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'patent' Articles

Apple May Crowdsource iPhone Damage Data to Make Future Screens More Resistant to Cracks

Cases of cracked iPhone screens are certainly nothing new, and occur often enough to have earned a separate service fee in Apple's AppleCare+ program. According to one study, half of mobile users globally have experienced at least one cracked smartphone screen in their lifetime, and at least 21 percent of smartphone owners currently have a cracked screen. Presumably with this in mind, Apple is currently exploring technology that can detect when an iPhone screen has suffered damage and alert the user early, even if the break is a hairline crack, which may allow the company to come up with better design solutions in the future. The system appears in a patent published on Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, called "Coverglass fracture detection", which describes an integrated network of sensors and software that can detect the formation of cracks in a protective display cover. In one example, the invention detects breaches in the touch sensor substrate embedded in the device display. In another, piezoelectric actuators send out vibrations and detect defects by analyzing the response. In yet another instance, strategically positioned emitters shoot out pulses of light through a series of prisms, to eventually reach sensors located on the other end of the display. Measurements then detect anomalies in the travel of light in order to identify micro-fissures in the screen. The invention is described as being capable of distinguishing between hairline cracks and spiderweb cracks, and even capable of measuring fracture depth, length, width, and

Apple Explores Smart Keyboard With Siri, Share, and Emoji Keys

Apple recently filed a patent application containing drawings of a Smart Keyboard with "Share" and "Emoji" keys, and a key that can be used to both search and invoke Siri, suggesting it may be exploring a new version of the iPad Pro accessory to be sold alongside next-generation models. The drawings show that pressing the "Share" key would bring up a share sheet on the iPad Pro with options to share through apps such as Facebook, Mail, and Messages. There is no description of how the "Emoji" key would function, but pressing it would presumably bring up the on-screen Emoji keyboard on the iPad Pro. The current Smart Keyboard already has a globe key in the bottom left corner that can bring up the on-screen Emoji keyboard, but this key is not visualized in the patent drawings. There is a non-existent "Fn" key in its place. The third key, labeled with a magnifying glass, would serve multiple purposes. A single press, for example, could bring up a search field for searching within apps. A double press could bring up shortcuts for Messages, Photos, Calendar, Camera, Notes, Settings, and other apps. Long-pressing the key would invoke Siri. Since this is not a design patent, Apple's drawings are not entirely accurate, but rather just basic visualizations. The "Share" key is located where the right-side Command and Option keys would normally be, for example, while the "Emoji" key is included in lieu of Caps Lock, which is an essential key. Nevertheless, we roughed up a quick mockup of what the new Smart Keyboard could look like based on the same layout of the new

Apple Exploring Fingerprint Sensing MicroLED Displays Sans Touch ID

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today granted Apple a patent that describes a display capable of reading a user's fingerprint without a dedicated Touch ID sensor (via AppleInsider). The patent is interesting given current rumors swirling around the iPhone 8, which is expected to do away with the home button and integrate Touch ID directly into the display, but perhaps more noteworthy is the patent IP's re-assignment from LuxVue, a little-known company acquired by Apple in 2014 that developed low-power microLED-based displays. Titled "Interactive display panel with IR diodes", the patent details a touch display that uses specifically microLED-sensing technology, rather than the traditional active matrix hardware utilized by most consumer smartphones and tablets. The technology replaces larger capacitive sensors with smaller infrared light emitters and sensors, which sit alongside the RGB LED display substrate or on a microchip mounted to the substrate. These "interactive pixel" formations can then be calibrated to perform any number of functions, including ambient light sensing, proximity detection, and notably complex touch detection, which works by bouncing infrared light off a user's finger and back to the sensing diodes. In the latter operation, specific rows – or a whole portion of the display – scan for a user's finger, which generates a proximate positioning bitmap to inform the system of the target's location and immediate surround. Bitmaps can include data like the intensity of incoming light, enabling a deeper analysis of the object and its

