The emergence of mobile computing as a technology platform has been a game changing development in many ways. The ability to be connected anywhere and to have real time information at our finger tips has transformed the way we do business and live our lives. As this computing paradigm has gained mass market acceptance we’ve witnessed a series of patent battles among firms vying for their share of this lucrative market. These so-called smart phone patent wars have in turn motivated patent system critics to vociferously decry the system as an impediment to innovation, which must be eliminated or radically overhauled. Defenders of the system respond that patent battles are a characteristic of market competitionoccurring with other breakthrough innovations throughout our history, and that patents address the need to protect innovations to encourage investment in innovation.
Despite all the chatter however, there is something that we have not heard in the discussions about these smart phone patent wars. The debate seems to have focused on patents and the patent system and it has ignored the fact that this current patent battle is really a battle between three competing business models advanced by the three highly competitive mobile OS providers and members of their ecosystems. Apple is pursuing a fully proprietary business model where mobile OS and mobile hardware are proprietary to Apple. This is consistent with Apple’s prior business model in traditional computing which has worked quite well for them. Similarly Microsoft is advancing a business model much like its successful traditional computing business model with a proprietary OS and an “open” hardware platform that allows third party handset makers to provide phones running the Windows mobile OS. Finally, Google is advancing an “all open” model in which it uses Android, an open source mobile OS and an open hardware approach.
Yet again, it was another busy week for Apple Inc. at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, as the California-based electronics developer received 48 patents and another 20 published applications for prospective patents.
A number of these applications describe upgrades to supporting components on Apple devices, including a new configuration for a device vibrator and a better system of illuminating keyboard keys. One of the more intriguing Apple patents awarded this week protects a system of displaying metadata to users extracted from radio broadcasts.
Radio broadcasts often transmit extra data simultaneously with their audio transmission. This data, typically configured according to the Radio Data System (RDS) protocol, includes information about the audio transmission that can be displayed by certain digital receivers. For example, a digital receiver would display the song title and artist of the track being played.
Apple is helping make this metadata information available to iPhone owners and other Apple device users with this new system of processing simulcast data. The mobile device would extract the metadata signal from the radio broadcast and present that information through a user interface displayed on the device. The data could also include additional website resources or Amazon.com book recommendations that the device owner could visit through the interface.
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.
More news to report in the ongoing ITC battle between Motorola Mobility (owned by Google) and Apple. Earlier this week the U.S. International Trade Commission announced that it will review part of the presiding Administrative Law Judge’s (“ALJ”) initial determination issued on December 18, 2012, finding no violation of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 by Apple. The ITC case is styled In the Matter of Certain Wireless Communication Devices, Portable Music and Data Processing Devices, Computers and Components Thereof, and is Investigation No. 337-TA-745
The ITC had originally instituted an investigation on November 8, 2010, based on a complaint filed by Motorola Mobility, Inc. The complaint alleged violations of section 337 as the result of importation into the United States and the sale within the United States after importation of certain wireless communication devices, portable music and data processing devices, computers and components thereof. The violation of section 337 was alleged to be the result of patent infringement. Specifically Motorola Mobility charged Apple with infringing U.S. Patent Nos. 6,272,333 (“the ’333 patent”); 6,246,862 (“the ’862 patent”); 6,246,697 (“the ’697 patent”); 5,359,317 (“the ’317 patent”); 5,636,223 (“the ’223 patent”); and 7,751,826 (“the’ 826 patent”). The ITC subsequently terminated investigation into the ’317 patent (on June 28, 2011) and the ’826 patent (on January 27, 2012).
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.
The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published 20 patent applications on Thursday, January 31 that are assigned to Apple Inc. Some very intriguing upgrades to digital media collaboration systems and cash transaction networks are among the many pieces of intellectual property that Apple is hoping the USPTO will protect. Also included is an easy accessory port to improve iPad usage and a system for associating images with geographical locations for easier map indexing.
Digital payment methods let people carry on their daily business without using much cash, sometimes going a few days with debit or credit cards. However, not all businesses can accept these cards as the fees for processing credit card payments can sometimes be prohibitive. Also, cash is also helpful when trying to split a dinner check or otherwise transfer money for personal transactions between friends.
