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February 07 2014

21:49

Feds scold Samsung for using standards-essential patents to seek iPhone ban

The Department of Justice on Friday announced the end of an investigation into a controversial campaign by Samsung to obtain an import import of Apple devices that allegedly violated patents.

In a statement, the DOJ said it would not take action against Samsung, but issued a statement expressing disapproval of Samsung’s use of so-called FRAND patents, which must be licensed on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory Terms, to seek an import ban:

in many cases, there is a risk that the patent holder could use the threat of an exclusion order to obtain licensing terms that are more onerous than would be justified by the value of the technology itself, effectively exploiting the market power obtained through the standards-setting process.

The statement comes after President Obama, in what may have been of the easiest decision of his Presidency, issued a last-minute order to reverse a ban on iPhones and iPads. Samsung had obtained the import ban order from the International Trade Commission, which found that the Apple devices infringed certain Samsung patents.

The ITC’s decision, which marked yet another low point for America’s dysfunctional patent system, came after Samsung sought an import ban at the agency at the same time it was fighting Apple over patents in federal court. In recent years, patent owners of all kinds have begun using the ITC, which can act faster than courts, as a backdoor way to harass rivals with patent claims.

The ITC case also throws more light on the role of FRAND patents, which are supposed to provide a cheap and efficient way for companies to obtain the rights to standardized technology. In recent years, however companies have begun using the FRAND patents in a more treacherous fashion — refusing to license the patents, and instead filing infringement claims against rivals.

Last month, the cable industry sued a patent troll owned by Apple and Motorola that has allegedly been using FRAND patents dating from the mid-1990′s to make legal threats against hundreds of companies.

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February 06 2014

14:40

Apple dreams up a better autocorrect

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published two new Apple patent applications (hat tip to AppleInsider), both of which could help improve the sometimes-sorry state of autocorrect. One describes an enhanced method of autocorrection, while the other details a way to automatically determine and change the language for a particular message.

The first application — Transient panel enabling message correction capabilities prior to data submission — is the one that can enhance autocorrect on both iOS and OSX. If activated, this feature would give users a second chance to review words and phrases modified by autocorrect before the message is actually sent.

The way this works is that, after you hit send, your message will be put on a short delay in which you’ll have the chance to review it. You’ll be shown a time window indicator onscreen, along with options to fix errors, ignore, reject and accept changes.

If you choose to fix errors, a new screen will show the message along with a number of additional choices for autocorrected words. This feature can be taught to suggest words used most often and hide those that are rarely used. Here’s a diagram that breaks the whole process down fairly simply:

Apple autocorrect patent

Apple’s other application — Automatically changing a language for electronic messages — describes a way for your device to instinctively select a language for sending a message based on data like who you’re talking with, or what you’re responding to.

If the system identifies you’ve received a message in Spanish, for instance, it will automatically pull up a Spanish software keyboard for you to respond. This could be very helpful to anyone that uses multiple languages, and constantly needs to manually readjust their keyboard.

Of course, these are just patent applications, so there’s no way to know whether or not this technology will show up in a future Apple device. I’d really like to see both, though; especially that autocorrect feature. As long as you don’t mind the slight delay, it could mean the difference between sending a coherent text message and becoming part of a meme.

This post was updated at 7:11am to revise the headline and clarify that these are patent applications, not patents.

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January 30 2014

14:05

Pressure-sensitive touchscreen detailed in new Apple patent

Apple’s touchscreen devices – the iPhone, iPad and iPod mini – all have wonderfully responsive screens, but they lack the ability to detect different levels of pressure. That might be set to change, however, according to a new patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday (credit to Apple Insider for spotting).

The patent – Gesture and Touch Input Detection Through Force Sensing – describes a device that uses the same type of multitouch display as Apple’s other touchscreen devices, but adds a number of pressure-sensitive sensors beneath the surface of the screen. The force sensors – at least three – could be located around the corners of the device, or hidden somewhere else, like underneath the bezel (you can see an example of this in the image below). This would allow the device to detect gestures from beyond the scope of the display itself.