Apple Exploring Data Sharing Gestures For Future Wearable Devices

Apple is exploring ways to make information sharing between wearables and mobile devices as simple as a wave of the hand, if a new patent application is anything to go by (via AppleInsider). Published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, an Apple filing for "Gesture-based information exchange between devices in proximity" describes a secure data transfer system between two portable devices that works by detecting customizable gestures, or "greeting events", such as handshakes, high-fives, hugs, fist bumps, bows, waves, and salutes. The gestures trigger a customizable data set that takes into account device context, with a particular focus on privacy and security. For example, in all cases, users must select the pre-defined gestures to allow the transfer of specific information only between the two devices, reducing the possibility of unintentionally sharing data with other devices in close proximity. Information shared can be stored either locally or in the cloud, and can include most data fit for transfer across a wireless connection, such as contact details, photos, media files, calendar events, and so on. Greeting events can also generate data for sharing across social media, such as a Twitter post that announces a meeting between two users. The sophisticated customization features of the system are of particular note, since they allow users to decide beforehand what kind of information is shared, and with whom, based on pre-defined contextual parameters, such as encountering someone for the first time, versus meeting a family member or an old friend.

Apple Invents Wearable Battery Charging Module for Apple Watch

Apple is weighing up the possibility of developing a wearable battery module to charge an Apple Watch while it's being worn, according to a patent published on Thursday (via AppleInsider). Details of the invention were released by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, under the title "Charging apparatus for wearable electronic device". The module uses an inductive element to transmit power to the smartwatch, similar to the one used in the existing Apple Watch magnetic charging cable. Two embodiments are described in the patent. The first shows the charger embedded in the wristband – an idea similar to previous inventions – while the second depicts a separate module that sits underneath the watch chassis and attaches to an existing band. The induction component in the portable module is capable of both transmitting and receiving power, and aligns itself with the smartwatch or an external charging source using magnets. Apple proposes the use of heat-dissipating circuitry to ensure the module is comfortable to wear against the skin, while various wired solutions are also described for charging the device itself when not in use. It's impossible to say whether the patent will see use in a future product, but Apple is clearly investigating various battery life solutions that don't sacrifice the thinness of the Series 2 design, which is already slightly thicker than the first generation. Improving the battery life of the next Apple Watch is also reportedly the "main task" of Quanta, the Taiwan-based company responsible for manufacturing the wearable. Extending

Apple Patents Detail AR/VR System Suitable for Smartphones, Explore Object Recognition Challenges

Apple was granted a pair of patents on Tuesday that depict a mobile augmented reality system that can detect objects in the surrounding environment and overlay them with virtual information. Picked up by AppleInsider, the first patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is titled "Wearable information system having at least one camera" and describes an AR device with intelligent object recognition capabilities. Combining cameras, a screen, and a user interface, the device is described as being ideal for a head-mounted display, but the patent also suggests a use for the system in future smartphones, owing to the power efficient way in which it monitors the environment. The device is described as having a default low-power scanning mode for normal operation, with high-power modes activated for short periods – when downloading and displaying AR content, for example. The rest of the patent gets quite technical as it details methods of optical tracking and determining camera orientation, two areas of AR that will prove particularly difficult to perfect. Detecting, matching, and describing environmental features quickly and accurately are two challenges that Apple suggests could be overcome using a combination of dedicated hardware and pre-learned data. One aspect of such a system would use depth detection, achieved via dual-lens cameras similar to those found in the iPhone 7 Plus, which also utilizes depth mapping algorithms to produce Portrait Mode photos. The second patent, titled "Method for representing virtual information in a real

No, Apple Isn't Working on a Vape

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday published an Apple patent application for a "sublimator/vaporizer" invention, leading to sensational headlines suggesting Apple might release a vape or enter the vaping industry. In actuality—and this could go without saying—the invention is completely unrelated. The patent instead relates to a semiconductor device fabrication process Apple uses to create chips for its devices. The application describes a canister that can be used to vaporize or sublimate a substance, which in Apple's case would be for delivering substances to a substrate during the deposition or etching process. The patent's assigned inventor Tetsuya Ishikawa, a senior manager at Apple in the nanotechnology field, lists photolithography as one of his skills on his LinkedIn profile. He also holds several other patents related to semiconductor fabrication. So, in the end, it is pretty safe to say, no, Apple is not working on a

