Dr. Rocco Leonard Martino, inventor of the CyberFone, the first Smart Phone.
A major car company is running commercials about companies that started in a garage. Amazon, Apple, Disney, Hewlett Packard and the Wright Brothers all started in a garage. The advertisement extols innovation, and the modest roots of great discovery and great companies. By implication, it hopes to align the public image of its cars coming out of a garage with these very successful companies. But the car company ad is wrong. It is highly unlikely these companies would ever get started in today’s hostile environment for the small innovator or company.
Let me tell you why. This is a first hand account of my experiences with inventing the Smart Phone.
It became obvious to me in 1994 that the voice transmission over traditional telephone systems could be done using computers linked to telephone, cellular or internet networks. That was the origin of the concept of a smart phone utilizing the computer in support of multimedia traffic. I called it the CyberFone, filed for patents in 1995, and built models during that same period to demonstrate to interested parties, including the patent office. I expected accolades for coming up with a useful idea, and proving it could be done, but that never happened. Some thought the screen was too small, others thought the concept of touch would never catch on, or that no one would want to make phone calls using a computer. One great business genius told me it was a software world and that no one was interested in hardware. That was a ridiculous statement. How could software run without a machine? Apple became the most valued corporation in the world by combining hardware and software.
Each morning as I wake up, I roll over and reach for my smartphone. I don’t have to reach far because I charge it overnight on my bedside table. As I pick it up and scroll through the emails and news that came in overnight, look at my calendar for the day and check the weather, I yawn and stretch and finally put my feet on the floor. Walking out of the bedroom and toward the kitchen to get my coffee, I’ll keep reading and browsing through items that interest me, and deleting the messages that don’t. After letting the dogs out, I’ll sit down at the table with my mug of hot coffee and my smartphone and continue getting informed and organized until the mug is empty. I might check Facebook, Twitter, watch a YouTube video or two, and check the traffic along my route to work. Maybe I’ll even text my workout partner and let them know I’m running a little late this morning. Because I’m a creature of habit, I’ll repeat this routine day after day without thinking much about it. It probably sounds familiar to you.
But the other morning, I did stop to think about it. I asked myself how this device called the “smartphone” – which didn’t even exist as a product category five years ago – could have become such an integral part of my morning routine. Why do I always keep it charging on my bedside table at night instead of the other room?
The short answer is patents. But here’s the long answer to tell you what I mean.
Headquartered in San Diego, CA, Qualcomm Incorporated is a major player in the manufacture of digital wireless devices and associated telecommunications products and services. This technology developer produces an array of semiconductor products, like their Snapdragon processors, that power many of the smartphones and tablet computers available in today’s electronic device market. Recent comments made by company officials at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas indicate that the corporation is moving beyond a smartphone focus to work on improvements to tablet and even vehicle connectivity.
It’s been a little while since our last check-in with Qualcomm for our Companies We Follow series, and the new year finds the corporation developing a number of innovations that involve a variety of interesting computing systems. Each of these inventions is described fully in either a patent application or issued patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and assigned to Qualcomm. Fans of Qualcomm’s mobile device products will also notice some conspicuous improvements to the company’s current smartphone components.
What is clear every time we look at Qualcomm is that the company’s innovation profile defies easy characterization because Qualcomm simply innovates, and innovates and innovates. For example, today we begin looking at a patent application that could very well bring the value of having a massive scope of retail products available for purchase online directly into brick-and-mortar stores. This computing system would allow a store to detect that a shopper is comparing prices online through a device and then provide a discount offer that could entice the customer into buying the item in the store. Then we briefly discuss other interesting patent applications that relate to a mobile video terminal that could assist in patient physical therapy, as well as a system of reducing a device’s processor power to control internal temperature.
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.
BlackBerry Limited, formerly known as Research In Motion, is a telecommunications company headquartered in Waterloo in the Canadian province of Ontario. Known for its flagship product, the BlackBerry, RIM has severely reduced its market presence in recent days and the main shareholder has even announced that the company will go private soon, removing its stock from public exchanges. Although the company still services many millions of electronic device owners, its future seems to be cloudy at best.
In IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, we typically take a look at companies on the forefront of technological development. However, today we want to take a look at Research In Motion to profile a former giant in the industry before it slinks off further into obscurity. We discuss possible roads down which RIM may travel in order to make itself profitable in the next few years. We’re also featuring the companies patent applications and issued patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to get an idea of the portfolio it will still be able to protect.
