United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories December 10, 2015

waterproof

While Apple didn’t make any claims about water-resistance when it launched the iPhone 6s/Plus, submersion tests showed that the company has clearly been working hard in this area – with the new phones still working after a full hour underwater. But water will always get in through ports like the Lightning and headphone sockets, and a new patent application by Apple suggests that it may have a way to fix this …

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United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories September 3, 2015

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has today published a patent application from Apple for a fuel cell system designed to allow a MacBook to operate without external power “for days or even weeks.” The patent was published shortly after a British company rumored to be working with Apple managed to fit a fuel cell battery into an iPhone 6, powering it for a week at a time. We first reported on that project last summer.

While the patent refers only to a ‘portable computing device,’ both the text and diagrams specifically reference MagSafe, giving a clear indication that a MacBook is the device in question (even if Apple may be moving away from the system) …  expand full story

United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories January 15, 2015

Apple patent shows spring-loaded pop-up home button that doubles as a gaming joystick

An Apple patent spotted by Patently Apple shows a spring-loaded pop-up iPhone home button that acts as gaming joystick when in the raised position. Or, in patent language:

An electronic device includes a surface and a multi-function input device. The multi-function input device is operable in at least a first mode and a second mode. In the first mode, an input portion of the multi-function input device is flush with the surface or recessed in the surface and is operable to receive z axis press input data. In the second mode, the input portion is positioned proud of the surface (i.e., project from the surface) and is operable to receive x axis input data and/or y axis input data. The input portion may also be operable to receive z axis input data in the second mode. In one example, the multi-function input device may have a button mode and a joystick mode.

It’s a fun idea, for sure, but personally I think Apple is more likely to head in the opposite direction over time: to find ways of losing a physical home button and turning it into either a touch-only device, perhaps eventually embedding it into the screen in order to lose the extended bezel at the bottom of the device. Bluetooth gaming controllers, especially with improvements, may better serve serious gamers, regardless.

Are you a gamer who’d love to see this? Or would you rather see Apple working to lose the bezel? As ever, let us know in comments.

United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories January 14, 2015

Market goes crazy over spurious Apple action camera patent, GoPro shares take a dive

We’ve cautioned many times that Apple patents a huge number of inventions that will never see the light of day. Last year alone, the company was awarded 2,566 ‘utility’ patents–those covering actual technologies, rather than mere designs. The fact that Apple has patented something tells us absolutely nothing about its future product line.

But that didn’t stop traders going crazy yesterday over a patent awarded for a GoPro-like action camera: GoPro shares fell as much as 15% as panicking traders dumped the stock. The ‘thinking’ was that if Apple was entering the action camera market, GoPro was doomed. The slump was so dramatic that it even tripped a Nasdaq safeguard at one point, reports MarketWatch.

It’s even more absurd in this case: not only is the patent one of thousands of things that Apple probably won’t do, it isn’t even an Apple patent in the first place–it was, as Fortune notes in passing, just one of a number of patents acquired by Apple from Kodak.

Yep, if Apple really were moving into a new market, established players would indeed be sweating. But there is precisely zero evidence that Apple has any plans to move into GoPro’s territory.

That’s not to say competition isn’t heating up in the space however. HTC introduced the Re late last year ($99-199) as an iOS and Android connected camera and many others have been joining in starting at much lower prices.

United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories August 28, 2014

Apple successfully patents iconic glass cube design of Fifth Avenue store in NYC

A few weeks after Apple was granted a European trademark on the key design elements of its retail stores, the company has been awarded a U.S. patent on the iconic glass cube design of its Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan. Steve Jobs is one of those credited as an inventor.

Patently Apple reports that Apple also applied for a trademark for the design back in 2010, but no decision has yet been made on that.

Apple was granted a patent for the similarly iconic glass cylinder design for its Shanghai store back in 2012.

Apple has been renewing the interior design of its stores around the world, and creating a new organizational structure as Angela Ahrendts focuses on further international expansion. It is reportedly working on the largest Apple Store in the world in Dubai.

United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories August 8, 2014

autocorrect

In a new twist to the second Apple vs Samsung patent trial, the United States Patent and Trademark Office has rejected the specific part of Apple’s auto-correct patent that Samsung was said to have infringed, reports FOSS Patents. This effectively means that Samsung was ruled to have infringed a patent that is no longer valid.