Modular Band Links Could Expand Functionality of Future Apple Watches

Apple continues to explore how wristbands might augment the feature list of future smartwatch models, as shown in a new patent granted today. First picked up by AppleInsider, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published details on Apple's designs for "Modular functional band links for wearable devices", which first surfaced last April. The patent describes a band made of a series of modular links containing electronic components, which are attached to each other using a flexible conductive material. A number of possible uses are mentioned for the linked design, including batteries, speakers, kinetic power generators, haptic feedback devices, and more. Biometric sensors are also covered, such as blood pressure monitors and sweat sensors. The modular accessory links are arranged serially across a power circuit and communications bus, with module control achieved by way of a unique identifier assigned to each link. In one example, an audio signal is sent from the timepiece through the chain of linked modules and activates only those modules assigned with a particular identifier. Other examples describe links being used as external ports for interfacing with off-device components such as expandable memory modules. In most of the embodiments, the modular links connect to a 6-pin diagnostic port on the watch. As always, there's no suggestion that the invention should be expected to appear in a finished product, but the patent does highlight Apple's continuing search for ways to expand the capabilities of a future Apple Watch or other wearable beyond the

Apple vs. Samsung Lawsuit Over iPhone Design Officially Reopened

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Thursday reopened a longstanding patent lawsuit related to Samsung copying the design of the iPhone nearly six years ago, following an order of certiorari from the U.S. Supreme Court, according to court documents filed electronically this week. The court will seek to determine the exact amount Samsung owes Apple for infringing upon the iPhone's patented design, including its rectangular front face with rounded edges and grid of colorful icons on a black screen. The previous $399 million damages judgment was overturned by the Supreme Court last month. Apple's damages were calculated based on Samsung's entire profit from the sale of its infringing Galaxy smartphones, but the Supreme Court ruled it did not have enough info to say whether the amount should be based on the total device, or rather individual components such as the front bezel or the screen. It will now be up to the appeals court to decide. Apple last month said the lawsuit, ongoing since 2011, has always been about Samsung's "blatant copying" of its ideas, adding that it remains optimistic that the U.S. Court of Appeals will "again send a powerful signal that stealing isn't right."The question before the Supreme Court was how to calculate the amount Samsung should pay for their copying. Our case has always been about Samsung’s blatant copying of our ideas, and that was never in dispute. We will continue to protect the years of hard work that has made iPhone the world’s most innovative and beloved product. We remain optimistic that the lower

Haptic Feedback Wrist Band Could Make for Thinner Apple Watch

Apple is looking at ways to offload the Apple Watch's haptic feedback mechanism from the device's chassis to the wrist strap, according to a new patent application. Published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and spotted by AppleInsider, the patent application for a "Band attachment mechanism with haptic response" describes a band capable of alerting the wearer to incoming alerts and other notifications. Applied to Apple's timepiece, the proposed design would serve to reduce the thickness of the chassis by transferring the linear actuator assembly to the bottom or the side of the wearer's wrist. The document describes a hardware component outside the main casing that is able to move laterally and side to side relative to the watch chassis, with other embodiments able to move up and down or rotate around the axis, in contrast to existing embodiments which are limited to back-and-forth movements. This would allow the outside mechanisms to reproduce the various movements of Apple's Taptic Engine, such as taps and shakes, with further variations possible depending on the integrated haptic subsystem. The patent goes on to describe ways in which haptic devices could be embedded in the smartwatch band, such as within the strap buckle or spring bars, presumably receiving motion instructions via a hardwired connection. Perhaps in contrast to some of Apple's other products, making the next-generation Apple Watch thinner would likely be welcomed by users. Locating the actuator outside the casing would also likely make haptic feedback more noticeable to

Nokia Sues Apple for Patent Infringement in Germany and the U.S. Following Licensing Disagreement [Updated]

