Apple Lands Patent for Health Tracking Earbuds

By Joseph Mandour on February 24, 2014

LA Patent AttorneyOrange County – Apple was recently granted an interesting patent that has to do with health monitoring earphones.  The new technology is intended for use in sports and fitness and would track vital health statistics in real time.  The new product would allow users to control the connected device through the use of hand gestures and would provide feedback as to body temperature, perspiration, and heart rate.

According to the particulars of the filing, Apple is exploring ways to alert users when they have reached a certain goal in a workout by beeping when a certain distance, heart rate, or speed is reached.  Other features described in the patent show ways that users could adjust the device with hands-free signals.  Specifically, the filing details how a person might be able to turn the volume up or down or change music tracks with the tilt of the head or other slight body movement.

The technological details of the patent reveal how accelerometers and other sensors will be implemented in each of two earbuds, which will then communicate to the attached Apple device by either a physical cord or through bluetooth.  As for its ability to measure physical phenomena occurring within the user’s body, the filing describes how biometric technology will work to transfer information from the earbuds’ contact with the skin and ear cavity to the attached device.

This patent adds to Apple’s attempt to integrate  technology and fitness.  The company already offers Nike+iPod to its many health conscious customers, which allows users to track their workout progress with a small sensor that works in conjunction with the iPhone or iPod and specially designed Nike running shoes.   According to this patent, the new earbuds would eliminate the need for users to buy an intermediate sensor device.  Instead, a user can simply plug the earbuds into their existing Apple iPhone or iPod and the tracking technology will work.  The patent filing makes note of this improvement, stating, “Assuming the user is otherwise using the hearing device, such as to provide audio output by a portable media player, the user gains monitoring capabilities wit Read the rest

Patent Filings Point to “Hot Corners” as Part of New Samsung Smartphone Interface

By Joseph Mandour on February 6, 2014

Intellectual Property Infringement California – A series of recently unveiled patents give a glimpse into what we might see as part of the next line of Samsung smartphones.

With the new Samsung Galaxy S5 set to be released in March, all eyes are on the Korean based company for what’s to come for the new generation of devices. After doing some digging, Korean Intellectual Property Rights Information Service (KPRIS) was able to uncover patent documents that offer some fresh details about the new phones.

Among the new developments showcased in the filings is a new feature called “Hot Corners,” which comes as part of Samsung’s efforts to make its larger screens easier to navigate. With the overall size of smartphones growing (Samsung’s Galaxy Mega has one of the biggest screens on the market, at 6.3 inches), the company has been looking for new ways improve ease of use.

The new “Hot Corners” concept will be featured in the revamped TouchWiz interface and will make it so that one-handed operation is more manageable on the large phones. The “Hot Corners” platform of the new TouchWiz features four semi circles in each corner of the display. Each corner has a few shortcuts to commonly accessed applications and phone functions, such as weather, maps, and favorite calls.

In addition to the more accessible “Hot Corners” home display, the patent filings describe some other features to be included in the updated interface, including a more socially focused music and media application. Specifically, the patents describe ways in which users will be able to see which of their friends have listened to a song that they are listening to and what ranking that friend gave the song. Beyond that, the new TouchWiz music app will allow Samsung users to comment back and forth on songs and videos, similar to Spotify or YouTube.

With the new Touchwiz patents coming out so close to the release of Samsung’s 2014 flagship device, it is almost certain that these new features will be included as part of the S5 package. The new device is said to be packed full of new technology, including an improved camera, updated operating system and a faster processor. With all of the added features, the S5 is set to Read the rest

New Apple Patent Reveals Cool Additions to Device Track Pad

By Joseph Mandour on January 30, 2014

Patent Infringement Claims Los Angeles – A recently filed patent provides a snapshot of what might be on the horizon for Apple’s next generation of devices.  The new technology, which is referenced in a patent that was granted last week, surrounds the sensors features in the touch pads of Apple products.  The patent is exciting news for the multitude of Apple fans eagerly awaiting the next line of MacBook devices, which have been the subject of less patent filings when compared to Apple’s other devices like the iPad and iPhone.

The patent, entitled, “Touch pad with force sensors and actuator feedback,” was filed by the Cupertino-based company by a team of eight inventors.  The filing details new plans for a track pad with an added actuator feature, which users touch to activate “force sensors.”  This differs from the current track pad included in MacBook devices, which are known as “all-in-one” designs, that are essentially one large button.

