The Whitacre Tower in downtown Dallas, TX, is home to the main headquarters for AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), a major multinational corporation in the field of telecommunications and our latest featured corporation for IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series. A recent increase in demand for AT&T products and services nationwide has led to the company’s recent announcement that it would hire 3,000 more retail workers in the U.S. over the coming months. Stronger AT&T stock prices may also enable the company to be a bigger player in mergers & acquisitions markets, as this online article published by The Wall Street Journal suggests.
Whenever we check in with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for a closer look at AT&T’s recent inventions, we find an intriguing selection of technologies for enhancing the user experience for mobile electronic devices. Today, we’re sharing our favorite patent applications and issued patents from this major developer of telecommunications products and services. As you can see, AT&T is heavily invested in a variety of software related innovations. In this article we particularly focus our selections on a variety of personalized services enabling many real-life benefits to an AT&T device owner.
The featured application is a continuation of a patent application that matured into a patent for AT&T in December 2013, some 9 years after it was first filed. The file history shows that after being unable to convince the patent examiner after several final rejections AT&T appealed to the Board, which in May 2013, reversed the examiners rejections. Obviously, given that AT&T has fought so long and all the way to the Board they must believe this innovation to be of some importance. Indeed, this AT&T innovation offers a very practical service that can be applied to a variety of emergency situations. This technology involves a time-sensitive encoded artifact that is affixed to a person or object which can be scanned to communication important information in response to an emergency event.
Other patent applications included in today’s discussion would protect a system of making people aware of interactive glass surfaces located in close physical proximity, as well as a system that provides better contextual information about possible viruses to help users better differentiate between malicious software and safe programs.
The strength of AT&T’s patent portfolio is ever increasing, as we discuss in our analysis of the company’s recently issued patents. We take at in-depth look at a few communications inventions, including one patent that protects a system of providing a visually responsive user avatar for messaging services. Another patent protects a software product allowing users to set up a digital wardrobe that reflects their personal one for making quicker outfit decisions. We were also intrigued by a patent protecting a method of setting up multiple user profiles on a single device.
Methods… for Providing Personalized, Just-In-Time Information Services
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140068979
Technological innovations involving mobile devices and associated software have been evolving mobile devices from entertaining consumer products to important, and in some case life-saving, utility tools. Our recent coverage of Qualcomm’s recent patents, for example, included a patent protecting a system of using a mobile device to determine an emergency event and alert others. Although multimedia content services and advertising software are usually a greater focus of innovation for the Companies We Follow here at IPWatchdog, we’re always intrigued to find new systems for computing devices that address major public issues.
There are many people in our society that would benefit from a kind of enhanced tracking services that could easily put them in touch with caretakers and emergency services. Elderly individuals or those with physical or mental handicaps may experience a range of medical emergencies. Parents would benefit from the ability to easily locate a child lost in a crowd or building. Even normally healthy individuals may encounter emergencies, like a car accident or heart attack, where quick communication with others is paramount.
This patent application, filed by AT&T with the USPTO in November 2013, and is a continuation of an application filed on December 22, 2004, but which just received U.S. Patent No. 8,606,590, issuing December 10, 2013. The ‘590 patent contains method claims, system claims and computer readable medium claims.
This application continues to seek additional claims on a specification that describes a method of creating a personalized information artifact encoded with a variety of important personal information. This data, encoded onto a substrate through glyphs or bar coding, can include personal identification, medical needs or other instructions. This artifact and substrate can be scanned by a device to submit information to a trusted entity, such as police or a fire department.
This personalized information artifact can be generated by registry services at a variety of venues, such as an amusement park, an outdoor festival or a medical facility. The substrate is printed with time-sensitive elements so that the data self-destructs over time, preventing others from gaining unauthorized access. This artifact can be applied to an individual by affixing it to clothing or the person’s skin. This system could also be used in non-emergency applications, such as to communicate handling instructions for a package.
The additional claims sought by AT&T in this continuation are all drawn to a “personalized information artifact,” which seems to be akin to an ID card, tag, or perhaps an ID bracelet. Claim 1 seek coverage for:
“A personalized information artifact, comprising: a substrate imprinted with personalized information that includes time-sensitive elements, a portion of the personalized information is configured to self-destruct over a time period that is commensurate with the time-sensitive elements; and a material operable for affixing the substrate to a subject with which the personalized information is associated.”