Nokia today announced that it has filed several complaints against Apple in Germany and the United States, accusing the Cupertino company of infringing on Nokia patents. Nokia's lawsuit stems from a disagreement between Apple and Nokia over licensing fees for Nokia technology. Apple this morning filed an antitrust lawsuit against several patent assertion entities that it claims are attempting to collect excessive fees for Nokia patents through lawsuits and royalty demands. According to Apple, Nokia's failing cellphone business has prompted Nokia to transfer patents to patent assertion entities to get out of FRAND (Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory) licensing deals it established for essential patents, allowing the company to collect higher royalties. From Apple's complaint:With its cell phone business dying, Nokia began to seek out willing conspirators and to commence its illegal patent transfer scheme in full force; that scheme has continued in full effect to the present. The driving force behind Nokia's strategy was to diffuse its patent portfolio and place it in the hands of PAEs. Acacia and Conversant were its chief conspirators.Nokia's own patent infringement complaint against Apple claims that Apple has declined to establish licensing deals for Nokia technology that is used in Apple products.Ilkka Rahnasto, head of Patent Business at Nokia, said: "Through our sustained investment in research and development, Nokia has created or contributed to many of the fundamental technologies used in today's mobile devices, including Apple products. After several

Apple Loses Labor Code Violation and Core Wireless Lawsuits

A federal jury for the U.S. District Court for Northern California today found Apple to be infringing upon a pair of wireless patents owned by Core Wireless, a patent holding firm with a large portfolio of more than 1,200 patents and applications, originally filed and later acquired from phone maker Nokia. Core Wireless was awarded $7.3 million in damages as part of the ruling, which Apple is likely to appeal. In its complaint, Core Wireless argued iPhones and cellular-enabled iPads infringe upon its patented wireless technologies, according to court documents filed electronically. Core Wireless, in a statement following the verdict, said the patents-in-suit — U.S. Patent No. 6,633,536 and U.S. Patent No. 6,477,151 — "provide innovations that improve battery life and signal quality in mobile phones.""We are very pleased with the verdict," said John Lindgren, Conversant's CEO. "We appreciate the efforts of the court and the jury. This confirms the strength of the Core Wireless portfolio, especially following our success against LG earlier this year in two cases in the Eastern District of Texas."Meanwhile, Apple lost another lawsuit this week when a San Diego Superior Court jury reached a verdict in favor of a group of former Apple Store retail employees, who accused the company of failing to provide timely meal and rest breaks, wages due upon ending employment within the required time, and accurate wage statements. California Labor Code dictates that employees must be provided with at least a 30-minute meal break when the work period is more than five hours, and

Supreme Court Reverses Apple's $399 Million Award in Samsung Phone Design Lawsuit [Updated With Apple Statement]

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday ruled in favor of Samsung in its longstanding smartphone design lawsuit with Apple, reversing a $399 million damages judgment awarded to Apple by a lower court. The case will now return to the U.S. Court of Appeals for further proceedings. Supreme Court judges unanimously decided they do not have enough info to say whether damages paid to Apple should be based on the total device, or rather individual components like the front bezel or the screen. It urged the U.S. Court of Appeals to reconsider the $399 million penalty Samsung paid in 2012.Absent adequate briefing by the parties, this Court declines to resolve whether the relevant article of manufacture for each design patent at issue here is the smartphone or a particular smartphone component. Doing so is not necessary to resolve the question presented, and the Federal Circuit may address any remaining issues on remand.The lawsuit dates back to 2011, when Apple successfully sued Samsung for infringing upon the iPhone's patented design, including its rectangular front face with rounded edges and grid of colorful icons on a black screen. Apple's damages were awarded based on Samsung's entire profit from the sale of its infringing smartphones. Calvin Klein, Dieter Rams, Norman Foster, and over 100 other top designers backed Apple in August, arguing the iPhone maker is entitled to all profits Samsung has earned from infringing designs. They cited a 1949 study showing more than 99% of Americans could identify a bottle of Coca-Cola by shape alone. Update: Apple has provided a

