Once again, 38 patents have been issued to the giant electronics manufacturer Apple Inc. of California. After a few slight weeks, Apple has enjoyed at least three weeks where they’ve been issued about 40 patents or so from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.
This week’s patents include a design patent awarded for a flat-screen monitor display, improvements to voicemail retrieval systems and digital image processing improvements that help retain image detail. Apple also has a very intriguing collaborative media playback patent that would allow multiple people to affect the music choices in a room directly from their electronic device.
U.S. Patent No. D677257
The only design patent issued this week to Apple protects the shape of a flat-screen computer monitor for Apple’s iMac computer series. These computers function as desktops that include all of the hard drive and processing components within the monitor; only the mouse and keyboard components are external.
Claim 1 of this patent simply protects “the ornamental design for a monitor, as shown and described.” The front flat panel display is the specific part of the monitor design that is protected by this legal patent. Schematic images attached to the patent show that this design applies to two different embodiments of the iMac, one with a white convex backing and the other with a grey convex backing. The edges surrounding the panel in this display are black in color.
Collaborative Playlist Management
U.S. Patent No. 8392505
When a media playback program is set to “shuffle,” the program typically plays songs in a random fashion. Once shuffle mode is selected, the program operates without any further input from the user. Some applications have options that allow users to re-order the random songs that appear in the playlist or add songs from the library to be played. For instance, the iTunes Party Shuffle mode lets users import songs to the random playlist from the library.
Apple’s intellectual property patent protects a system of allowing a single playlist to be managed and adjusted through multiple electronic devices. Old methods of playlist management for Party Shuffle or other modes required users to input their selections from one central computing device. With this system, as long as all of the devices are connected to the same network, the media program would sync all choices from peripheral electronic devices with the playlist occurring on the computer running the program.
As Claim 1 states, Apple is protecting:
“A media server, comprising: a media management application configured to play a first playlist; a communications interface configured to receive a first user feedback from a first portable media device of a plurality of portable media devices when the media management application is broadcasting the first playlist to the plurality of portable media devices, wherein the first user feedback is related to a queued media item in the first playlist; and a processor configured to: generate an updated playlist based on the first user feedback, wherein the updated playlist includes a new media item not included in the first playlist; cause the new media item to be streamed from one of the plurality of portable media devices to the media server without storing the new media item on the media server; and direct the media management application to broadcast the updated playlist instead of the first playlist to the plurality of portable media devices, wherein the updated playlist comprises a change from the first playlist, wherein the change comprises one of the following: (i) a different set of media items than the first playlist and (ii) a different order of media items than the first playlist.”
U.S. Patent No. 8390411
This patent protects technical improvements to the physical body of Apple’s iPad tablet device that improves the device’s ability to support accessory devices. Earlier versions of the iPad supported connections with external devices, but the metal fasteners used to secure accessories are obtrusive and do add a little bit of weight to the entire device.
This Apple patent protects a system of creating a releasable attachment between two devices using magnetic elements. Sensors located near the two magnetic elements measure the magnetic field generated in those locations to indicate to the device that an accessory has been attached. These sensors can also interact with the device’s display screen.
In this patent, Claim 1 protects:
“An electronic device, comprising: a housing having side walls and a front facing opening; a processor disposed within the housing; a display coupled to the processor and configured to present visual content, the display disposed within the front facing opening and having a topmost protective layer; a first magnetic element disposed beneath the topmost protective layer; a first sensor disposed within the housing and configured to detect a magnetic field passing through the top protective layer and respond by sending a first detection signal to the processor that responds by preventing the electronic device from presenting visual content by the display; and a pivotal attachment mechanism disposed at a side wall of the housing and configured to pivotally attach a cover to the electronic device, the cover comprising a flap, the flap comprising a first cover magnetic element that provides the magnetic field detectable by the first sensor only when the flap is in full contact with the display in a closed configuration, and a second cover magnetic element separate from and in proximity to the first cover magnetic element, the second cover magnetic element configured to magnetically attract the first magnetic element to secure the flap to the topmost protective layer.”
Opponent Color Detail Enhancement for Saturated Colors
U.S. Patent No. 8390699
Digital cameras are capable of taking clearer pictures every year, but there are still shortcomings in contemporary design that could be improved. For instance, there is typically a conflict between detail and color that can hinder the quality of a picture during image processing. The image processing application often tries to saturate the color contained within the image, which can reduce the clarity of small details contained within those saturated areas.
Apple’s image processing improvements, protected by this patent, take place when the image file is still in the RAW state, which is the bit-for-bit image file captured by the camera when it actually takes a picture. This file usually ranges in size from 8 MB to 18 MB. To increase detail clarity when the image processing wants to saturate colors, opponent channels are used to offset the saturation; for example, the opponent channels of red are green and blue in an RGB display.
Claim 1 of this Apple patent describes:
“A method of performing image processing on a device having one or more processing devices, the method comprising: determining, using one or more processing devices, an area containing a saturated color at a first location in an input image; identifying an opponent color of the saturated color wherein the opponent color of green is green, the opponent color of red is green, and the opponent color of blue is red; calculating an interpolant factor to apply to the first location wherein the interpolant factor is based on the opponent color; and applying the interpolant factor to the first location when combining a processed color image and a luminance image, wherein the processed color image and the luminance image have been derived from the input image.”
Voicemail Systems and Methods
U.S. Patent No. 8391844
Voicemail systems have existed since before widespread cell phone use, but the user interface has not changed much in that time. When accessing cell phone voicemails, users must log into a voicemail server, typically by calling directly from their phones. In order to listen to their voicemails, users must listen to each voicemail chronologically and choose to save or delete the message. In many cases, this is time consuming, especially when a user knows the contents of the message and wants to skip it.
This system of voicemail retrieval created by Apple would allow users to skip sequential voicemails stored on the server and even delete those which are not necessary to listen to. Schematic drawings attached to this patent also suggest that the voicemails could be sorted by characteristics other than the recording date.
Claim 1 of this intellectual property patent describes:
“A machine-implemented method comprising: displaying, on a telephone device, a user interface presenting a list including a plurality of voicemails; receiving, by the telephone device, a first selection within the displayed list, the first selection selecting a first voicemail from the plurality of voicemails; establishing a first Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) connection between the telephone device and a voicemail server to download the first voicemail in response to the first selection of the first voicemail, wherein the first voicemail is downloaded in portions along with identifiers that indicate how each portion fits within an entire time sequence of the first voicemail; receiving, by the telephone device while the first voicemail is being downloaded, a second selection within the displayed list, the second selection selecting a second voicemail from the plurality of voicemails; establishing a second HTTP connection between the telephone device and the voicemail server to download or receive, as streaming media, the second voicemail and terminating the first HTTP connection in response to the second selection of the second voicemail while the first voicemail is being downloaded, wherein the first HTTP connection is terminated after receiving a first portion of the first voicemail and before receiving a second portion of the first voicemail; and reestablishing the first HTTP connection to resume the download of the first voicemail with the second portion, wherein reestablishing the first HTTP connection terminates the second HTTP connection or occurs after the second HTTP connection has been terminated.”