USPTO Stories April 6, 2021

Apple has been working on new ways to let users know more about the battery life of their devices, and it seems that the company plans to add even more related features to iOS. The US Patent & Trademark Office this week granted Apple a patent for a new system that can predict and warn the user when the iPhone battery is expected to run out.

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USPTO Stories April 1, 2016

gestures

A patent application spotted by Patently Apple suggests that the Apple Watch turning on its display as you raise your wrist could be just the first of many supported gestures. Pointing, waving and even extending pinky and thumb in a ‘phone me’ gesture could all be used to initiate actions on either the Watch itself or a paired iPhone.

While voice and touch input can be an effective way to control a device, there may be situations where the user’s ability to speak the verbal command or perform the touch gesture may be limited.

This [patent] relates to a device that detects a user’s motion and gesture input through the movement of one or more of the user’s hand, arm, wrist, and fingers, for example, to provide commands to the device or to other devices […] The device can interpret the gesture as an input command, and the device can perform an operation.

Apple gives a number of illustrative examples of such gestures …

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USPTO Stories March 31, 2016

Apple-Patent-Universal-magnetic-adapter

Yesterday we detailed an Apple patent showing work on a stackable Smart Connector plug of sorts. Today we get a look at a similar invention aimed at making the I/O on future devices more versatile with Apple’s invention of a “Universal Magnetic Adapter” that could allow for more future-proof devices using only a single port. As pictured in the drawing accompanying the patent above, the technology allows for a single port that uses magnetic inserts as adapters for your various devices. Or in other words, MagSafe for everything using a single port and adapters for the various connectors.

In its patent, Apple describes the problem with the current mess of adapters and cables users have to deal:

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USPTO 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

USPTO 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 …

USPTO Stories August 22, 2013

The US Patent & Trademark Office today published a new Apple patent application (via PatentlyApple) that details a flexible material that could be used as a hinge to create a seamless enclosure for devices like the MacBook, for example. Apple details a technical process of using specialized machinery to laser cut “flex apertures” and interlocking features in a rigid material to allow it to bend and function as a hinge. On top of creating a seamless enclosure, Apple claims the process would allow it to reduce the size of devices that are often increased due to traditional hinge solutions. Imagine if the enclosure of a MacBook didn’t include that black plastic hinge and instead appeared to be a seamless piece of aluminium connecting the display to the bottom half of the unibody.

While MacBooks might seem like the obvious application for Apple’s invention, it also notes the usual list of devices that could potentially use the technology including everything from smartphones to televisions and game consoles. The patent also shows the material being used on headphone cables to allow a flexible connection from the cable to the earbud to prevent damage, and on what appears to be an iPad Smart Cover-like accessory: expand full story

USPTO Stories July 4, 2013

Apple-maps-ratings-alerts

According to a new Apple patent application published today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (via AppleInsider), Apple is looking into new mapping features that would integrate real-time, crowd-sourced traffic and navigation data through ratings and user reporting.

At first glance the features appear to be similar to those included in the community-based mapping app ‘Waze’, which is one of the reasons that Google just acquired the company last month. The patent application, titled “User-Specified Route Rating and Alerts,” describes a system for users to “provide ratings for routes, streets and/or locations.” In other words, users can rate a suggested route when getting directions in order to provide crowd-sourced feedback to Apple and in return Apple will provide the most efficient and accurate routes to other users based on the ratings:

Particular implementations provide at least the following advantages: Route determination is improved by accounting for real-world considerations and concerns of travelers. Real-time user-generated alerts allow for faster and more accurate notification of events within proximity of a user that might hinder the user’s progress as the user travels… In some implementations, rating database 110 can store information related to users’ ratings of routes and/or locations. For example, a user of mobile device 102 can interact with navigation engine 104 to provide ratings for routes and/or locations. The ratings information provided by the user can be transmitted to navigation service 106 through network 114. Navigation service 106 can store the ratings information in rating database 110 and route engine can determine routes based on the ratings information stored in rating database 110.

Apple also walks through a process of gathering user-generated alerts for routes including accident reports, road closures, etc. Apple plans on taking all the alert and route rating data and providing it to other users in real-time to improve route directions. In other words, if your device is detected to be in the same location as a user-generated alert, Apple will be able to push that alert to your device or suggest an alternate route based on the incident that’s been reported:

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USPTO Stories June 21, 2013

Apple-patent-fingerprint-sensor

There have been no shortage of fingerprint sensor rumors surfacing since Apple acquired Authentec last year. According to several reports from analysts, including the often reliable Ming-Chi Kuo and the not as reliable Topeka Capital analyst Brian White, Apple’s next-generation iPhone is likely to include a fingerprint sensor. We’ve discussed how it could certainly make a stand out hardware feature for Apple’s expected “S” upgrade, and today the US Patent and Trademark Office published patent applications that show Apple could be experimenting with exactly that (via PatentlyApple).