The all-in-one design that Apple has used in its laptop devices for years have been the subject of complaints, the biggest being the amount of pressure needed to click and activate the inner switch.  This problem is even more pronounced when users try to click the track pad close to the edge, where the hinges lie underneath.  While the simple appearance of the all-in-one design has added to Apple’s theme of compact sleekness, it seems that the company is finally looking to heed user complaints and make some changes its touchpad.

Specifically, the technology outlined in the new patent looks to alleviate the track pad pressure problem by implementing four sensors, rather than one, which will be situated under the four corners of the pad.  Offering an even bigger change, the new sensors will be updated “force sensors” that do not even have to move to be activated, but can respond to the vibration of human touch. Thus, with the new track pad, users might not have to press a button of any sort, but can simply tap the surface to click.   After detailing this new possible “button less” track pad technology, the patent goes on to describe how the new computers will have customizable settings so that users can select their desired leve Read the rest

Google Squares Off Against Intellectual Ventures in Patent Fight

By Joseph Mandour on January 27, 2014

Patent DisputeOrange County – A patent dispute that began back in 2011 between Google-owned Motorola and Intellectual Ventures is finally heading to court. The lawsuit was filed by Washington-based Intellectual Ventures against Motorola over three smartphone patents, including one that involves the type of technology used in Google Play. The case is making waves in the technology industry by stirring up debate over the legitimacy of companies that achieve success by buying patents and then suing for patent infringement. While Intellectual Ventures contends that Motorola has infringed its patents, Google counters that Intellectual Ventures does not actually make anything and that it is not in the business of creating innovation, but of making profits.

Intellectual Ventures, which is headed by ex-Microsoft Chief Technology Officer Nathan Myhrvold, was founded in 2000 and was initially backed by several high tech companies including Google, Apple and eBay.  Since its founding, however, many have criticized the company from going from what they considered to be a sort of patent defending firm to a patent “super troll”.

Intellectual Ventures has thousands of patents to its name and hundreds of employees working at its Bellevue, Washington headquarters.  In the years since it began filing lawsuits on the patents it owns, it is estimated that the company has made billions in profit.  It is this focus on patent acquisition and profit seeking that Motorola is centering its defense upon in the current patent dispute.

Attorneys for Motorola have already begun painting a picture of the company as a longstanding catalyst of innovation, even making reference to the fact that it was Motorola technology that created the device used to transmit Neil Armstrong’s lunar landing in the sixties.  It contends that Innovative Ventures, on the other hand, does nothing but burden innovation buy buying up patents and filing lawsuits on them, making huge financial strides with no technological advancement.

For its own defense, Intellectual Ventures claims that is not a “patent troll” and that its purchase of patents fuels innovation by rewarding and funding inventors.   It Read the rest

IBM Tops Annual List of Patent Assignees in 2013

By Joseph Mandour on January 21, 2014

Patent Attorney Los AngelesOrange County – A new report listing the nation’s top patent recipients of 2013 shows fascinating results.  The listing, which is compiled annually by IFI CLAIMS Patent Services, ranked IBM as the top patent assignee of the year, with a whopping total of 6,809.  IBM’s impressive numbers set the record for most patents awarded in a year to a single company ever by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

Beyond IBM’s dominance of the list, another highlight of the report shows that for the second year in a row, Google beat out rival tech giant Apple in the number of patents it was awarded in 2013.   With Google coming in at number 11 and Apple securing the 13th spot on the list, both companies moved into the top 20 for the first time ever.  In front of them, Samsung came in at number 2, with Canon, Microsoft and Sony rounding out the top 5.   Of all of the companies included on the list, San Diego-based Qualcomm scored the biggest leap, jumping 62% from last year’s numbers up to number 9.  Staple American companies like GE and GM kept their spots within the top 20.

IFI CEO Mike Baycroft said of the list that there are not many surprises in the top 10, with the big name technology companies all expectedly churning out large numbers of patent filings.  He was quick to point out, however, that as you go down the list, there is more “jockeying and reordering,” making it easy to recognize the companies with the most “patent momentum.”  He brought up the “candidates that are likely to bubble up tomorrow, companies like Amazon, Verizon and China’s Huawei Technologies, to name a few.

Baycroft also added mention of the growing number of patent assignees included in the list.  While it comes as little surprise that more and more patents are being filed each year (the report states that the USPTO issued over 277,800 utility patents last year), it is notable that there are a growing number of people filing them, and many of them are small start-up companies.  Baycroft takes this point to pose the questions of whether the future of innovation may be moving out of huge heavy hitter companies and “ret Read the rest

New Patent Filing Adds to Anticipation of iPhone 6

By Joseph Mandour on January 9, 2014

Los Angeles Patents Los Angeles – A recent patent application filed by Apple has people gearing up more than ever for the iPhone 6.   Entitled “Voice-Based Image Tagging and Searching,” the application seeks protection over technology that would let users tag and organize photos by speaking.  While iPhones have been able to sort photos by the time and location they were taken since the launch of iOS 7 in the fall of 2013, this patent takes it a step further.