BlackBerry has a lot of patent applications still going through the USPTO system, as far as we can tell all of them dealing with mobile devices or communications systems in one way or another. The company is also still amassing a portfolio of US patents. Recent patents that are intriguing in the technological sector include a few patents that improve the ability of mobile device users with limited keyboards to input text commands. Another issued patent creates a navigational tool for a mobile device that plays an audible feedback when operated. Still another patent of recent vintage displays a notification light when an event is upcoming.
This all begs the question, however, about what the future holds in store for BlackBerry. Will they regroup under private ownership? Will they morph into a licensing juggernaut? Might they give up being a manufacturing company altogether and turn their considerable portfolio on the industry? Will the patent portfolio be auctioned off to the highest bidder?
Here we go again. Last week, police detained three employees of Taiwanese smartphone-maker HTC, raided their homes and offices and seized their computers and cellphones to search for evidence, as HTC is accusing them of stealing sensitive technology to sell to HTC’s competitors.
The three men – a vice president of product design, director of R&D, and senior designer – are accused of stealing secrets relating to HTC’s Sense 6.0 smartphones, which are scheduled for launch later this year. The accused purportedly formed design companies in Taiwan and China and began speaking with Chinese phone-makers about selling them the stolen secrets. They are also accused of defrauding HTC out of more than US$300,000, by use of forged documents, apparently to raise capital for their new venture.
Taiwan has seen similar cases before. In 2012, the nation’s second largest LCD panel-maker, AU Optronics (AUO), sued two of its former high-level executives for stealing trade secrets, which they took to their new employer, a major competitor in China. In 2011, Taiwan IC-design company, MediaTek, sued a former employee for stealing secrets and sharing them with his new employer. And, most famously, Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) battled with its Chinese rival, Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corp. (SMIC), for almost a decade over allegations that SMIC poached numerous employees, who stole critical information that SMIC used to illegally manufacture competing products.
Qualcomm Incorporated is a San Diego-based manufacturer of semiconductors often found in iPhones and similar devices. Qualcomm is also one of America’s leading technology innovators. As you will see below, Qualcomm’s innovation is not limited to semiconductors; they engage in a wide range of innovation and have an aggressive patent protection plan that routinely sees them in the top 10 in number of international patent applications filed. See 2012 top filers page 3.
Today in IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, we’re returning to take a look at one of the nation’s most successful technology developers. Three Qualcomm patent applications and issued patents published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office recently have focused heavily on mobile device improvements. Two applications pertain to device cameras: one would protect a system of automatic picture taking at events, and another would improve location mapping services based on recognizable venue features. A third patent application we explore here would allow mobile device users to send text messages to 911 or other emergency service providers.
The University of California (UC) system is extremely inventive and one of the top patenting Universities in the United States, which is why recently we decided to include them in our Companies We Follow series. See University of California Improves Diagnosis, Treatment of Arthritis. In that article Steve Brachmann explained that UC has seen patent applications publish for a number of interesting technologies, including new diagnostics and treatments for arthritis, as well as methods of making red-blood cell particles, methods of tissue generation and nanowire mesh for solar fuel generators.
Also profiled was an interesting patent application — United States Patent Application 20130127708— titled Cell-phone based wireless and mobile brain-machine interface, which was published on May 27, 2013. In reading the aforementioned article about UC patenting I decided this patent application needed separate treatment because the patent application explains that the innovation could be used to “detect abnormalities and transfer the information through cell-phone network…” Sounds almost like the plot for a science fiction movie! But discussion of uses, movie plots and potential ability to monitor brain activity puts the cart before the horse. Let’s take a step back and look at the technology.
Apple Inc. of Cupertino, CA, has been a regularly featured corporation in our Companies We Follow series. The multinational corporation has been a major name in consumer electronics and computer software, owing largely to the market success of the iPad and the iPhone. Recently, Apple has been making more moves into media application development, as is suggested by recent agreements with Warner Music and others to provide streaming radio services.
This week, we’re featuring a number of interesting new patents and published applications from the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office that have been assigned to Apple. A few of the applications we’ve chosen to profile include more efficient systems of detecting user inputs. One application describes a system allowing devices to enter a low-power mode based on user gaze detection, conserving battery power. Another application would protect a system for better facial recognition during photo processing of image files.
Other documents assigned to Apple showcase the corporation’s focus on aiding user communication and providing a more user-intuitive device experience. One application featured here was filed to protect a system of analyzing a user’s media preferences for gaming environments, while another improves a user’s ability to share a pinned location on a map with others.
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.