The network described in this patent application processes cash transactions between two parties without needing any actual money present. The first party sends a cash request to a cash-dispensing server, which verifies that the user has the cash in a linked account and forwards that cash digitally to a recipient. A linked account for the second party is credited with that amount. A service fee could be charged to the party requesting the fund transfer as well.
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.
Last week Thursday brought another 22 patent applications published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office which have all been assigned to device and electronics manufacturer Apple Inc. This week, many of the applications relate to the kinds of efficiency improvements to computing systems and devices that have made the technology development firm famous. Last week’s published patent applications include a more space-effective design for mobile devices as well as an innovation that may possibly be revolutionary for the entire subscription publication industry.
This Apple patent application looks to take advantage of the retail sale of more than one billion single-issue magazine copies that occur in American stores each year. As the application notes, these single issues are often two or three times the rate of the same issue when a subscription is purchased. They can send in a subscription card, but many find this time consuming. The result is a lot of lost revenue for the publishing industry, which thrives on subscription bases.
This Tuesday, Apple Inc. was once again the recipient of a number of issued patents, as 26 patents were awarded to the company. As we’ll see, a number of these are related to improvements in resource efficiency, especially those tailored to mobile devices like the iPhone. Apple also received a patent that may save many iPhone users hours of time: a system that automatically syncs important account data with a new device when replacing a broken or outdated model.
Photo editing applications available on mobile devices typically have very low functionality compared to similar software available for desktop and even laptop computers. With these two patents, Apple Inc. hopes to empower mobile application developers who want to offer better editing features on these devices, which are increasingly being used to capture images.
Tuesday’s list of issued patents published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office includes 27 patents assigned to Cupertino, California device manufacturer Apple Inc. Each week, Apple is awarded a few patents that pertain to their electronic devices or computer systems. This week, Apple was awarded a new design patent for its laptops, as well as patents protecting methods of either creating more rugged touchscreens or finding useful social network recommendations through data analysis.
Here are a few of those recent Apple patents that caught my attention. For more news relating to Apple patents and published patent applications please see our other articles, which can be found at: http://www.ipwatchdog.com/tag/apple-patents/
This most recent design patent issued by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office describes a series of design modifications to Apple’s line of laptop computers, including the device manufacturer’s MacBook and PowerBook models. Claim 1 of this patent protects, “the ornamental design for a portable computer, as shown and described.”
All patented design changes pertain to the layout of the keyboard and trackpad on the laptop’s lower housing. A few different design embodiments are protected in this issued patent; patent diagrams that have a shaded area containing the laptop’s trackpad indicate a metallic surface. As with last week batch of issued patents, Former-CEO and device industry guru Steve Jobs is credited as an inventor on this patent filed in March 2012, months after his passing the previous October.
The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office issued 37 different patents to Apple Inc. on Tuesday, January 8, to protect different devices and computer systems developed by the electronics manufacturer. Some of these protect earlier generations of iPod and iPhone devices that have been sold for a few years. Others protect systems of transferring documents or advertisements among mobile device users. Some of these patent issuances are bittersweet for the company as former CEO Steve Jobs is listed as an inventor on a few of them.
A number of patents were issued this week protecting personal electronic devices already produced by Apple. These design patents cover both the first generation iPod Touch, with WiFi (D673947, D673949), as well as the iPhone 3G (D673948). Both items have been sold by Apple since 2008. Claim 1 of each patent simply states, “The ornamental design for an electronic device, as shown and described,” and a few diagrams of each device are also included.
Interestingly, Steve Jobs is listed as an inventor on all three of these patents issued this Tuesday. He is credited as one of at least a dozen credited inventors within each patent. He’s also one of the few to be reported as situated in Palo Alto; the clear majority of inventors were reporting from San Francisco. U.S. Patent No. D673949 was filed in June 2011, just three months before Jobs’ passing in October. The other two were filed in February of that year.