The trial found that Samsung infringed three of the five patents Apple claimed, including a specific element of its auto-correct patent which described a particular method of offering corrections or completions. Samsung had unsuccessfully argued at trial that this approach had been used by others before Apple, and therefore could not be patented. The court rejected this argument, but the USPTO has now agreed with Samsung …  expand full story

United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories July 16, 2014

1

French site NWE has posted photos from Japan of what it claims is the Touch ID sensor for the iPhone 6.

The photos don’t give anything away, with the only visible differences being in the location of screw holes – which is to be expected given the significant redesign of the new model iPhone.

There have been rumors that Apple has made changes to the Touch ID sensor to improve durability, but there’s nothing here to shed any light either way. For whatever it may be worth, though, you can see the second photo below …  expand full story

United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories July 15, 2014

Apple is refused Touch ID trademark by USPTO – has six months to respond

Patently Apple reports that the US Patent & Trademark Office has refused Apple’s application for a trademark in Touch ID. The decision – made in May but only now made public – is because another company already holds a trademark for Kronos Touch ID, and there is a “likelihood of confusion” given the very similar names.

USPTO states that “Trademark Act Section 2(d) bars registration of an applied-for mark that so resembles a registered mark that it is likely that a potential consumer would be confused or mistaken or deceived as to the source of the goods and/or services of the applicant and registrant.

In this case, the following factors are the most relevant: similarity of the marks, similarity of the goods and/or services, and similarity of trade channels of the goods and/or services.

A search of the USPTO trademark database shows that the Kronos Touch ID trademark also related to a fingerprint recognition system, and that it has held the trademark since 2001:

Apple only applied for its trademark in January of this year:

Apple has six months to respond to the USPTO with a suggested remedy, otherwise the trademark application will be treated as abandoned and it would be forced to rename the feature. As we can’t imagine this happening – especially as we expect Touch ID to appear on iPads in the fall – it seems most likely that Apple will be heading over to Kronos’s offices, check-book in hand …

United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories April 1, 2014

samsung-galaxy-s4-vs-apple-iphone-5

With the second patent battle between Apple and Samsung now underway, we thought it would be useful to look at each of the five features Apple claims Samsung (or Google) stole from iOS.

The patents are, of course, worded in the usual dense legaleze. If you want to read them for yourself, you can find them on the US Patent and Trademark Office website in the links below. But here’s my reading of what each one is about, in plain English …  expand full story

United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories December 3, 2013

Apple is steadily focused on enhancing and innovating the camera system on its hardware, the iPhone in particular, and the tea leaves unsurprisingly suggest we should expect further progress in iPhotography.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark office recently granted Apple a patent entitled ‘producing stereoscopic image,’ as noted by AppleInsider, which describes a process in which two similar images are intelligently combined to create an artificial sense of depth within the photo.

The camera system on the latest iPhone hardware already supports a number of algorithm-driven features such as HDR (high dynamic range) photography in which an over exposed and under exposed image are matched together to produce a greater dynamic range of lighting.

Just last month, the company was awarded a patent describing a Light Field camera with the ability to refocus images already captured hinting at which photography advancements we should anticipate in future hardware. expand full story

United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories April 1, 2013

Apple denied iPad mini trademark in the US

BBC reported today that Apple was recently denied a trademark for “iPad mini” after authorities in the United States claimed the term was “merely descriptive.” Apple still has until July to convince the United States Patent and Trademark Office, but its official stance thus far according to a recently surfaced document is that iPad mini fails to “create a unique, incongruous, or non-descriptive meaning in relation to the goods being small handheld mobile devices comprising tablet computers capable of providing internet access.” In other words, “mini” simply describes a variation of the device, rather than a unique feature that differentiates it from the full-sized iPad.

An excerpt from the USPTO document:

The term “IPAD” is descriptive when applied to applicant’s goods because the prefix “I” denotes “internet.” According to the attached evidence, the letter “i” or “I” used as a prefix and would be understood by the purchasing public to refer to the Internet when used in relation to Internet-related products or services.  Applicant’s goods are identified as “capable of providing access to the Internet”.

The term “PAD” is also descriptive of the applied for goods. The term “pad” refers to a “pad computer” or “internet pad device”, terms used synonymously to refer to tablet computers, or “a complete computer contained in a touch screen.” Please see the attached dictionary definition. In addition, the attached excerpts from third party websites show descriptive use of the term “pad” in connection with tablet computers. This marketplace evidence shows that the term “pad” would be perceived by consumers as descriptive of “pad computers” with internet and interactive capability. Applicant’s goods are identified as “a handheld digital mobile electronic device comprising tablet computer”.