Apple pressure locations

This actually reminds me a little of BlackBerry, which allows you to swipe from the bezel on the BlackBerry Playbook and BB10 smartphones. It is unclear if Apple is merely seeking to provide the same functionality, or if it would use the bezel as a more advanced means of touch input. This could also enable Apple to leave certain elements off of the display entirely – similar to the swipe-up Settings menu introduced in iOS 7.

Pressure sensitivity would also make for better palm rejection. Apple devices are already pretty good at this, but it could come in handy for a thumb that’s resting on the side of the screen.

Of course, these sensors could also allow future devices to determine the force of a press. This could have many practical applications, from enhanced sensitivity for using your device to draw, or more immersive gameplay.

Bloomberg last year reported that Apple is working on new pressure-sensitive touch sensors for the iPhone. But even with a patent in place, whether or not this technology will make it to a future device remains to be seen.

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January 22 2014

01:18

Cable industry sues Apple-backed patent troll over “illegal conspiracy”

The patent wars engulfing the tech industry have taken a new twist as five cable companies filed a lawsuit to stop Rockstar, a consortium owned by Google competitors that bought up 4,000 old patents in 2012 and began suing a wide variety of device makers.

According to a complaint filed Friday in Delaware federal court by Charter Communications and others, the consortium is engaging in an illegal conspiracy by plotting to move standards-essential patents through a series of shell companies in order to avoid obligations that require Rockstar to license the patents on fair and reasonable terms.

The new complaint, which will provide more grist for critics of America’s dysfunctional patent system, comes weeks after Google filed a lawsuit of its own to protect Android handset makers from Rockstar’s sprawling lawsuit campaign. The lawsuits (and related threats) are based on patents issued long ago to bankrupt network provider Nortel and were bought at auction for $4.5 billion by a group composed of Apple, Microsoft and others.

Today, a group of veteran engineers in Ottawa, where the rump of Nortel is based, spend their time not inventing anything, but instead taking apart devices looking for lawsuit opportunities; the lawsuit proceeds are presumably divided between Apple, which reportedly put $2.6 billion into Rockstar, and the four other owners.

As for the patents themselves, many are nearly two decades old. US Patent 5471474, for instance, is from 1995 and describes a ”communications highway network system for the interactive communication of digital and analog information that incorporates LAN, MAN, and CATV technology.”

According to the cable companies, Nortel contributed patents to a standards pool called CableLabs in 1998. Such patent pools are common in many industries and allow companies to develop technology along common protocols while, if needed, licensing the standards at a reasonable rate.

The cable companies, however, claim that Rockstar refuses to even discuss licensing terms and is demanding royalties without even disclosing which patents it is asserting; they also claim that Rockstar had been forcing its targets into non-disclosure agreements that forbid them from discussing the lawsuits with other companies.

The end result, claim the companies, is that Rockstar’s passing the patents to various other shell companies (including Constellation, Bockstar and Spherix) will lead to an endless series of lawsuits:

Rockstar also intimidated accused infringers by suggesting that failure to take a license to Rockstar’s entire portfolio would place a cloud of uncertainty over their business and would, ultimately, result in those parties being subjected to an endless cycle of patent enforcement through serial litigation

This suggestion that Rockstar is planning to chop up the old Nortel portfolio into small pieces in order to create a patent lawsuit merry-go-around is supported by a recent Bloomberg report.

In response to Rockstar’s activities, the cable companies are asking the court to punish it for organizing an illegal conspiracy and to say misuse of the patents should forbid Rockstar from asserting them in the first place. They also want the court to declare that the patents are subject to so-called FRAND terms, and that Rockstar should pay for breach of contract.

The lawsuit was filed by Charter Communications and four other smaller cable providers. The larger cable companies are already tied up in battles of their with Rockstar, including TimeWarnerCable which was sued by Rockstar in December.