The filing details how Apple users can tag photos using whatever “natural language” they want, including by naming the place, person or occasion featured.  The phone will then organize the photos based on the tags and store them in a database that is searchable by Siri.  Thus, users can easily save and recall photos in their growing photo libraries all by voice command.

The patent adds to a series of what are widely believed to be filings dedicated to technology for the next generation of iPhones.  In the past year, Apple has filed patents that reveal plans to implement a heart rate monitor into its devices and to expand the screen size.  The company has also fueled rumors of its plans to use flexible glass in its new displays and possibly add more biometric security features.

Given the ever-increasing competition between Apple and its chief rival, Samsung, Apple has also made recent attempts to file patents to differentiate the two brands’ devices.  Chief among this is one that looks to improve the hovering recognition technology already implemented in Samsung’s Galaxy S4.  While Samsung beat Apple to the punch in equipping its devices with the ability to allow users to hover their fingers over the screen to display additional information or to preview a link on a website,  Apple’s recent patent builds on this technology and streamlines the process of hover recognition.  In comparing Apple’s hover gesture patent with the hover technology already featured in some Samsung devices, commentators have noted that the Apple filing seems to shore up several problems that the Samsung products have had in differentiating the hover gesture from a traditional touch.

Though the next iPhone, already being called the iPhone 6, has no official release date Read the rest

Nestle Seeks Patent Over Fennel Flower Plant, Stirs Up Controversy

By Joseph Mandour on December 18, 2013

fennel-150x150 Los Angeles – Nestle has come under fire for its recent patent application seeking protection over an extraction of the fennel flower seed, which comes from a plant that has been used by humans since as early as the 10th century.   At the forefront of the groups that are criticizing the Swiss-based food leader is Sum of Us, an organization that identifies itself as “fighting for people over profits.” The group claims that Nestle is attempting to profit from the fennel flower itself, which has been used as a homeopathic remedy for thousands of years.

The patent filing has angered several groups including Sum of Us, which contends that Nestle fabricated the idea that it “discovered” that Nigella sativa, the binomial name for fennel flower, could be used to alleviate food allergies, when it has been used for this purpose for hundreds of years.   Sum of Us claims that “Instead of creating an artificial substitute, or fighting to make sure the remedy was widely available, Nestlé is attempting to create a Nigella sativa monopoly and gain the ability to sue anyone using it without Nestlé’s permission.”

In response, Nestle claims on its website that it is not attempting to patent the fennel flower itself.  Instead, it claims that its “patent application relates only to the specific way that thymoquinone – a compound that can be extracted from the seed of the fennel flower – interacts with opioid receptors in the body and helps to reduce allergic reactions to food.” Nestle goes on to respond to the controversy by stating that, “The fennel flower …  is a natural species, and nobody could, or should, benefit from ownership over it” and that, “we fully support the principle of fair access and benefit-sharing when it comes to the raw materials we use.”

The patent squabble has stirred up debate over the patentability of natural elements in general, a topic that has been generating more and more talk as of late.   Last year, in Association for Molecular Pathology v. Myriad Genetics , the United States Supreme Court ruled that human DNA could not be patented in its innate form because it is a “product of nature.”  H Read the rest

Apple Scores Patent for Curved Screen

By Joseph Mandour on December 14, 2013

Patent LawsOrange County – Last week, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) granted Apple, Inc. its first patent dealing with the technology to create curved displays for its products.  Since the famously tight-lipped company is known for not giving away its upcoming technological implementations, the filings are an important look into what might be on the horizon for Apple.  The development is not too much of a surprise, however, given that both Samsung and LG have both recently entered the market of curved display devices.

The filing, numbered 8,603,574 and entitled, “Curved touch sensor” describes the process for making curved display surfaces.  It details the method for ensuring that the “desired thinness” of the screen is maintained throughout even the curved portions of the display.  It also outlines the way that the products will be manufactured so as not to compromise the integrity of the screens given the curvature.

With rival companies well on their way to launching entire product lines with curved displays, Apple’s new patent assures that the Cupertino company is not allowing itself to be passed up.  Given the consumer demand that smart phones be compact yet provide maximum screen size, curved display technology is appealing.  Apple rivals Samsung and LG have gotten a beat on this and have begun to roll out devices equipped with the rounded screen feature.