The term “MINI” in the applied for mark is also descriptive of a feature of applicant’s product. Specifically, the attached evidence shows this wording means “something that is distinctively smaller than other members of its type or class”.  See attached definition. The word “mini” has been held merely descriptive of goods that are produced and sold in miniature form.

The main request by the USPTO is that Apple added a disclaimer clarifying that it is only seeking the exclusive right to “MINI” as part of the entire iPad trademark. That would prevent claiming exclusive rights to the word mini, which the USPTO noted, “others may need to use to describe or show their goods or services in the marketplace.”

This isn’t the first time that Apple has run into hurdles related to its iPad trademark. It previously fought cases in both California and China with companies claiming to own rights to the iPad name.

United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories March 14, 2013

However unlikely—the United States Patent and Trademark office today published an Apple patent application that details a system of inductively charging an iPad through the Smart Cover. The idea is that rather than plugging in the iPad, the Smart Cover would include an inductive power transmitter that would allow it to pair with an inductive power transceiver embedded into the iPad. The result is the Smart Cover would become a wireless charging station, connecting to an external power source, and allowing you to power your iPad in various positions. Apple also explained that it could use “ambient power gathering devices, such as solar cells, can be used to gather ambient power (such as sunlight) to be stored internally in the flap for later inductive transfer.”

A method for wireless powering a tablet device, comprising: determining if a protective cover is in a closed configuration with respect to the tablet device; enabling a wireless power receiver circuit in the tablet device when it is determined that the protective cover is in the closed configuration with respect to the tablet device; and wirelessly receiving power from a wireless power transmitter associated with the protective cover.

Apple described the advanced Smart Cover as including multiple power transmitters to allow the iPad to charge even when using the case, for example, as a stand to prop up the device. Alternatively, the cover could continue charging the device when in the closed position or when an iPad is placed on top: expand full story

United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories February 21, 2013

Apple-wristwatch-patent.

iWatch-Concept-slap-bracelet

Concept via Yanko Design

Color us a little skeptical on this one, but the U.S. Patent Office released Patent US 20130044215 filed by Apple (via Patently Apple) on Thursday that basically described a wristwatch-like device. According to the patent application, Apple is looking into methods that integrate flexible components into a bi-stable spring, slap on bracelet design. Apple even highlighted a number of use cases for the accessory that would talk to other electronic devices, i.e., iOS devices, such as viewing recent calls, responding to text messages, managing playlists, and viewing maps:

The bracelet goes far beyond being a wristwatch. Apple states that with a multitouch display, the user “can accomplish a number of different tasks including adjusting the order of a current playlist, or reviewing a list of recent phone calls. A response to a current text message can even be managed given a simple virtual keyboard configuration across the face of the flexible display.”… According to Apple, a larger display is also more desirable for map viewing. The arm mounted location makes map viewing a desirable function for such a device, as a traveler or explorer can easily reference the information with a flick of the wrist while exploring.

The patent application also described a number of methods of powering the wristwatch accessory including the use of a solar panel underneath the display that 9to5Mac discussed before. It also covered the possibility of using kinetic power sources similar to systems already used in wristwatches.

Apple states that the Kinetic energy gathering device noted above in patent figure 5A (# 502) has its advantages. Having the accessory device on an extremity is an ideal location for gathering kinetic energy. The simple motion of a user’s arm or leg allows the accessory device to harness some of that energy for charging battery. The Antenna in patent figure 5A (# 506) is for establishing and maintaining the connection between the bracelet accessory and a portable electronic device such an iPhone. The antenna can be configured to pass data over WiFi, Bluetooth or any other suitable wireless protocol.

Other possible features of the device mentioned in the application include using the device as a nighttime light for bike riding, edge lighting to configure a colored backlit border, and the ability to quickly view maps and high quality video streams. Apple also described an end-detection sensor to deactivate unused portions of the display for individuals with smaller wrists.

Another interesting aspect of the patent application is a method of using built-in accelerometers and gyroscopes as orientation sensors to make sure content is always visible and facing the user as the device—and user’s arm—is in motion.