Apple Exploring Possibility of Foldable iPhone With Flexible Display

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published an Apple patent on Tuesday that shows the company has been researching a foldable iPhone design that uses a flexible OLED display. First spotted by AppleInsider, a patent titled "Flexible display devices" describes an iPhone design that folds in two when not in use, reminiscent of the old clamshell cellphones Motorola used to make in the 1990s. Apple's version utilizes a number of flexible parts including an OLED and a hinged metal support structure, made in one example of a nickel and titanium alloy known as nitinol, which has special elastic properties. Flexible polymers are used in alternative embodiments. Apple envisions that the upper housing could include cameras, display controllers, speaker modules and light sensors, with the lower section of the chassis containing microphones, CPU and graphics processor, along with vibrating and other typical smartphone mechanisms. The two sections connect via a single- or multi-shaft hinge that allows them to rotate relative to each other, while flexible printed circuit boards keep the connection intact. The flexible display meanwhile runs over the two sections and includes extra material to support two or more folding configurations. Apart from the the more familiar clamshell folding system, the patent describes how the display could fold outward, allowing both halves of the screen to remain accessible when the phone is closed shut. This second configuration also includes clips for fixing to the user's clothing. Later in the patent, Apple explores other more

Apple Explores Potential Chat Interactions With Siri in Messages Threads

Apple is looking into integrating its Siri virtual assistant into the company's Messages platform, according to a patent published today, enabling the AI to provide directions, retrieve movie times, and assist with peer-to-peer payments, among other potential uses. Picked up by AppleInsider, Apple's application for a "Virtual assistant in a communication session" appeared on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's website on Thursday, and details a system in which iMessage users can invoke Siri from within chat threads to get answers to relevant queries, complete scheduling tasks, and more. One scenario describes an instance in which users chatting amongst themselves bring Siri into the conversation simply by including it in the group thread. Using semantic analysis, the AI detects when it may be of help to complete a task and pitches in accordingly - such as finding a place to eat nearby, and telling the user how long it will take for their friends to arrive. Although Siri's responses don't appear to other users, the assistant is able to parse their messages in order to work out whether it can help with a task. For instance, in another example, the user asks "Siri, help us schedule a meeting," in a group chat thread and the AI cross-checks open calendar dates for the present users to suggest a potential meeting date and time. Participants can then vote for a preferred time and place, after which Siri schedules the meeting in everyone's calendar. In another example, chat members are notified that a user is utilizing Siri and are asked if they would like to

Apple Patent Hints at Next-Generation AirPods With Biometric Sensors

Apple today was granted a patent that essentially updates an older wearable sports and health tracking device invention with features similar to those found in the company's new AirPods wireless headphones. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published an Apple patent on Tuesday with the title "Sports monitoring system for headphones, earbuds and/or headsets", which AppleInsider notes is nearly identical to a patent of the same name granted in 2014. However, the new document adds some new details hinting that Apple may be planning on integrating the technology into a forthcoming version of the company's AirPods. The patent describes an earbud-based fitness monitoring system which integrates an advanced biometric sensor that can detect physiological metrics including temperature, heart rate, perspiration levels and more, through skin contact and via built-in motion sensors. The updated document does away with references to a head gesture-controlled user interface and replaces them with details of a UI that users interact with via voice and touch. The newer invention allows users to touch areas of the headphones to trigger controls such as changing music track or invoking Siri. Alternatively, users can speak commands through a microphone, which are then processed by the headset or sent to a host device such as an iPhone. The changes bear clear similarities to Apple's recently delayed AirPods, which include embedded infrared and motion sensors for controlling various system functions. AirPods automatically detect when they are removed from the ear and can

The Next Generation Apple Watch Could Identify Users by Their Heart Rate

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published an invention today that suggests the next Apple Watch could identify its owner simply by checking their heart rate. Apple's patent application is titled "User identification system based on plethysmography" and describes how a pulse oximeter is used to determine the biometric signature of a user's cardio rhythms. This data could then be used to identify the wearer and unlock the watch in a manner similar to Touch ID on the iPhone. The system works similarly to existing monitors, by projecting light on the user's skin and measuring how much of it is absorbed and reflected back to the device. The measurement can then be used to determine the amount of blood present in the vasculature. According to the patent, the data gathered by the two photosensors is either stored or compared against previously saved information to positively identify the user. In an associated patent also published today, the invention is extended to take in data from motion sensors like accelerometers and gyroscopes to determine user movement. Certain gestures, for example raising the device from waist height to head height, trigger the authentication process. AppleInsider notes that the system could replace Touch ID during Apple Pay payments and further reduce the watch's reliance on iPhone, although it's unclear if heart rate data can be a unique enough identifier to ensure the same level of