Here’s the complaint, which was spotted by Bloomberg, with some of the relevant bits underlined:

Google Dec Action vs Rockstar

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January 16 2014

16:22

New Apple patent points to improved FaceTime calls over bad connections

Have you ever had a call over FaceTime when your network connection takes a hit and the person you’re talking with suddenly turns into a glitchy, pixelated mess? Apple is looking into a way to fix that, according to a patent published on Thursday and spotted by AppleInsider.

The patent – Video transmission using content-based frame search – describes how Apple can use pre-recorded or doctored images to account for dropped frames during a low-bandwith FaceTime call. It can do this by using the information from previously recorded frames, breaking down information in those images – like facial features, orientation and scale – into data points that may later be called upon when your connection suffers.

In addition to this, the patent describes a way of transmitting content in the background of a call at a lower resolution that the person you’re talking to.

If Apple can implement this technology into FaceTime, it would have a number of benefits. For one thing, pre-recorded images and a lower background resolution would dramatically reduce the overall data usage of the call, which is important across a capped connection. It would also mean the call is less likely to drop out in the first place, since less data is being transmitted.

Given that this technology is only in the patent stage, it isn’t known whether Apple will bring it to FaceTime at some point in the future. But with video calls becoming an increasingly popular form of communication, it could give Apple a real leg up on the competition.

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January 10 2014

19:32

Appeals court rules Apple didn’t violate Motorola patent

It’s another legal victory for Apple after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Friday ruled that Apple didn’t infringe on Motorola’s patented technology, reports Reuters.

“We’re disappointed in this decision and are evaluating our options,” Motorola said in a statement.

The original case dates back to 2010, well before Google acquired Motorola and its patents. Motorola accused Apple of infringing on six patents, though in April 2013 the ITC ruled that Apple wasn’t in violation of any of them. Friday’s ruling was over just one of those patents.

This is a big loss for Motorola (and in turn, Google), which was hoping to get Apple’s iPhone blocked from selling in the U.S., as the iPhone is manufactured overseas and the ITC has the power to block the import of products that infringe on U.S. patents.

This isn’t the end of Apple’s legal battles, though, at the company is expected to face off against Samsung yet again in March.

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19:32

Appeals court rules Apple didn’t violate Motorola patent

It’s another legal victory for Apple after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Friday ruled that Apple didn’t infringe on Motorola’s patented technology, reports Reuters.

“We’re disappointed in this decision and are evaluating our options,” Motorola said in a statement.

The original case dates back to 2010, well before Google acquired Motorola and its patents. Motorola accused Apple of infringing on six patents, though in April 2013 the ITC ruled that Apple wasn’t in violation of any of them. Friday’s ruling was over just one of those patents.

This is a big loss for Motorola (and in turn, Google), which was hoping to get Apple’s iPhone blocked from selling in the U.S., as the iPhone is manufactured overseas and the ITC has the power to block the import of products that infringe on U.S. patents.

This isn’t the end of Apple’s legal battles, though, at the company is expected to face off against Samsung yet again in March.

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16:32

Apple patent details optical image stabilization for iPhone cameras

When it comes to smartphone cameras, Apple might not use as many megapixels as the rest of the competition, but the iPhone is generally believed to have one of the best mobile cameras out there. Just yesterday a report came out saying that Apple might retain the same 8-megapixel camera sensor it uses now for the iPhone 6, focusing instead on features like optical image stabilization. And it looks like that very well may be the case, judging by a patent published on Thursday that was spotted by Unwired View.

According to the patent – which is for a VCM OIS actuator module – Apple has been working on optical image stabilization since at least as early as the patent was filed in late 2012. The language in the patent describes:

A lens actuator module including an autofocus (AF) mechanism capable of moving a lens according to at least three degrees of freedom and an optical image stabilization (OIS) mechanism capable of moving the lens according to at least two degrees of freedom. The AF mechanism may have a coil and a magnet assembly for driving movement of the lens according to the at least three degrees of freedom. The optical image stabilization (OIS) mechanism may include a coil and a magnet assembly for driving movement of the lens according to the at least two degrees of freedom.