With all the rumors that Apple is working on a smart watch, it’s hard to ignore a patent application that covers the form factor in such detail. However, it’s important to note many concepts make their way to Apple patents but never see the light of day, and this could very well just be one possible form factor that Apple has experimented with. You can learn more about today’s patent at PatentlyApple. Another image from today’s patent application below:

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United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories December 7, 2012

Image (1) January-2007-iPhone-introduction-Steve-Jobs-shows-pinch-zoom-with-his-fingers.jpg for post 61070

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. expand full story

United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories November 15, 2012

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: expand full story

United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories November 8, 2012

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: expand full story

United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories October 23, 2012

Apple’s rubber banding patent used in Samsung trial declared invalid

A report from FossPatents today (via MacRumors), covering a Samsung filing with U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, shows the United States Patent and Trademark Office has declared 20 claims related to Apple’s rubber-banding patent invalid. One of the claims was even used against Samsung as part of Apple’s $1 billion victory in a California court in August:

While this non-final decision is not binding, there is a possibility that Judge Koh will be persuaded by this to grant Samsung’s Rule 50 (“overrule-the-jury”) motion to the extent it relates to the ‘381 patent. Even if Judge Koh is hesitant to overrule the jury on this and skeptical of a non-final action, the reexamination process will continue during the Federal Circuit appellate proceedings, so if the non-final findings concerning claim 19 are affirmed in subsequent Office actions, they will have more weight. And even after the appeals process, a subsequent final rejection of the relevant patent claim would make the patent unenforceable going forward.

The report noted an anonymous third-party challenged the validity of the patent earlier this year by requesting a re-examination (Google looks up into space, begins whistling):

In late May, Scott Daniels, the author of the WHDA Reexamination Alert blog, discovered some new anonymous attacks on this patent and another famous Apple patent. I reported and commented on these findings. At the time I already listed the prior art references on which that ex parte reexamination request was based.

United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories July 27, 2012

Apple working on high-resolution display tech for Google Glass-like HUD device

Today, a patent application published by the US Patent & Trademark Office, and then discovered by Patently Apple, covers methods of increasing pixel density for high-resolution display technology in a head-mounted display. This is not the first time an Apple patent related to head-mounted displays has surfaced. As far back as 2009, Apple won patents related to an iPod video headset displayIt also won a second patent just this year related to the Google Glass-like technology. Unfortunately, this is not a design patent. So, the Google Glass-like design in the drawing above only relates to a general concept for the device covered in the patent:

United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories July 26, 2012

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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United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories June 15, 2012

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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United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories May 3, 2012

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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United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories March 27, 2012

A ton of recent rumors all but confirm Apple plans to enter the TV market with a full-fledged Apple-branded HDTV, but today a patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office details an advancement of high refresh rate LCD technology known as “fringe field switching.” As described by PatentlyApple, Apple’s patent offers advancements in the technology that would allow FFS for use with large screen HDTVs. The report noted, “Previous versions of FSS couldn’t accommodate such large displays.” PatentlyApple explained:

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United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories March 20, 2012

Late last year, the New York Times did a great interactive feature on the 323 Patents that Steve Jobs was granted as CEO of Apple.

From Patently Apple today:

Today, the US Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple a design patent for their flagship Shanghai Apple Store which opened its doors in September 2010. One of the designers credited for this incredible architecture is the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs.

He keeps racking them up… expand full story

United States Patent and Trademark Office Stories December 15, 2011

Apple opened up its proprietary 30-pin dock connector to third-party developers back in 2008, with iOS 3.0 APIs enabling hardware accessories to communicate with your iPhone, iPod touch or iPad via dedicated apps. The way it works today, plugging in your accessory puts up a prompt telling you to automatically download an appropriate app. This is supported only by some accessories so in most cases users are required to navigate their way around the App Store and find that app themselves. But Apple’s penchant for providing simple and seamless solutions once again becomes evident in a new patent application filed in June 2010 with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Entitled “Method and System for Locating an Accessory and an Application for Use With a User Device”, it describes a plug-and-play system where plugging in your accessory automatically produces a list of multiple compatible apps that go with it – not just that one companion app from your accessory’s vendor. Additionally, the invention would work the other way around to allow easy discovery of hardware accessories compatible with the apps you actually have installed on  your device by utilizing an in-store kiosk, pictured in the above patent drawing.

Speculating further, the proposed solution would pave the way for a new (and lucrative) market where accessories play nice with apps. expand full story

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