Apple Patent Integrates Ambient Light Sensor Directly Into iPhone's Display

The United States Patent and Trademark Office today granted Apple another patent that could help the company create a bezel-free, edge-to-edge display for future generation iPhones. The new patent describes "electronic devices with display-integrated light sensors" and specifically refers to methods by which the company could stack the iPhone's ambient light sensor underneath the display, instead of next to it on the iPhone's bezel (via AppleInsider). In the patent, there are a few configurations through which Apple could execute the technology. One showcases the light sensors -- which help the iPhone detect the ambient light in a room or outside -- integrated directly above the touch-sensitive layer of the display (figure 6), while another has the sensor placed next to the touch-sensitive layer without intersecting it (figure 9). The patent notes that the methods of executing this technology aren't limited to just light sensors, but could be used for "a proximity sensor, or any other sensor." In a typical device, a light sensor is laterally displaced from an active display region of the display along a front face of the device. Additional space is therefore provided in common devices at the top, bottom, or side of the active display area to accommodate the light sensor. This can result in an undesirable increase in the size and weight of the device, if care is not taken, displays may be bulky or may be surrounded by overly large borders. It would therefore be desirable to be able to provide improved electronic devices with light sensors and displays. In the

New Apple Patent Describes Fingerprint Sensor That Could Work Through Display

The United States Patent and Trademark Office today granted Apple a patent that describes a Touch ID sensor which could effectively detect and read a user's fingerprints through other components of the smartphone, "such as display stacks and touch screens" (via AppleInsider). While going unspecified, the technology aligns with the current rumors for the iPhone 8, which is expected to eliminate the Home Button for good and integrate various pieces of the smartphone directly into the display, including Touch ID. Described in the new patent, there are many reasons Apple is looking to integrate Touch ID into the iPhone's screen, "not the least of which is an interest in avoiding assigning valuable surface space exclusively to an component that may only be used briefly during the process of identifying the user." But the company still had to face multiple issues when building the new technology, namely a "blurring of the electric field" that brought about a loss of resolution of the fingerprint images as they were being transferred through the space between the Touch ID sensor and the iPhone's screen. To combat the gap between where the user places their finger, and the technology reading the fingerprint data under the display, Apple's patent proposes the use of electrostatic lenses, which are described as including "one or more patterned conductive layer(s)." In an example laid out by the patent, the position, relative voltage, and shapes of the patterned conductive layer or layers can be altered to shape the electric field specifically associated with the user's

Apple Ordered to Pay $22 Million to Patent Firm Acacia Research

A federal jury in Tyler, Texas has ordered Apple to pay $22.1 million to patent firm Acacia Research for violating U.S. Patent No. 8,055,820, related to cellular network technologies, according to court documents filed electronically this week. The monetary award is a running royalty for Apple's infringement through March 2016. The jury said Apple did not prove with clear and convincing evidence that any asserted claims of the patent are invalid as obvious or based on improper inventorship. Apple's infringement was found to be willful, which in patent litigation means the patent holder can request that the judge enhance the damages by up to three times, or up to roughly $66.4 million in this particular lawsuit. The lawsuit, filed in January 2014, accused Apple of selling multiple products that infringe upon the patent, including the iPhone 5, iPhone 5c, iPhone 5s, iPad 3, iPad 4, iPad Air, iPad mini, and iPad mini 2. U.S. Patent No. 8,055,820, titled "apparatus, system, and method for designating a buffer status reporting format based on detected pre-selected buffer conditions," is highly technical and at one point was assigned to Nokia. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Boost Mobile were also named as defendants for selling the infringing iPhones, but none of the carriers were named in the jury verdict. U.S. Magistrate Judge K. Nicole Mitchell presided over the case in the U.S. District Court for Eastern Texas, a popular region for non-practicing entities like Acacia Research and VirnetX to bring patent litigation against companies like Apple. Acacia