Other Patent Applications
In our check-in with AT&T’s recent innovations, we are noticing that fewer patent applications than normal have been published recently by the USPTO, and currently seem to be outpaced by the issued patents awarded to this company. Considering this company’s reliance on software technologies and the stakes of Alice Corporation v. CLS Bank International case that is currently awaiting a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court, it’s possible that an uncertain atmosphere for the future of software patents has led to fewer filings on behalf of AT&T. It is also possibly coincidental, but it was noticeable enough to pique our interest so we deemed it worthy of mentioning. For more on the Supreme Court’s consideration of Alice v. CLS Bank see our coverage here.
Still, there are a number of intriguing innovations for which this company is seeking legal patent protections, and a few describe some useful systems for consumer devices that are still futuristic, even by today’s technological standards. For example, U.S. Patent Application No. 20140091937, entitled Notification System for Providing Awareness of an Interactive Surface, discusses a technology designed for business and home settings that incorporate a plurality of computer-interactive glass or transparent surfaces. This would alert an individual to the presence of a display surface, even a currently inactive one, to prevent a person from colliding with a display that they don’t see. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140071229, filed under the title Apparatus and Method for Presentation of Holographic Content, would protect improved systems and devices that allow users to access holographic multimedia content. This system includes the distribution of both holographic images as well as video.
A couple of other patent applications that we noticed today involve helpful technologies that allow those with an intermediate knowledge of computing better understand and access advanced digital services. Erroneous file deletions because of misunderstood virus alerts may become a thing of the past thanks to the system detailed by U.S. Patent Application No. 20140082731, which is titled Contextual Alert of an Invasion of a Computer System. This technology can provide a computer user with contextual information, such as alert tones or audible instructions, that indicates the type of threat and its severity. Established connected sessions among devices is the focal point of U.S. Patent Application No. 20140089821, titled On-Demand Multi-Screen Computing. This system increases the ease of establishing a multi-screen setup for a laptop, desktop or similar computing environment, which may be useful to those who engaging in projects where they may have to multitask with various software programs.
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Issued Patents of Note
In contrast to its patent application filings, AT&T continues to enjoy a generous number of patents issued by the USPTO in recent days, sometimes eclipsing two or three dozen within a week. This led to the discovery of a number of intriguing patents that have lately been secured by this company to protect some very interesting systems for electronic computing devices, especially those used largely by consumers. Improved methods of communication are featured here today, as well as some other novel systems that may intrigue some of our readers.
Our look at AT&T’s recently issued patents starts with some analysis of a couple of inventions improving messaging across electronic devices. Better communication between speakers of different language can be achieved through the system protected by U.S. Patent No. 8688483, issued under the title Message Translations. This technology enables translations of instant messages to facilitate conversations between speakers of different languages, especially for English-to-non-English conversations. U.S. Patent No. 8683354, entitled System and Method for Distributing an Avatar, protects a system that enables communication between computing devices that utilizes an visual avatar of a person. That avatar is designed to enhance digital communication between parties by providing a profile image of a person that is visually responsive to the conversation. Although not a communication technology, U.S. Patent No. 8689193, which is titled Method and Apparatus for Protecting a Software Application Against a Virus, may enable device users to share files more confidently. This system provides better protection against malware that attack applications which do not employ virtual memory as a protection against malicious computer coding.
A couple of novel computing systems for consumers are detailed by a couple of other issued patents that we deemed noteworthy. Electronic device users that take great pride in their fashion sense and selection of clothing will likely enjoy the software product protected for AT&T by U.S. Patent No. 8682738, titled System and Method for Using a Digital Inventory of Clothing. This patent protects a system of providing a digital wardrobe that allows a user to quickly assess dress options based on their actual clothing. Finally, U.S. Patent No. 8688095, which is titled Multiple User Profiles and Personas on a Device, will likely improve sharing of AT&T devices among family members and friends. This system enables multiple profiles to be contained within a single device, which users can switch easily through the device’s user interface. This invention also allows a single user to create multiple profiles, such as a home profile and a work profile.