Apple introduced software-based image stabilization in the iPhone 5s, which uses digital processing to fire off a series of shots and stitch them together for a superior image. Optical image stabilization, on the other hand, protects your shots against a shaky hand or other movement by allowing the camera lens itself to move (by at least two degrees in this case). In my experience, I’ve generally found optical image stabilization to be vastly superior to software-driven stabilization.

Apple’s patent shows how it plans to integrate this feature into the voice coil motor (VCM) actuator. With this module, Apple believes it can “substantially correct for handshake motions in the center of the image.”

Even before the report and the patent appeared, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see an 8-megapixel camera with OIS in the next iPhone. If there’s anything that reviewing reviewing phones like the 20-megapixel Nokia Lumia 1520 have taught me, it’s that more megapixels don’t necessarily equal a better image.

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January 09 2014

13:40

Apple and Samsung CEOs to attend mediation session ahead of March court date

Apple and Samsung are heading back to court in March for another round of battle in their ongoing smartphone patent trial. But Apple CEO Tim Cook and Samsung CEO Oh-Hyun Kwon have agreed to meet ahead of that for a mediation session in which the companies could potentially come to a settlement, reports Reuters.

Cook and Kwon will be joined by in-house lawyers, and will attend the session on or before February 19. That gives it some distance from the court date in March, when the companies are yet again set to battle it out over smartphone patents – albeit for different devices this time. Given Apple’s upper hand in the proceedings thus far, though, the company doesn’t have much reason to settle.

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December 27 2013

19:04

Apple renews bid to ban Samsung smartphone sales in the US

Apple might have won some recent battles against Samsung, but it’s still looking to win the war. FOSS Patents reports that Apple on Thursday renewed its motion for a permanent injunction against certain Samsung smartphone sales in the U.S.

Apple is looking to ban Samsung devices that violate a number of patents, including pinch-to-zoom, rubber-banding and tap-to-zoom-and-navigate. What’s interesting is that most of the products named by Apple are no longer even available in the U.S., so a ban on the products identified wouldn’t have much of an immediate effect. But, as FOSS notes:

It’s important to focus on the asserted patents, not the accused products. Obviously, the products that are named in an April 2011 lawsuit (such as the Galaxy S II) are no longer commercially relevant. But Apple is seeking an injunction that would also cover “any other product not more than colorably different from an Infringing Product as to a feature found to infringe” (which is consistent with the Federal Circuit’s TiVo v. EchoStar opinion).

While an injunction might not remove any current Samsung devices from store shelves, it could hold major ramifications against the company for future products. Apple is requesting the injunction trial be held by January 30, 2014.

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December 19 2013

14:15

Apple patent shows off “layered” Maps

Are we looking at iPhone’s map of the future? Today, the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) published an application from Apple that details the workings of an “Interactive Map” with many layers, according to Apple Insider.

The map itself is a program that allows users to view different “layers” of content, pulled from the Internet, over the map. In the report, Apple gives the example of a weather layer that could tell users when a storm is approaching. Other sample layers include Shopping, Commuting, and even Tourism. The map is also designed to take into account these layers when the user searches in the area, to provide further context for searching. For example, someone in the Shopping layer who types in “skateboard” is more likely to get a skate shop than a skate park. The layers would also have some geospatial features — users in the “Tourism” layer could get access to information for all the landmarks in the immediate area.

Apple Map Patent

The patent also discusses the maps’ interactivity. The application describes the ability to tap on specific features or landmarks to get information, like the population of a city or the year a landmark was built. Touching two points on the map would create a route between them, like a more sophisticated pin drop. Pins themselves would also receive an overhaul, with more robust features, instead of being phased out entirely.