Samsung has already rolled out its take on the curved smartphone, the Galaxy Round, which is currently available in South Korea only.  The new device is curved at the vertical axis, making it especially comfortable to hold in one hand.  LG’s rival product, the Flex, is set to debut early next year in India and Korea and curves on the horizontal axis, apparently making for a sort of theater screen effect.  It also makes the bottom positioned microphone closer to the user’s mouth when talking on the phone.

In addition, both LG and Samsung have been selling TV’s with curved screens for some time, leading to the possibility that Apple too might apply the curved screen idea to other devices beyond the iPhone.  The much speculated about iWatch, for exam Read the rest

Patent Filing Reveals High Performance Hybrids Next Up for Ferrari

By Joseph Mandour on December 6, 2013

LA Patent AttorneysOrange County – A new patent filed with the European Patent Register gives a glimpse at what is on the horizon for Ferrari. In several filings dating back to as early as January of last year, the Italian sports car manufacturer details its plans for a hybrid vehicle with a front engine.  The title of the first filing, “Storage system for the storage of electric energy for a vehicle with electric propulsion” is the most telling and makes it clear that Ferrari is at the very least, seriously considering adding a new hybrid car to its lineup.

The patent filings come on the heels of the unveiling of Ferrari’s new ultra-luxurious LaFerrari, a $1.3 million dollar limited edition hybrid that will only have 499 in total production.  The new “supercar” as it has been dubbed, is a “mild hybrid” that allows the car engine to turn off while stopped and then (very) quickly pick up again when restarted.

The front engine setup described in the new patent filings has led many to believe that the new hybrid may take the form of a grand tourer model, which would likely be more appealing to a broader market base.  Grand tourers are typically high performance cars that can go long distances while maintaining lofty speeds. This would make sense for a Ferrari hybrid, which with the addition of electric power, might be able to add hundreds of miles to its range.  Since the LaFerrari is so expensive and will be limited in production, the new filings reveal the possibility of a more accessible hybrid Ferrari, and perhaps one that uses more electric technology.

The mention of additional electric powered cars comes as somewhat of a surprise to Ferrari enthusiasts, due in large part to Ferrari chairman Luca di Montezemolo going on record to say that, ” We will never manufacture an electric car as long as I’m chairman.”  Then, recently, just as all hopes of anything electric in Ferraris was eliminated, di Montezemolo noted in an interview that, “I don’t believe in the electric cars, but I strongly believe in hybrids.” Clearly, that sentiment is taking shape as the new Ferrari patents reveal an unquestionable interest in adding more h Read the rest

New Patent Filings Shed Light on Apple’s Plans for Liquidmetal in iPhones

By Joseph Mandour on December 3, 2013

Los Angeles Patents San Diego – A series of five patents filed on November 21st reveal Apple’s potential plans to include liquidmetal in its products.  Though the five patents leave it somewhat difficult to ascertain exactly what type of product would come out of the claims, two of the filings clearly have to do with 3-D printing methods for electronic devices.  The applications do not come as a shock to Apple enthusiasts, who were gripped by a 2012 rumor that the new iPhone might utilize liquidmetal technology.  While that rumor did not manifest in the iPhone 5s, it is now a fact that Apple is at least heavily considering implementing the material in future products.

Created in the early 2000s by a research team at the California Institute of Technology, liquidmetal is a unique form of amorphous metal alloy.  It is similar to plastic in that it cools fast and is very strong, with more than double the strength of titanium alloy.  Adding to its appeal, despite its durability, liquidmetal is flexible, lending it a unique ability to be molded into very thin shapes while remaining sturdy.

The Silicon Valley tech producer known for its simplistic designs and user friendly devices turned heads in 2010 when it signed a contact with California-based Liquidmetal Technologies.  Since then, speculation has run high that Apple would be the first to create a modern-looking smartphone made out of liquidmetal. Given that liquidmetal is more lightweight and less expensive than the metal currently used to make iPhones, it is an enticing possibility.

According to the actual patent filings, liquidmetal might be used to create new Apple products through 3-D printing and injection molding methods, which could be a cheaper alternative to the current practice of creating prototypes and using machining processes to stamp out finished products.  The first filing is entitled “Layer-by-Layer Construction with Bulk Metallic Glasses” and seems to provide the most insight into the creation of new products using liquid metal.  The other four, respectively titled “Layer-by-Layer Construction with Bulk Metallic Glasses”, “Amorphous Alloy Component or Feedstock and Methods of Making the Same”, “Bulk Metallic Glass Feedback with Dissimi Read the rest

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