Each week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office publishes patent applications, and computer and electronics developer Apple Inc. always has at least a few published patent applications. In this column, we’ll look at some of these published applications, looking for hints as to what new devices or features Apple may have in store for users in the future.
In this edition we explore published patent applications relating to a graphical user interface that will assist users with special needs, such as vision or hearing problems, an ambitious system for generating electricity from stored wind energy, as well as various devices, systems and software more commonly associated with Apple’s various portable electronic devices.
Yesterday, the Judge Koh of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, denied Apple’s request for a permanent injunction in their ongoing patent war over smartphones with Samsung. The denial of the injunction will allow Samsung to continue to sell devices found to infringe Apple’s patents. See Order Denying Motion for Permanent Injunction.
This outcome is becoming all too commonplace ever since the United States Supreme Court issued its terribly damaging, misguided decision in eBay v. MercExchange. See Happy 5th Birthday eBay v. MerchExchange.Up until that decision a permanent injunction was nearly always granted to a victorious patent owner. That, of course, made perfect sense since the rights that are allegedly granted in a U.S. patent include THE RIGHT TO EXCLUDE! I know it is bad form to yell like that, but it is mind boggling to me still to this day. How can the Justices of the Supreme Court who profess to know everything about everything simply not comprehend something as simple and straight forward as the EXPLICIT TERMS OF THE PATENT GRANT! There I go again. Yelling at those who are so poorly informed as the Supreme Court likely isn’t going to help. It is, however, rather cathartic!
In eBay the Supreme Court determined that the familiar principles of equity as applied to permanent injunctions should apply to disputes arising under the Patent Act, even though the patent right is itself a right to exclude. The translation: the previously applied bright-line rule that resulted in permanent injunctions being issued as a matter of course was erased. That makes sense to no one who has thoughtfully considered the issue. Anyone who disagrees with that comment is either (1) not being honest; (2) hasn’t really considered the issues and equities; or (3) has a vested interest that requires them to engage in intellectually dishonest reasoning. The only reason to get a patent is to exclude others. That is why you pay so much money and why you spend so many years waiting for a patent — to exclude others. And what is an injunction? An injunction is only an order from a district court demanding that the loser (i.e., infringer) cease from ever doing the very thing that the patent says they cannot do.
Two of the biggest names in electronics will go back to court. The battle has been going on since early last year, and from the looks of things, won’t be settled any time soon.
Back in April 2011, Apple sued Samsung for infringing on their iPhone and iPad patents, stating that: “Instead of pursuing independent product development, Samsung has chosen to slavishly copy Apple’s innovative technology, distinctive user interfaces, and elegant and distinctive product and packaging design, in violation of Apple’s valuable intellectual property rights.”
Apple specifically targeted Samsung’s Galaxy S phone and tablet, the Nexus S and the Epic 4G. Apple brought forth 16 claims against their technology rival, which included trademark infringement, unjust enrichment and 10 other patent claims.
Speck Products, manufacturers of form-fitting, stylish mobile device cases announced that they have obtained a judgment from the United States Federal District Court for the Central District of California against Tsai & Shaw, a company that has been selling counterfeit Speck iPhone cases. The judgment includes a permanent injunction against Tsai & Shaw, as well as an award for the damages.
Speck designs cases for the leading brands of smartphones, e-readers, tablets and laptops. Based in California, Speck was started in 2001 by a group of design engineers who love both technology and gadgets. Their goal is to make cases that are not only nice to look at, but also have clever surprises to them. Speck is among the top smartphone case manufacturers, and has been given awards for their innovative designs.
Wining this case is not only a big victory in the fight to protectSpeck’s brand, but also a win in the fight to protect the product that is the embodiment of the U.S. patent for the CandyShell case, which Speck was awarded in August 2012.
How to Write a Patent Application is a must own for patent attorneys, patent agents and law students alike. A crucial hands-on resource that walks you through every aspect of preparing and filing a patent application, from working with an inventor to patent searches, preparing the patent application, drafting claims and more. The treatise is continuously updated to address relevant Federal Circuit and Supreme Court decision impacting patent drafting.
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