Apple has been in pursuit of a better Maps program since the Cupertino company had a fall-out with Google in 2012. But the implementation of a proprietary Maps system has been a thorn in the giant’s paw, so to speak — providing the most headaches for users with its bad directions and glitchy behavior. While necessary updates like transit directions are likely in the works, it’s promising to see that Apple is actually looking further ahead to bring a more enriched experience to the app. It might be a long while before the company has a Maps app worth using, but this patent could be a promising first step.

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December 06 2013

17:00

Apple patents "smart dock" that auto-activates for voice recognition

A new patent by Apple suggests that Siri may be headed for the home. The filing, titled "Smart dock for activating a voice recognition mode of a portable electronic device," details an advanced base station that would host a device like the iPhone or iPad, and could automatically activate the voice recognition features of said device without any physical interaction.

The patent describes existing electronic voice recognition capabilities as requiring "an initial activation step requiring the user to interact with the finger controls and/or GUI of their device before voice commands can be processed." The invention in the patent would accomplish this in a different manner, such as constantly listening for a specific word or phrase. The dock itself could feature physical controls or a touchscreen, but it would remain rather "dumb" until being coupled with a phone or other gadget.

Translating the patent-speak into normal English, the dock could activate Siri, who would then provide information, send a text message, or add an item to your calendar while you remain on the couch. The dock itself also includes speakers of its own, so music playback would likely be a big deal as well.

As always, these patents could never yield any actual retail product, so don't go adding the Apple iDock to your wish list any time soon.

[via AppleInsider]

Apple patents "smart dock" that auto-activates for voice recognition originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Fri, 06 Dec 2013 12:00:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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November 21 2013

20:37

Jury restores $290 million to Apple in retrial over Samsung patent infringement

A jury in San Jose awarded Apple $290 million in follow-up proceedings to last year’s “tech trial of the century” between the iPhone maker and Samsung.

The verdict, issued Thursday afternoon, comes at the end of a retrial over damages that was necessary after US District Judge Lucy Koh ruled that the original jury erred in calculating the amount Samsung owed in relation to 14 patents tied to the iPhone.

Only abut half of the $1.05 billion that the first jury awarded Apple was in dispute. In recalculating the rest, Apple had asked for $380 million while Samsung said the value it obtained from the infringement was $52 million — Thursday’s verdict is largely a victory for Apple. Samsung is still on the hook for about $600 million from the original trial.

Reports from the court note that Judge Kohn is renewing the latest figures, and could adjust them by several million.

Samsung, which is in the process of appealing the original verdict, is likely to appeal Thursday’s verdict too. During the latest proceedings, the Korean company unsuccessfully asked for an emergency stay in light of a Patent Office finding that one of Apple’s patents may be invalid, and also asked for a mistrial over alleged racism.

The retrial didn’t attract the same level of hoopla as the original showdown, although reporters were quick to cover every detail, including the jury’s lunch order:

The jury, meanwhile, put in a final request to hold onto a part of the “iCourt” history:

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November 19 2013

23:54

Apple-Samsung “Groundhog Day” patent trial wraps up: verdict to come soon

The sequel to 2012′s blockbuster court fight over iPhone infringement came to a close on Tuesday as Apple and Samsung argued over a recount of the $1 billion in damages that a jury issued last year.

If you missed it, the smartphone makers have been back in court since last week for another round that the judge — who presided over the initial trial — described as “Groundhog Day.” The first time around, the jury miscalculated the damages for 14 patents.

This time, a new jury heard Apple argue that Samsung profited to the tune of $380 million while the Korean company says it should only have to pay $52 million (the numbers are on top of the approximately half a billion dollars Samsung owes from other patents in the first trial).

Court watchers predict a verdict will to come on Wednesday. Whatever the outcome, new demands for recounts and appeals are likely to follow.

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November 12 2013

18:15
14:04

Apple and Samsung start ‘Groundhog Day’ patent trial: a quick guide to what you need to know

Apple and Samsung have been slugging it out in courtrooms around the world, but the “tech trial of the century” took place last year in San Jose, California, where Apple won a blowout $1.05 billion jury verdict.