According to one aspect of the present disclosure, a biometric sensor assembly, such as a fingerprint sensor, comprises a substrate to which is mounted a die containing sensor circuitry and at least one conductive bezel. As used in the description and claims that follow, “bezel” means a unitary, substantially uniformly composed structure, most typically metal or conductive plastic. The die and the bezel are encased in a unitary encapsulation structure to protect those elements from mechanical, electrical, and environmental damage, yet with a portion of a surface of the die and the bezel exposed or at most thinly covered by the encapsulation or other coating material structure

Validity-Fingerprint-sensorThe patent describes a process of embedding a fingerprint sensor into the bezel of a device, which sounds a lot like the finger print sensors Validity was showing off embedded in Android devices at CES this year (pictured right). Apple notes in the patent application that the sensor would be “approximately the width of an average user’s fingertip, but only several pixels tall, typically between 1 and 8 pixels, and possibly as many as 16 pixels tall” when viewed from above.

Apple doesn’t get too into what functions for users the fingerprint sensor would provide, but does note that “the sensor captures a number of thin strips of the fingerprint as the finger is swiped, and the complete fingerprint is assembled in software for use in authentication.” expand full story

USPTO 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.

USPTO 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

USPTO Stories February 12, 2013

Apple-iWatch-Concept-01

Since the old iWatch rumor reared its head again in December, there have been a few more reliable sources adding weight to the idea that we could see a smart watch from Apple this year. Over the weekend, The New York Times, which said essentially the same thing in 2011, followed up the rumors with a report that Apple is working on a curved glass watch prototype running iOS. The Wall Street Journal quickly followed with more information, claiming Apple and partner Foxconn are now testing wearable, watch-like devices.

While many have speculated what Apple might include in an iWatch, such as Apple employee #66 and founder of Apple’s Human Interface Group Bruce Tognazzini, all we get from reports is “curved glass” and “iOS”. Apple has clearly been testing wearable prototypes with several patents dating as far back as 2009, describing potential integration with wristwatches and iOS devices. By taking a look at the technology for watches that Apple is already experimenting with through the many publicly available patents, we put together a list of some of the features the company could very well include in an Apple-branded smart watch. expand full story

USPTO Stories January 31, 2013

Apple-laser-projected-keyboard

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a couple of interesting patent applications from Apple today. One patent described various embodiments of a depth perception system and laser projection, while another concerned an “ad-hoc cash dispensing network” that would turn iPhone users into walking ATMs.

PatentlyApple first covered the patent and highlighted several possibilities of using cameras and a laser source to determine the distance of an object and implement various applications based on detection of depth. The report explained an embodiment of the invention by describing how Apple could use the system integrated into, for example, an iMac. PatentlyApple also described how Apple could use the invention for laser projected keyboard applications (as pictured above):

In this example, the iMac is able to detect a user approaching it and activate a particular program, application, awake from sleep or power save mode, and the like… In patent FIG. 12, we see a user positioned in front of this future iMac such that the first and second beams 206a, 206b may at least partially intersect the user. The iMac’s updated iSight Camera will be able to determine the distance that the user is from iMac. The depth perception system increases the sensitivity of user detection for the iMac so that it could make a distinction between the user and an occupied chair… In Apple’s patent FIG. 11A shown below, we see the depth perception system incorporated into a mobile electronic device such as an iPad. In this example, the system may be used in combination with a projected control panel 115 (such as a keyboard, audio/video controls, and so on). The control panel 115 may be a light pattern projected from a light source onto a surface (e.g., table or desk), the control panel 115 may include different light shapes, colors, or the like for representing different inputs.

Unwiredview.com pointed us to the “ad-hoc cash dispensing network” patent published today and recently filed by Apple that would essentially allow iOS users to become ATMs for other iPhone users. Just imagine being able to withdraw cash when there simply isn’t an ATM or bank nearby. Apple’s system would allow other close by iPhone users to lend you cash, with the borrowed money returned to the lender through your iTunes account/credit card for a small fee (as pictured in the patent drawing below): expand full story

USPTO 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

USPTO 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

USPTO Stories August 7, 2012

Apple granted patent for app to assist shoppers in finding best prices

Patently Apple covered an Apple Inc. patent today published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office that appears to be related to an app designed to assist shoppers by providing product and retailer information for scanned items. The invention would provide similar functionality to various third-party apps currently in the App Store that use barcode scanning and image recognition to search the web for product information and price comparisons. Patently Apple explained:

