This week brought another large number of patents issued by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office and assigned to Apple Inc. In fact, 38 patents were added to the Apple patent portfolio this week alone. A few of these patents relate to the efficient use of device resources, both system processing power and display screen space. Also, Apple finally receives a patent for one of its portable media players that has been on the market since 2010.
Very Small Form Factor Consumer Electronic Product
U.S. Patent No. 8368643
This patent protects Apple’s 4th-generation iPod Shuffle, originally introduced by the electronics device manufacturer back in September 2010. The application for this patent was originally filed as of late August 2010.
The patent’s background section describes many of the difficulties faced by Apple in the development of their line of iPod Shuffles. The Shuffle is designed to be an electronic device contained within a very small housing while fitting in the proper media player components. Even without a display screen, these components can become fairly cumbersome within a small device. The Shuffle has a click wheel that users may use to operate the device, instead of the touch-operated display found on many of Apple’s other items.
As claim 1 of this patent describes, Apple is protecting:
“A consumer electronic product, comprising: a seamless electrically conductive single piece housing having an integral front and side walls that cooperate to form a cavity in cooperation with a front opening, an edge of the side walls defining a rear opening, wherein at least some of the edges have flanges, the seamless electrically conductive single piece housing providing electrical grounding for at least one internal component of the consumer electronic product; a user input assembly having a size and shape in accordance with the front opening, the user input assembly comprising: a user input comprising a viewable portion having a substantially circular click wheel, the click wheel comprising an upraised annular region, the upraised annular region having a plurality of icons each identifying a specific operation performed by the consumer electronic product; and an interior portion having a member attached thereto; and an internal support plate, the internal support plate having an outward facing side onto which is attached the user input and an inward facing side having attachment features some of which are used to secure internal components of the consumer electronic product, wherein the outward facing surface of the internal support plate includes a plurality of switches each corresponding to one of the plurality of icons, wherein a press event at an icon causes the corresponding switch to generate a signal used to modify operations of the consumer electronic product; and a clip assembly, the clip assembly having a size and shape in accordance with the rear opening, the clip assembly comprising: an external user actionable clip; at least one internal hooking feature; and a plurality of internal latching features, wherein the clip assembly is secured in part to the consumer electronic product by engaging the at least one hooking feature and at least one of the flanges on the edges of the housing and engaging the latching features and corresponding attachment features on the internal support plate.”
Portable Electronic Device, Method and Graphical User Interface for Displaying Electronic Lists and Documents
U.S. Patent No. 8368665
Apple, like all electronic device manufacturers, is very interested in preserving as much screen space as possible so that users have more display to work with. One aspect of computer programs that can take up a portion of the screen includes the scroll bar that lets a user quickly scroll through a list or document.
Apple hopes that this new system of displaying scroll bars on the iPad helps users navigate their documents easily while saving screen space for display needs. When the iPad creates lists to display phone contacts or e-mail addresses, it creates a scroll bar along the right margin of the list that indicates to the viewer what portion of the list they’re viewing and whether they’re near the top or bottom of the list. For larger resolution pictures, a bottom scroll bar also appears that lets a user scroll from left to right.
Claim 1 of this patent protects:
“A method, comprising: at a portable multifunction device with a touch screen display: displaying a portion of an electronic document on the touch screen display, wherein the displayed portion of the electronic document has a vertical position in the electronic document; displaying a vertical bar on top of the displayed portion of the electronic document, wherein: the vertical bar has a vertical position on top of the displayed portion of the electronic document that corresponds to the vertical position in the electronic document of the displayed portion of the electronic document; and the vertical bar is not a scroll bar; detecting a movement of an object in a direction on the displayed portion of the electronic document; in response to detecting the movement: scrolling the electronic document displayed on the touch screen display in the direction of movement of the object so that a new portion of the electronic document is displayed, and moving the vertical bar to a new vertical position such that the new vertical position corresponds to the vertical position in the electronic document of the displayed new portion of the electronic document; and in response to a predetermined condition being met, ceasing to display the vertical bar while continuing to display the displayed portion of the electronic document, wherein the displayed portion of the electronic document has a vertical extent that is less than a vertical extent of the electronic document.”
Display Screen or Portion Thereof with a Graphical User Interface
U.S. Patent No. D675639
This is one of two design patents awarded this week to Apple Inc., and it relates to the graphical user interface displayed on an iPhone when the phone is in a locked state. Specifically, the patent protects the intellectual property behind the slide bar that unlocks the smartphone while in a locked state.
In patent diagrams, the top half of the user interface displays the same time, date and signal information familiar to iPhone users. The bottom half of the display includes the recognizable slider feature that unlocks the phone when a user swipes the bar with a finger. Further diagrams further focus on the slide bar, depicting it separately from the rest of the display. Claim 1 simply states that Apple is protecting “The ornamental design for a display screen or portion thereof with a graphical user interface, as shown and described.”
Event Notification Management
U.S. Patent No. 8370853
Modern graphical user interfaces allow computer users to quickly change the folder or file they’re communicating with by selecting the proper tab or window. Although using multiple files at once may help users be more productive, these files can tax system resources as new windows are opened. As events occur within each opened folder or file, event notifications are created that can overwhelm the system and slow everything down.
Apple’s patent protects the intellectual property behind methods of managing these event notifications more efficiently. The patented system includes monitors that determine whether any notifications are similar enough to combine, such as file changes within a single folder. For example, if any of these changes would require a folder scan by antivirus or other software, the monitor would find each notification requesting a scan, combine them and then send that notification to the scanner.
As claim 1 states, Apple is protecting:
“A method comprising: determining that a threshold associated with a number of pending event notifications in a queue has been exceeded by an incoming event notification, where each event notification identifies a change to one or more data element entries within a computer system and where each event notification is associated with one or more parent levels of a hierarchical file system; identifying, using one or more processors, a plurality of pending event notifications that can be combined including determining that two or more event notifications have a common parent level; and combining two or more event notifications such that the number of pending event notifications, including the combined two or more event notifications, in the queue no longer exceeds the threshold number of event notifications, including replacing two or more event notifications with a single event notification identifying a change to the common parent level.”
U.S. Patent No. 8368645
The computer cursor is a location-sensitive user control that computer users operate to select files or folders. This patent is purely aesthetic in nature, as it doesn’t affect any user controls for this item but only the visual appearance of the cursor when it transitions from one control type to another. For instance, the “pointer” cursor that many are familiar with selects a single spot on the screen, whereas the scroll cursor lets a user scroll through a document or webpage simply by moving the cursor.
This system of creating unique cursor transitions allows developers to apply unique cursor shapes to certain trigger events. Once triggered, the change in the cursor’s shape will indicate to users that they’re interacting with a new function. The transition time of the cursor change can also be altered, giving a developer further control over the atmosphere of the program.
Claim 1 of this Apple intellectual property patent protects:
“A method comprising: detecting a trigger event associated with a cursor; obtaining a current state of the cursor, where the current state is associated with a first cursor image; obtaining a target state of the cursor, where the target state is associated with a second cursor image; and in response to detecting the trigger event, applying a transition effect to the cursor to transform the cursor from the current state to the target state, where during the transformation at least a portion of the first cursor image and at least a portion of the second cursor image can be simultaneously visually perceived by a user.”