On Tuesday, the case starts up all over again as Apple and Samsung return to the same court to argue damages before the same judge, who predicted it would be “Groundhog Day” – a reference to the film where Bill Murray wakes up every day to relive the exact same events. Here’s a short, plain English Q&A to what’s going on:

What was the original trial all about?

It all started with former Apple CEO Steve Jobs vowing to start “thermonuclear war” over what he perceived as Samsung’s decision to “slavishly copy” the iPhone and other Apple products.

Apple filed a lawsuit in San Jose in 2011, claiming Samsung’s Galaxy smartphones and tablets infringed Apple’s utility and design patents. Samsung filed its own patent claims, but the outcome was a lop-sided verdict for Apple: the hometown jury said the Korean company had infringed a slew of patents and ordered it to pay $1.05 billion, and found Apple had infringed nothing.

So why are we back in court before a new jury?

The new trial isn’t about the patent infringement verdict (though that’s before an appeals court) — instead, it’s about the dollar figures. US District Judge Lucy Koh said the original jury used a flawed theory to calculate damages for 14 of the 26 Apple patents, and shaved the original verdict by about 45 percent.

Now, a new jury is going to do the math again and figure out how much of the original damages to restore.

So much will Samsung have to pay this time around?

Who knows. Lawyers from both sides will ply the jury with “facts” about how much the Samsung products harmed Apple. Under America’s curious jury system, this group of lay people who have little training in economics, merchandising or intellectual property will pick a figure.

In a flicker of good news for Samsung, Judge Koh on Monday agreed to the company’s emergency request (see below) to stop Apple’s lawyers from espousing certain damage theories.

How long will this go on?

The plan is to select the jury on Tuesday and for the lawyers to make their case and wrap it up by early next week. In a Monday order, Judge Koh wrote ”If jury deliberations do not conclude by Friday, November 22, 2013, the jury will resume deliberations on Monday, November 25, 2013 [...] Monday, December 2, 2013; and every consecutive business day thereafter as needed.”

My own guess is that the jurors will want to be left alone to eat Turkey and watch football — so bet on them issuing a verdict next week.

What products does the ruling affect?

This all started years ago, so it’s about older Samsung devices: the Galaxy Prevail, Gem, Indulge, Infuse 4G, Galaxy SII AT&T, Captivate, Continuum, Droid Charge, Epic 4G, Exhibit 4G, Galaxy Tab, Nexus S 4G, Replenish, and Transform.

The companies are also squaring off over newer products, including the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S III, in a separate trial starting next year.

What does this mean in the bigger picture for Apple and Samsung?

The actual dollar amount the jury hands down won’t really make a difference — Apple and Samsung are giant companies and even a billion dollar award is no big deal to then. The more important issue is setting precedent, which could influence other trials and tee the case up for appeal.

I can’t get enough of this stuff. How can I follow this even more?

The San Jose Mercury News will have a live blog from the courtroom. You can also follow Twitter accounts like @fedcourtjunkie and those of Professors Mark Lemley and Brian Love, both of whom are trustworthy patent experts.

To get a sense of how deep the lawyers are digging in, here’s Samsung’s lawyers complaining that Apple is “sandbagging” them (Koh agreed to the motion on Monday):

Samsung Emergency motion.pdf

Image by Bahadir Yeniceri via Shutterstock

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November 10 2013

15:30
Apple considered buying BlackBerry's IP and patents

Apple has expressed interest in buying a selection of BlackBerry's intellectual property (IP) and other patents, reports Reuters. While Apple wasn't the only entity to express interest in BlackBerry's assets (Microsoft and other tech giants reportedly were also interested), it certainly would be the company with the most cash on hand to make BlackBerry a compelling offer. However, it now appears that BlackBerry isn't considering any IP purchase overtures from anyone. Reuters reports:

"BlackBerry Ltd's board does not believe a break-up of the Canadian smartphone maker is currently in its best interests, even though Microsoft Corp, Apple Inc and Lenovo Group Ltd, among others, have expressed interest in acquiring parts of the company, according to people familiar with the discussions.