Apple has received their first Granted Patent relating to methods for conducting shopping-related transactions with a handheld electronic device. In some embodiments a mobile electronic device may be used to identify a product and obtain pricing information relevant to retailers of the product within a specified geographical location. In another embodiment, a mobile electronic device may be used to acquire pricing information for a shopping list of products. Embodiments may also include a variety of features that make the shopping experience quick and efficient while allowing the consumer to hunt for a better bargain. Furthermore, several embodiments also allow the product manufacturers and/or retailers to distribute relevant product information to targeted consumers who are known to be, or who may be, interested in buying a particular product.

USPTO 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:

USPTO Stories May 15, 2012

Apple patent details steering wheel remote control

PatentlyApple covered a number of Apple patents today that were recently published by the US Patent & Trademark Office. One of the 21 patents originally filed in Q1 2011 is for an iOS remote control that would clip onto a steering wheel. The remote shown in the patent drawings essentially looks like the iPod click wheel, but Apple described it as a touch-sensitive, rotatable faceplate:

Apple’s invention generally relates to remote controls. More specifically, certain embodiments of the present invention provide a steering wheel mountable wireless remote control for controlling a portable media player… The remote control device can also include a faceplate that is rotatably mounted on top of the base section that very much resembles Apple’s iPod clickwheel… The notable difference is that Apple states that the faceplate is touch-sensitive.

You can get full coverage on the patent at PatentlyApple

USPTO Stories May 3, 2012

Yes, Apple is still working on haptics for touch devices

We already know Apple is working on haptic technologies for mobile devices from patents in the past (here, here, and here). We also know that last-minute rumors of Finnish company Senseg’s technology being included in the third-generation iPad never came true. Another patent surfaced today giving us a look at Apple’s work with an advanced multi-tiered haptics system for iOS devices. PatentlyApple has all the details:

…today’s surprise invention packs a punch with a wildly intelligent multi-tiered haptics system. The system will actually allow an iDevice display to deform so that it could provide the user with a button, an arrow or even a geological map to physically pop right out of the screen to give it 3D depth. If that wasn’t cool enough, Apple’s patent discusses a flexible OLED display that could be used for video glasses.

USPTO Stories April 5, 2012

According to an Apple patent application published by the United States Patent & Trademark Office and detailed by PatentlyApple, Apple is working to implement audio transducers in combination with multiple speakers to enable surround sound configurations on MacBook-like devices. Apple’s focus of the patent appears to be improving audio in mobile devices as speakers decrease in size to accommodate smaller and thinner form factors.

As detailed in the image to the right, one embodiment of the invention shows the use of several speakers and an audio transducer integrated into the bezel and enclosure of a MacBook. These configurations would allow, for example, the speakers embedded next to the display to handle high range frequencies, while the lower speakers would handle mid-range and the audio transducer the low-range. Additional speaker enclosures could be added to enable 3.1 or 4.1 surround sound configurations. Apple also stated the audio transducer could provide both low and mid-range frequencies, “essentially performing as a “subtweeter” for frequency ranges from 20-500 Hz and 500-1500 Hz. The report explained:

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USPTO Stories March 29, 2012

This is not the first time an Apple patent has surfaced relating to three-dimensional camera technologies. A previous patent highlighted advanced 3D object recognition and verification. A new patent—published today by the United States Patent & Trademark Office and detailed by PatentlyApple—shows Apple is continuing to work on 3D camera technologies that could land in future iOS devices. Apple’s patent described a 3D imagining camera that uses advanced microlenses, depth-detection, chrominance, and luminance sensors. The camera could recognize facial expressions and gestures while creating 3D models of scanned objects. PatentlyApple explained:

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USPTO Stories March 22, 2012

This is not the first time we have received hints that Apple is working on an innovative universal remote control for controlling TV and video content. In January, we told you that Apple was researching a touchscreen remote with adaptable user interfaces. The invention would essentially allow button layouts stored in the cloud or in a device (such as a TV) to be wirelessly and seamlessly beamed to the controller’s UI. The concept would alleviate the “table full of remotes” scenario Steve Jobs described at D8.

Today, a new patent application published by the United States Patent & Trademark Office and detailed by PatentlyApple gives us even more insight into what Apple’s universal remote concept could become. In the newly discovered patent application, Apple details a remote that is capable of displaying customized controls for various devices by simply taking a picture of the device. Apple would send the picture to iCloud, analyze it, and beam a UI or button layout to the remote that works for your TV. PatentlyApple explained:

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