with a possible standalone television in addition to an expanded version of Apple’s current Apple TV styled device. The updated Apple TV could one day control cable or satellite television programming and video game play via a video game controller. This would really be a boost for Apple if users were able to play high end RPG video styled games with a standard styled controller. Further, Apple’s invention runs deep and they envision NFC ready iDevices being able to control standalone cameras, projectors, in-home security systems, lawn sprinkler systems, your thermostat, garage door and more. One of these fine days, future iDevices will finally support NFC; and when they do – watch out, because Apple will open the floodgates and release a new generation of applications noted in this report and others like their forthcoming iWallet. Will Apple’s next generation iPhone 5 finally be the one that will introduce NFC? Only time will tell.

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Apple patent details replaceable back panels for adding lenses and advanced camera features

According to an Apple patent application published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and detailed by PatentlyApple, Apple is at the very least conceptualizing a device that sports a removable back panel for easily replaceable components such as lenses or optical solutions.

While it is unclear whether the invention would be used in a standalone camera, next-generation iPod or iPhone, or a different device entirely, the patent detailed several methods of upgrading a device with supplementary optics:

The digital imaging subsystem is typically enclosed within the case of the device to protect the digital imaging subsystem. The enclosure generally prevents direct access to the lens of the digital imaging subsystem for the purpose of providing any sort of supplementary optics, especially if the supplementary optics must be precisely aligned with the image sensor… It would be desirable to provide a structure for a compact device that allows the end user to reconfigure the optical arrangement of the device while retaining the benefits of assembling the device using a pre-assembled digital imaging subsystem.

Apple detailed several features that could be added through the easily swappable supplementary optics, including: improved zoom capabilities, better shutter control, removable close-up lenses, and the addition of motion sensors, flashes, or a lens baffle. As an example, the report explained a removable IR cut-off filter that would allow “capturing black and white images at very low light levels. Without the IR-cut filter the camera’s light sensitivity may extend to 0.001 lux or lower.” The report also broke down how the removable back panels could be implemented:

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Upcoming Smithsonian exhibit features the patents and trademarks of Steve Jobs

As part of its events for World Intellectual Property Day 2012, the Smithsonian Institution will exhibit over 300 patents and trademarks credited to Steve Jobs and Apple at the Ripley Center Museum starting May 11. Among the items to be on display: a 1985 Apple Macintosh computer, mouse, and keyboard; a NeXT computer; a 2010 Apple iPod; and 312 documents. The Smithsonian and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will display the exhibit until July 18.

The World Intellectual Property Organization released a brochure on its website announcing the Jobs exhibit:

Jobs held 317 utility and design patents in the United States. On display are the patent certificates that list him among the inventors involved in the conceptualization of many iconic Apple products, including computer cases, iOS-based devices, packaging, keyboards, mice and power adaptors, and even the glass staircases found in many Apple stores. In addition to his U.S. patents, Jobs is named on some 28 international applications filed under WIPO’s Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) system.

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