"The board rejected proposals from several technology companies for various BlackBerry assets on grounds that a break-up did not serve the interest of all stakeholders, which include employees, customers and suppliers in addition to shareholders, said the sources, who did not want to be identified as the discussions were confidential.

"Microsoft and Apple had both expressed interest in BlackBerry's intellectual property and patents, a source briefed on the matter told Reuters."


There are no reports in what specific IP Apple was interested in, but any acquisitions would no doubt strengthen Apple's stance in several patent-laden legal battles going on with various smartphone competitors around the globe. BlackBerry also has a number of valuable smartphone enterprise patents Apple could no doubt use to increase its iOS enterprise offerings.

Apple considered buying BlackBerry's IP and patents originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Sun, 10 Nov 2013 10:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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October 31 2013

14:55

Apple files patent for slim solar-powered technology

According to PatentlyApple, Apple has filed yet another solar panel patent. While this is the eighth patent for the Cupertino, Calif.-based company in an effort to make proprietary solar technology, the “Power Management for a system having non-volatile memory” has eliminated the need for a power converter to turn the solar power into electronic energy. In practical applications, this means that a solar panel could be attached directly to the Magsafe port of a computer or onto the back of a phone.  It’s just a concept now, but it could mean that solar power won’t come at the cost of slimness and style.

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October 10 2013

20:30

Apple patent suggests devices could protect themselves from falling damage

Your iPhone probably wasn't cheap, and if you're relying on a budget case (or, worse yet, nothing at all) to protect your investment, there's a good chance a long fall will do some serious damage. But what if your device was smart enough to protect itself from damage in the event that you knock it off your kitchen table or drop it during a spirited run in the park? That's exactly what a new Apple patent is suggesting.

The patent is titled simply "Protecting an electronic device," but the technology behind it is anything but ordinary. The description details a number of ways that a future iPhone could protect itself from a fall by orienting itself in relation to the ground.

In the event of a drop, your phone would sense that an accident is happening and then turn itself so that it lands on an edge, where damage to the screen would be the most unlikely. The patent describes a couple of ways this could be accomplished: Either by a system of internal motors that would spin up and alter the device's falling pattern, or a propulsion system that could produce a jet of air to correctly orient the phone on its way to the ground.

Of course, as with all patents, there's a very good chance that this technology will never make it into a retail device, but I'm willing to bet anyone walking around with a busted iPhone screen wishes they already had it.

[via VentureBeat]

Apple patent suggests devices could protect themselves from falling damage originally appeared on TUAW - The Unofficial Apple Weblog on Thu, 10 Oct 2013 15:30:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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October 07 2013

22:30

Samsung asks Obama to block import ban set for midnight on Tuesday

President Obama made one of the easiest decision of his tenure in August when he acceded to Apple’s request to overrule an obscure agency that had imposed an import ban on certain iPhones. Now he has a chance to do the same for Samsung, which is asking for the same favor to stop a ban set for October 8 — but the outcome may not be the same.

As Bloomberg reports, the Korean company asked the White House in August to override a finding by the International Trade Commission that its phones infringed two Apple patents, including one for “headset plug and play detection.” As a result of that ruling, the ITC imposed a ban on older Samsung units (it’s unclear which ones but, since the complaint dates from July 2011, new models are unlikely to be affected).

The US trade representative, who speaks for Obama on the issue, said he has yet to make up his mind on the issue, but did tell Bloomberg that the decision would have nothing to do with national favoritism. The comment likely reflected the fact that the Korean company, which has lost a number of high-profile court decisions, has suggested that American officials may be Apple-biased.

Another complication for the import ban, slated to go into effect at midnight on Tuesday, is the ongoing government shutdown. I looked for an update on the website of the ITC (an agency I’ve argued has no business in the patent game), and here is a screenshot of what I found:

screen shot of govt' shutdown


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