Apple Inc. of Cupertino, CA, is synonymous with consumer devices, and it currently holds a great market position within the electronic device industry thanks to two incredibly popular product lines, the iPhone and the iPad. Recently, Apple announced the the development of the iPad Air, an electronic tablet that some feel is a harbinger of the development of an iPad Pro version for business applications. Apple is also a well-known influencer in the music industry, thanks to its development of audio recording software. Many industry speculators expect Apple to come out with a 65-inch ultra high-definition television setthat incorporates wireless connectivity with other device.
This week in IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, we’re going back to California to highlight some of the more interesting patent applications and issued patents assigned to Apple from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. As always, Apple has plenty in play here, and it’s easy to see the corporation’s focus on its line of handheld devices, including tablets and smartphones.
Our featured patent application today will be music to the ears of many iPhone owners by keeping that device silent at important times. This application would protect a system of designating parameters that would prevent a message notification to be forwarded to a device owner, such as sleep hours or if the phone is in a designated meeting room. Other patent applications discuss a construction method for iPads that better prevents light leakage, a task progress indicator that can convey rich details about a task as well as a method of embedding memorabilia from an author’s book signing into an electronic book file.
One year ago, the USPTO Museum packed away 30 man-sized, glowing iPhones. It was the last day of an exhibit commemorating the life and inventions of Steve Jobs, and the oversized mock-smartphones were displaying trademarks and patents in his name. But is it as easy to view those patents on your ordinary, pocket-sized iPhone? Or file a patent application from an iPad?
The USPTO is one of many federal agencies struggling to comply with the mandates of the White House Digital Government Strategy for 2013 – namely, that digital information and services must be available “anywhere, anytime, on any device”. Meeting the government standard will entail not just polishing USPTO.gov for use on smartphones and tablets, but also a substantial overhaul of the way the agency exposes data to patent practitioners and the public.
Apple received 37 patents in the third week of February from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. These awarded patents include three design patents and a few motion detection sensing systems that allow individuals to interact with devices without having to touch the device. Other patents protect improvements to shock sensors within electronic devices and electronic contacts within jacks.
What follows is a sampling of some of the patents that particularly caught my attention for one reason or another.
Manufacturers of all kinds of electronic devices have always been interested in improving a user’s experience with a computer system. A user’s ability to interact seamlessly with the computer software contained within the device has always been a large part of that user experience. From keyboards to computer mice and then touch screens, computer technology manufacturers have continued to come up with new and quicker modes of communication between user and computer.
Every week, Apple Inc. is awarded a number of patents from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Last week, the USPTO released a whopping 47 patents, about twice as many as Apple had received in the previous few weeks. These patents include a number of efficiency improvements to notification and on-hold call management. Apple was also awarded a patent protecting audio production technology that can help simulate different recording environments for musicians. Also patented was a fan inlet calibrated specifically to the static air flow occurring around a laptop.
Apple’s making sure that lengthy on-hold times will never again affect your ability to play Angry Birds. This patent notes that current iPhone functions don’t support the ability to access and interact with apps while waiting to be taken off hold by the user on the other end of the line. Apple hopes that this patented system will allow users to keep utilizing their smartphone functions while on hold, allowing them to conduct important business or fit in another round or two of Temple Run.
News analysis and op-ed pieces following the $1 billion jury decision in Apple v. Samsung have been filled with reactive statements critical of the US patent system. Apple’s enforcement of its patents may “literally choke innovation” cried one law professor. Others have asserted that holding Samsung accountable for its theft of Apple’s property will prove harmful to consumers. A critic of the decision said that cases like this will require competitors to innovators like Apple to be much more mindful of patents and to “try to avoid or secure rights to [patents]” before bringing a product to market.
What the critics have not explained is how making it easier for a foreign company like Samsung to steal US-born innovation is in our long-term national interest.
Only a few weeks prior to the Apple decision, another American jury handed down a $1 billion judgment in another patent infringement case brought by another American company against a competitor. In that case (which the media ironically paid little attention to), Monsanto – the world’s leader in sustainable agriculture – prevailed in an infringement action involving the theft of its revolutionary seed technology. Just as Apple’s vision and risk-taking in the consumer electronics market revolutionized the industry, Monsanto bet the company on its seed technologies and transformed the business of agriculture. The verdicts in these two cases should not be treated as outliers. Rather, they should be accepted by Americans as foreseeable and desired outcomes of a pro-IP industrial policy America has embraced for decades.
Steve Jobs, the visionary founder and leader of Apple Computer Corporation, died Wednesday, October 5, 2011 at the age of 56 after an 8-year battle with a rare form of pancreatic cancer. Jobs, who is sometimes referred to as the father of personal computing, was the mastermind behind Apple’s Computers, iPods, iPhones, iMacs and iPad’s and is seen by many as a man who pioneered the personal computing industry and literally changed the way we live our lives every day. In celebration of his life and his accomplishments over the years, the following is a timeline of Jobs’ history, and the history of Apple, beginning in 1972 when he graduated from Homestead High School in Cupertino, CA, and focusing on the major events in a memorable life.
On Thursday, July 21, 2011, attorneys for Lodsys LLC, a company rapidly becoming a reviled patent troll, filed an amended complaint in the United States Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. (*) As a result of this amended complaint some big names in the gaming world have been brought into the ongoing patent litigation battles being waged by Lodsys. Lodsys had already sued a number of Apple App developers and others such as Best Buy and the New York Times, see here and here. More specifically, as a result of the filing of this latest complaint Lodsys has brought patent infringement charges against Atari Interactive, Inc. and Electronic Arts, Inc. (NASDAQ:ERTS), among others. But in the mind of the general public the highest profile defendant to date will almost certainly be Rovio Mobile Ltd., the maker of the extraordinarily popular game Angry Birds, which is available for iPhone, iPad and Android, among other platforms.
Earlier this month an Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) patent application published. This in and of itself isn’t news, but the contents of the innovation disclosed is indeed noteworthy. This particular Apple patent application, US Patent Application No. 20110128384, covers a method of disabling video capture in a cell phone or similar device; namely in the Apple iPhone.
Such an innovation would make it impossible to capture video or pictures at live events where cameras and video recorders are prohibited, such as at live entertainment venues. Such an innovation would no doubt be to the liking of those who engage in live performances and don’t prefer to have videos taken and ultimately posted to the Internet. It wouldn’t, however, be an innovation that would be particularly interesting to the consuming public though, so whether Apple would ever implement these features remains an open question.