Qualcomm: Diversified Innovation and Aggressive Patenting Leads to Success

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.

But innovation has not been occurring at Qualcomm simply for the sake of innovation. Since 2010, Qualcomm’s quarterly sales have increased each year by 31 percent. On the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, Qualcomm is the third-fastest growing large technology company in America as of 2013. Other Qualcomm operations involve the medical industry, for which they’re developing a wireless monitoring system for children with asthma, and video gaming, as many in the industry believe Qualcomm and Amazon are working together to build a console.

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.

Other intriguing filings show the variety of research and development activities in which Qualcomm participates. One recently issued patent gives Qualcomm protective status over a satellite communication system capable of preventing vehicle theft. A final patent application we look at in this column describes a lampshade that improves lighting applications for LEDs.


Emergency Messaging Between Citizens and Authorities
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130203373

Americans have a few emergency telephone numbers, such as 911, that they can call to be put in touch with municipal services. When a phone calls 911, it is routed to local emergency services so that the individual can receive quick assistance. This system works well for voice calls, but there is currently no effective routing system to handle short message service (SMS) text messages.

Qualcomm has filed this patent application to protect a system of routing SMS texts to the proper emergency services. In this system, a mobile services switching center filters message based on the emergency number entered. Once filtered, the text messages are routed to a public safety answering point that can receive and process emergency messages.

As Claim 1 describes, this patent application would earn Qualcomm the right to protect:

“A method comprising: receiving a message from a mobile station; determining that the message contains an emergency service number; determining an emergency service routing number usable to identify a public safety answering point; substituting the emergency service number with the emergency service routing number in the message; and forwarding the message for delivery to the public safety answering point, wherein the delivery of the message is based on the emergency service routing number.”


Smart Camera for Taking Pictures Automatically
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130201344

Smartphones and mobile devices have made it easier for people to capture important events in the lives of their loved ones. For example, a parent can use a device camera to take pictures of a graduation or a school sporting event in which their child participates. However, the focus required to operate the camera often makes it difficult for a person to enjoy an event. This is especially true of video, as tracking a subject manually is difficult, especially for highly active events like soccer or basketball games.

This patent application, filed by Qualcomm with the USPTO, would protect a mobile device with a camera that is designed to automatically take pictures when set to Event mode. When placed in Event mode, the camera automatically detects subjects, identifying them using stored images on the device or a social network like Facebook. When used to record video, the device can be set up on a tripod and automatically swivel to track a moving subject.

Claim 1 of this Qualcomm patent application would protect:

“A method for obtaining an image using a camera, the method comprising: obtaining data from a field of view of the camera coupled to a device; accessing an identification of an at least one object, wherein the identification of the at least one object is obtained by processing of the data; automatically tracking the at least one object from the field of view over a period of time based on determining that the at least one object is a target object for image acquisition; determining content for the image from the field of view at least partially based on the identification and the tracking of the at least one object; and acquiring image data comprising the content for the image from the field of view using the camera.”

Lampshade with Tapered Light Guide
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130201717

Light emitting diodes (LEDs) are increasingly used for lighting applications and pose a number of advantages over conventional lighting. Table lamps or ceiling lamps are often much heavier and more cumbersome to install than LED lighting of the same intensity. LEDs are also much more efficient at converting energy into light. However, the light escaping from LEDs casts an intense brightness that can be uncomfortable or even damaging to the eyesight of others.

This patent application has been filed to protect a type of lampshade that could be used to improve LED lighting. The lampshade is tapered at the end and contains elements that allow some light to escape out the side of the lampshade to dampen the brightness of the LED unit. Internal reflective elements would be used to further focus and guide the light away from the lampshade.

Claim 1 of this patent application would give legal rights to Qualcomm for:

“A lampshade comprising: a light source; and a light guide sheet extending laterally and curved around a vertical axis, the light guide sheet including a first vertical end coupled to the light source and a second vertical end opposite the first vertical end, wherein the light guide sheet has a varying thickness that decreases from the first vertical end to the second vertical end.”


Hardware Continuity Loop for Preventing Vehicle Misappropriation
U.S. Patent No. 8508352

Continuity loops between automobile hardware and satellite communications systems have been implemented in vehicles, providing their owners with the ability to speak to an operator in case of an accident or if a car breaks down. Qualcomm already operates a system like this, which they have trademarked as Omnivision. These systems do not, however, include many security measures to prevent against stolen vehicles or unauthorized access.


Recently, the USPTO issued a patent to Qualcomm protecting a system of using existing continuity loops managed through Omnivision to increase security against vehicle misappropriation. In this system, the hardware involved in the continuity loop includes a detection sensor that sends a message when it believes that unauthorized access is being attempted. In response, certain operating features of the vehicle, such as the ignition, could be disabled.

As Claim 1 states, Qualcomm has been issued a patent to protect:

“A hardware continuity loop for preventing vehicle misappropriation, comprising: a vehicle ground located at one end of a power cable, wherein the power cable operatively connects a subset of a plurality of components of a mobile computing platform in the form of a hardware continuity loop in order to form an uninterrupted electrical circuit, the subset of components comprising a mobile application server operatively connected between the vehicle ground and a modem via the hardware continuity loop, wherein the mobile computing platform further comprises a media display unit that is operatively connected to the mobile application server via a separate connection, such that the media display unit is not connected via the hardware continuity loop; and a relay for controlling vehicle response to an interruption of an electric current flowing through the continuity loop from an attempted vehicle misappropriation.”


System and Method for Determining Location of a Device Using Opposing Cameras
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130194428

The camera on a mobile device can be configured to determine the physical location of a device on a map. The camera can automatically capture images that are processed by device software to see if it matches any images stored on a mapping database. In this way, a mobile device user can be provided their exact location on a venue map based on the mapping software’s image recognition.

Qualcomm is hoping to protect a system of determine a device user’s location using both forward-facing and backward-facing cameras currently installed on their devices. A user would perform a gesture to operate both cameras on the device for determining a current location. The cameras can determine an exact location by identifying recognizable subjects in both directions and determining the camera’s distance from those fixtures.

Claim 1 of this patent application would extend to Qualcomm the right to protect:

“A method for determining location of a device, comprising: activating a front-facing camera and a back-facing camera of the device; capturing a first pair of images from a first orientation using the front-facing camera and the back-facing camera, wherein the first pair of images includes a first front image and a first back image; monitoring the device being rotated to a second orientation; capturing a second pair of images from the second orientation using the front-facing camera and the back-facing camera, wherein the second pair of images includes a second front image and a second back image; and determining a location of the device using the first pair of images and the second pair of images.”


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