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 set that 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.
Apple’s recently issued patents from the USPTO do show a heavy focus on improving music media services. One patents protects a method of browsing through albums by swiping through a digital wheel of album art, while another protects a method of creating playlists automatically based on a single song selection. Another issued patent we decided to take a closer look at describes methods of synchronizing dashboards across electronic devices owned by the same user.
Avoiding Communication at Designated No-Contact Times
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130275516
Mobile phones and similar electronic devices are great because they help us get in contact with others at any time, day or night, to find out important information at a moment’s notice. However, this can cause problems for those on the receiving end of these messages. Although a person will send a text message only when it is convenient for him or her, the recipient receives the message regardless of whether or not the timing is good. In some cases, such as while asleep or during a business meeting, even the sound created by receiving a text message can create an inappropriate interruption.
There are methods that mobile device owners have for setting an away or “do not disturb” status for their texting contacts. However, these usually have to be set manually by the person who owns the cell phone. Many device users may forget to turn the away status on before entering a meeting or other place where cell phone use isn’t entirely appropriate, even when entering the away mode is simplified.
This patent application, filed by Apple with the USPTO, describes a system of setting a phone into a no-contact mode automatically based on settings given by the mobile device owner. Although this application simply states that electronic communications will not be transmitted while in no-contact mode, it does allow for the possibility that messages can be queued for latter transmission after the recipient exits the no-contact mode.
A number of parameters can be set by cell phone users to indicate when the phone should enter the designated no-contact mode. For example, a user may set a period of hours as an everyday no-contact time to prevent from being awoken by text notifications during sleep. Also, a certain location can also be set as a no-contact area, preventing text messages from being received while in a regular business conference meeting room.
Claim 1 of this Apple patent application would protect the rights to:
“A method to control communications, comprising: receiving a request, by a programmable device, to transmit an electronic communication at a first time; determining a recipient of the electronic communication; reviewing profile data associated with the recipient; determining the electronic communication should not be transmitted to the recipient based on the act of reviewing the profile data; and generating a notification in response to determining the electronic communication should not be transmitted.”
Other Patent Applications
Apple is regularly submitting patent applications to the USPTO for the protection of newly developed mobile device and computing technologies. Most weeks, the USPTO publishes dozens of patent applications filed by Apple, and we’re seeing a number that describe interesting innovations related to mobile device hardware. For example, U.S. Patent Application No. 20130271697, entitled Display Having a Flexured Element, would protect the design of a flexured bearing element on Apple’s iPad devices that prevents light leakage from the iPad’s backlight from affecting the screen’s brightness. Wireless communication systems for mobile devices will also get an efficiency boost from U.S. Patent Application No. 20130273908, filed under the title Specifying Available Telecommunication Standards in Respective Geographic Regions Based on Mobile Country Code. This improved system would provide for a better use of system resources when searching for Long Term Evolution (LTE) and other wireless communications standards while roaming in distant geographical regions. However, it should be noted that this patent application has a very long Claim 1 section, which may render the protections so narrow that any issued patent has limited usefulness.
A couple of other notable patent applications are being featured here because of their intriguing new use of existing computer systems for electronic book readers or task management software. Apple is trying to protect a system of creating digital memorabilia by filing U.S. Patent Application No. 20130254284, entitled Embedding an Autograph in an Electronic Book. Owners of reader devices capable of storing electronic books would be able to store an author’s autograph within an eBook at any signing. Business management software is the focus of U.S. Patent Application No. 20130262527, which has been titled Smart Progress Indicator. This patent application describes task progress indicators used in these software programs that includes richer formatting for providing information quickly. For instance, the progress bar could be shaded with a certain color or texture to indicate lateness.
Issued Patents of Note
Each week, the USPTO also issues large numbers of patents to companies all over the world, and Apple regularly receives many from the federal agency. For our Companies We Follow series, we’d like to take a little time to highlight some interesting new additions to Apple’s patent portfolio. More mobile device improvements are highlighted in this issued patents, although these deal more heavily with software developments for media access. For example, U.S. Patent No. 8564563, which is titled Video Chapter Access and License Renewal, protects a system of video playback that makes it easier for users to scroll through chapters of a video file and select a chapter for viewing. U.S. Patent No. 8566045, entitled Event Recognition, protects a framework for storing touchscreen commands used by a wide degree of applications, even those not on the mobile device currently. This system can help save system resources from being used when an application with previously unknown touch commands is downloaded; instead of configuring the system to understand the new touch input, it’s already recognized by the device.
Apple products have long been associated with multimedia consumption, especially music, and the next few patents we feature pertain exclusively to constructing playlists for music players. The automated creation of music playlists based on content is discussed in U.S. Patent No. 8560950, filed under the title Advanced Playlist Creation. Instead of building playlists by selecting individual tracks from thousands that might be stored on a media device, a user could select one or a few songs and have a media player build a playlist based on that content. U.S. Patent No. 8564543, which is titled Media Player with Imaged Based Browsing, protects the method of scrolling through album art to select songs that users may be familiar with from Apple’s iTunes product.
Finally, we’ve pulled up one last issued patent that aims to make the experience of using Apple devices and software products much more uniform across computing devices. U.S. Patent No. 8566732 is titled Synchronization of Widgets and Dashboards. This patent protects a system of creating multiple dashboards layers for different devices owned by an individual. These dashboard layers display configurations of app widgets that are helpful in different situations, such as for work or personal use.