On Thursdays, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office publishes patent applications that have been filed with the office six months prior, and Apple Inc. is always applying for protections on different device designs and computer systems. As happens every once in a while, three of these 18 published patents are part of a single series; these patents pertain to linking user accounts for mobile app software to obtain upgrades. Other patent applications seek protections on applications that provide parental oversight of a child’s pre-paid debit account or aid zoom functions on picture viewing applications.
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130018792
More and more, special debit accounts, like pre-paid store cards, are being used by consumers to either control spending or take advantage of certain deals. One type of financial account typically used as a subsidiary to a debit account is a pre-paid financial account for children, often tied to a debit card the child can use. These types of accounts have become increasingly common as today’s economy is much more reliant on debit and credit card transactions.
So Apple is now going into the pre-paid store card business? The Technical Field of the patent application explains: “The present invention relates generally to establishing financial transaction rules for controlling a subsidiary financial account and, more particularly, to various systems, methods, and electronic devices configured to provide for the establishment of such rules.” Thus, it seems that Apple is focusing on the computer systems and electronic devices necessary for the implementation of the innovation, which is more in line with the type of innovation you might expect from Apple.
As the Background explains:
Generally, credit, debit, and stored-value card accounts used by children (e.g., subsidiary account) are linked to or associated with a primary account held by the parent. That is, while the child may be authorized to initiate charges using a payment card, the parent may ultimately be responsible for paying for such charges. Accordingly, it may be desirable to exert some level of control over the types of purchases or transactions a child is permitted to make using a subsidiary account.
Apple’s system of parental controls on these accounts seeks to provide parents at least some control.
The innovation outlined in this patent applicationallows the account owner to set parameters on the child’s spending through the pre-paid account. For instance, the parent can control the maximum transaction amount, both at once and over a set period of time, specific merchants where funds can be spent or the geographical area where spending can occur.
As is described in claim 1, this patent application seeks protection for:
“A method for establishing a multiple-tier transaction rule based at least partially upon geographic location using a handheld electronic device comprising: using the handheld electronic device to define the multiple-tier transaction rule by: defining a first geographic limit and selecting a first control action to be implemented if a transaction initiated by a subsidiary financial account linked to a primary account belonging to the user of the handheld electronic device violates the first geographic limit; defining a second geographic limit and selecting a second control action to be implemented if the transaction initiated by a subsidiary financial account violates the second geographic limit; defining a third geographic limit and selecting a third control action to be implemented if the transaction initiated by a subsidiary financial account violates the third geographic limit; and defining a fourth geographic limit and selecting a fourth control action to be implemented if the transaction initiated by a subsidiary financial account violates the fourth geographic limit, wherein the first, second, third, and fourth geographic limits are different from one another, and wherein the first, second, third, and fourth control actions are different from one another; and communicating the multiple-tier transaction rule to an external server controlled by a financial entity that manages the primary account and subsidiary account, wherein the communication of the multiple-tier transaction rule causes the external server to apply the multiple-tier transaction rule to the subsidiary account.”
Certainly an interesting innovation that many parents will likely want to explore.
System and Method for Linking Pre-Installed Software to a User Account
Apple hopes that this series of patent applications will make it easier for mobile device users to update the software that comes pre-installed on their device. The patent application’s background section states a need to develop more efficient ways to obtain software updates for both manufacturer and third-party programs, especially for software registered to a single account. At the time of the filing of these patent applications, current software update procedures required the user to reinstall the mobile device software and use cumbersome storage media, like CDs, to distribute updates.
These patent applications seek to protect a system by which mobile applications can find updates online and download them to a device running authenticated software. The online server distributing the software upgrades uses a unique identifier sent by the user’s software program to link the software to a user account and ensure that this specific application is eligible for an upgrade. Claim 1 of patent application no. 20130019233 protects:
“A method, comprising: receiving a request from a computing device to download an application to the computing device; determining that the application is a pre-installed application; presenting an authorization prompt configured to request user authorization to link the application with a user account; receiving the user authorization; in response to receiving the user authorization, determining that the application is linkable based upon a unique hardware identifier associated with the computing device; and linking the application with the user account when the application is linkable.”
Once the user account is linked to the software, it then becomes eligible to receive software updates from the developer. Claim 1 of patent application no. 20130019234 describes:
“A method, comprising: receiving a request from a computing device to update an application installed on the computing device; determining, by a server, that the application installed on the computing device has an update available; notifying the computing device that the application has an update available; receiving, from the computing device, user authorization to link the application with a user account associated with the computing device; in response to receiving the user authorization, receiving, from the computing device, a unique hardware identifier associated with the computing device; determining that the application has not been linked with any user account based upon the unique hardware identifier associated with the computing device; and linking the application with the user account, wherein linking the application with the user account allows the application and updates to the application to be downloaded to one or more computing devices associated with the user account.”
Authentication of the software requesting upgrades is a major part of this series of intellectual property patent applications. Protected in claim 1 of patent application no. 20130019237 is:
“A method comprising: verifying, by a server, that an application that has been installed on a first client device is eligible for adoption by determining that the installed application on the first client device is configured for distribution by a server; verifying, by the server, that the application has not been previously adopted comprising: automatically retrieving a unique identifier that uniquely identifies an individual copy of the installed application from metadata associated with the installed application, and verifying that the unique identifier has not been associated with any user account; and delivering, from the server, a notification to the first client device that the installed application is eligible for adoption.”
Wireless Connection Control
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130017821
Mobile devices connect to networks from different access points. The geographical area of wireless connectivity covered by a single access point is known as its cell. When a mobile device user travels out of the range of one access point and crosses over into the range of another access point, he is now connected to the Internet through a different cell.
When mobile device users cross over this cell boundary, their Internet connection might be weakened; the system is trying to negotiate a handoff of connectivity between access points, and the device’s geographical distance from either point is the furthest it will be. Apple’s patent application is seeking to protect a system of controlling the wireless connection so that new radio frequencies are added before the signal can be dropped when travelling across cells.
Claim 1 of this patent describes:
“A method of controlling a wireless connection of a mobile wireless communication device to a wireless communication network, the method comprising: when the wireless mobile communication device is connected to a first base transceiver station through a first radio frequency link; detecting a signal quality of the first radio frequency link, wherein the detected signal quality is at or below a first threshold and decreasing over a first detection time interval; estimating a maximum response time interval until the detected signal quality of the first radio frequency link is below a second threshold; and delaying transmission of only control messages from the mobile wireless communication device for a delay interval that cause the wireless communication network to respond to subsequent control messages beyond the estimated maximum response time interval.”