On Tuesday, February 12, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office issued 27 patents to electronics manufacturer Apple Inc., including two design patents and a couple of patents related to improvements in wireless connectivity. Apple’s patent protections also extend into the data encryption world this week, as the hardware developer is awarded a patent for a new method of hash data security based on billiards.
U.S. Patent No. D676019
This is one of two design patents issued this week to Apple Inc., this one protecting the design of an electronic device from Apple’s iPod Classic line. The Classic line of iPods is designed to offer the most capacity for media files, including video and music. Schematic images from multiple angles are attached to this patent document depict the recognizable center click wheel as well as other features, including a thin faceplate and the bottom docking port. Claim 1 of this patent protects: “The ornamental design for an electronic device, as shown and described.”
This is at least the fourth design patent issued to Apple in the past six weeks that credits Steve Jobs as a member of the team of inventors, of which there were 13 involved in this project. Most of the team was located in San Francisco, although the patent document discloses Jobs’ location as Palo Alto, CA. The application for this patent was first filed in May 2012, seven months after the Apple CEO’s October 2011 death.
Microslot Antennas for Electronic Devices
U.S. Patent No. 8373610
More types of wireless networks exist to connect portable electronic devices, such as laptops, to the Internet than ever before. However, the sheer number of networking options, including cellular telephone bandwidths (850 MHz, 950 MHz, etc.) or Wi-Fi wireless Internet channels (2.4 GHz or 5.0 GHz). Installing all of the component antennas necessary into a laptop housing is very difficult as the available space is limited.
The system of antenna construction protected in this patent improves on the space efficiency of current antenna construction techniques for compact antennas. These antennas are constructed to sit in relatively narrow microslots and grounded into a printed circuit board. This technology could be applied to the production of laptops or other portable electronic devices, like the iPad.
Claim 1 of this intellectual property patent describes:
“An antenna comprising: a ground plane element having portions comprising at least first and second dielectric-filled slots that serve as resonating elements for the antenna and that each have a width of less than 100 microns, wherein the at least first and second dielectric-filled slots are formed in a surface of the ground plane element and wherein the widths of the at least first and second dielectric-filled slots are dimensions of the at least first and second dielectric-filled slots that are coplanar with the surface of the ground plane element; a ground terminal located between the at least first and second dielectric-filled slots and coupled to a ground conductor in a transmission line; and first and second antenna feed terminals coupled to a common signal conductor in the transmission line, wherein the first dielectric-filled slot is between the ground terminal and the first antenna feed terminal and wherein the second dielectric-filled slot is between the ground terminal and the second antenna feed terminal.”
Method and Apparatus for Determining the Location of a Wireless Client Device on a Wireless Network
U.S. Patent No. 8374630
The method of testing connectivity between two electronic devices is known as PING, or Packet InterNetwork Groper. A PING from one IP address to another can determine the rate of data transfer and other information. Knowing the rate of data transfer is helpful when trying to determine which wireless electronic devices to connect with. For instance, a PING can tell a user whether one wireless printer is receiving a better signal than another printer, increasing productivity.
A wireless network hub may PING multiple electronic devices on the network to determine their location for a network administrator. Currently, PINGs of this nature occur at regular intervals. In this patent, Apple is protecting a system of PINGing network devices only when a change in the data transfer rate occurs, rather than at regular intervals. Apple hopes that this innovative PING design will improve network resource efficiency, as PINGs can disrupt in-process data transfers for computer users.
As is stated in Claim 1, this Apple patent protects:
“A system for determining a location of a wireless client device on a wireless network, the system comprising: at least one processor; at least one network interface configured to couple the processor to the wireless network; and at least one memory configured to store instructions for execution by the at least one processor, the instructions being executable: to determine whether a data rate of transmission of the wireless client device is deemed sufficiently high to determine the location of the wireless client device on the wireless network with acceptable speed and accuracy; and when the data rate of transmission of the wireless client device is deemed not sufficiently high to determine the location of the wireless client device with acceptable speed and accuracy: to determine how frequently to send a message to the wireless client device to cause the data rate of the wireless client device to be determined with sufficient speed and accuracy; and to adjust how frequently a message is sent to the wireless client device.”
Hash Function Using a Cue Sports Game Process
U.S. Patent No. 8374341
The hash function of data security is already widely implemented in encryption practices. In hashing, a digital message or data of some sort is configured into a hash function that creates a unique output which fingerprints the data. This results in an encrypted code that is much shorter than the data being transmitted. However, more sophisticated security threats require more secure methods of encryption than existing hashing techniques.
The hash technique protected by Apple in this patent is modeled on of a process of randomization based on cue sports, like billiards. Theories of algorithmic randomness created by the dispersal of billiards balls during play dates back to at least 1835, according to the patent document. The system disclosed by Apple uses an algorithm that models a billiards game to create an even more unique and secure fingerprint for transmitted data.
Claim 1 of this Apple patent document protects:
“A hashing method performed by a computing apparatus and comprising the acts of: (a) receiving a message to be subject to the hashing method at an input port; (b) storing the received message as a table having a plurality of entries in a first computer readable storage coupled to the input port; (c) selecting, by a processor coupled to the first storage, a first of the entries of the stored message as a current position in a cue sports algorithm; (d) selecting, by the processor, a second of the entries as a target in the cue sports algorithm; (e) determining and storing, by the processor, an energy value of the cue sports algorithm in a second computer readable storage coupled to the processor; (f) computing, by the processor, entries for the table as a function of the first and second entries and the energy value, according to the cue sports algorithm; (g) updating the table according to at least one computed entry; (h) extracting entries from the updated table resulting from act (g) to provide a hash value of the message; and (i) storing, by the processor, the hash value in a third computer readable storage; wherein no game is displayed and there is no user input to the cue sports algorithm.”
Electronic Device Enclosure Using Sandwich Construction
U.S. Patent No. 8372495
Device manufacturers like Apple fight a constant battle between space availability and functionality for electronic devices, especially portable laptops and handheld devices. Customers want a lightweight device, but also a durable device. Plastics can be brittle, but although metal is sturdier it’s also much heavier and takes up more space. Even carbon fiber reinforced plastic (CFRP), which has a much higher strength-to-weight ratio than metal or plastic, poses material shortcomings for portable electronics.
The sandwich method of enclosing an electronic device protected in this Apple patent is designed to increase material durability without needing to add more material to the housing. The housing is created from two components, an upper body and lower body, constructed from the same material. This housing is then sandwiched around a core component, constructed from a second material.
The first claim of this Apple patent protects:
“An enclosure for housing at least one electronic component, comprising: a sandwich configuration comprising: a first layer forming at least a portion of an outer surface of the enclosure and made from a first material having fibers aligned in a matrix; a second layer forming at least a portion of the inner surface of the enclosure and made from the first material; a core formed from a second material, the second material being one of a closed cell foam, honeycomb, or balsa wood; wherein the first layer is disposed on a first surface of the core and the second layer is disposed on a second surface of the core, such that the first and second layers substantially enclose the core; wherein the sandwich configuration is spaced apart from the at least one electronic component by a clearance distance.”