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Thursday Recap: Apple Thinking Different Again, Patent Victory Against Motorola

Motorola Droid eyeHow about that OS X Mountain Lion, huh? Apple skipped past the rumors and leaks and went straight to this morning’s surprise announcement, which just goes to show that ol’ Cupertino still has it in them to pull a rabbit out of the hat now and again. While OS X Mountain Lion is understandably the big news of the day, there were a few other things also going on, so let’s skip straight to the news for Thursday, February 16, 2012, shall we…?

OS X Mountain Lion Gatekeeper Already Present in OS X 10.7.3?

In a day already overloaded with news about Apple’s forthcoming OS X Mountain Lion comes this little nugget from MacRumors: Apparently, the new Gatekeeper feature is already included with the existing OS X Lion 10.7.3 for developers who want to flip the switch and test it out. “Mac OS X users will soon have the option of turning on Gatekeeper, a new Mac OS X security feature,” Apple has instructed developers. “When a user does this, the system provides an additional measure of safety: it blocks that user from opening newly-downloaded applications that are not Developer ID–signed. In this scenario, the same user is easily able to launch downloaded applications that are Developer ID–signed.” According to MacRumors, the Gatekeeper feature can be activated simply by opening Terminal and running the command “sudo spctl –enable” — or alternately, be turned off by replacing “enable” with “disable.” But as the report notes, there’s no advantage to end users for turning the feature on at this time, since developers have yet to issue any updates to take advantage of it.

Apple Scores Victory Against Motorola Over “Slide to Unlock” Patents

Foss Patents is reporting that a German court has ruled in Apple’s favor in a patent dispute with Motorola Mobility. The key victory is a European patent Apple holds for the company’s “slide to unlock” feature, patent number EP1964022. According to patent expert Florian Mueller, the court found Apple the victor on two out of three points: “Apple won on the two that Motorola’s smartphones implement,” the report reveals. “It did not prevail on the third one, which the Xoom tablet uses. That implementation is very similar to what I have on my Samsung Galaxy Note: the user has to make a swiping gesture from the inside of a circle to the outside. It requires a relatively large screen to work somewhat well, but even then it’s not very intuitive.” While Motorola plans to appeal the decision, it is Mueller’s belief that the appeal is unlikely to succeed — which could spell big trouble for the company’s European sales, at least until the offending feature is revised.

Kindle Fire Racks Up 3.9 Million Units Compared to iPad’s 15.4 Million

Analysts may be wringing their hands wondering if Amazon’s new 9 Kindle Fire tablet will consume some of the iPad’s traction, but judging from a report by CNNMoney’s Apple 2.0 blog, Apple may be its own competition. iSuppli issued a report today that shows Amazon’s Kindle Fire managed to nab 14 percent of the worldwide tablet market in the final three months of 2011, with 3.9 million units sold since its mid-November debut. Sounds great until you compare that to the 15.4 million iPad units sold during the same timeframe, which puts Apple’s tablet at 57 percent of the market. More curiously, iSuppli cites the iPhone 4S as a “shiny new alternative” to the iPad, rather than the more obvious Kindle Fire — meaning Apple’s main competition is itself, not a bad problem to have.

Phil Schiller: Apple “Starting To Do Some Things Differently”

Almost as fascinating as the surprise announcement of OS X Mountain Lion this morning is reading Daring Fireball scribe John Gruber’s account of how Apple conducted private, one-on-one “product briefings” with journalists, who found out about the new version before developers. The result was quite effective: There were no rumors and no leaks about the new version of OS X, and apparently not even accurate guesses as to what the next version would be called. “We’re starting to do some things differently,” Apple senior VP Phil Schiller told Gruber in a New York City product briefing about a week ago. No more Moscone West, no more Yerba Buena Center — just Schiller, two marketing and PR guys from Apple and the journalist themselves. OS X will now get the same annual upgrade treatment as iOS, and the company will save the big dog and pony shows for major events — presumably there will be one in early March for the iPad 3, although it’s anyone’s guess. “My gut feeling though, is this,” Gruber writes. “Apple didn’t want to hold an event to announce Mountain Lion because those press events are precious.” Judging from the spotlight being thrown on OS X Mountain Lion across the internet today, Apple’s new “think different” approach seems to be working…

New Twitter, Now Available to All

With so many people using Twitter on mobile devices — and most of those likely using a native app — it’s easy to forget that the company has been in the midst of overhauling the web version, which was first announced back in December. Now, the Twitter Blog is announcing that the transition is complete, and the swanky new Twitter website is finally available to one and all, rather than being exclusive to mobile devices and the official iOS and Android apps. To recap, the new features include the ability to click on any tweet in your timeline to expand its contents, Connect and Discover menu options, embedding tweets on your website and plenty of new shortcuts. That’s assuming anyone is still actually using the website…

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter

 

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Thursday Recap: Kodak Bankruptcy, Siri Patent, Facebook Apps, iTunes Update

Kodak logoThe dust has settled, everyone has cleared out of the Guggenheim in New York City, and we all know Apple’s education plans, which include an update to iBooks and new iBooks Author and iTunes U apps. Before we switch back to gossip about the next iPad or even the iPhone 5, let’s address the rest of today’s news, which includes the unfortunate (and unsurprising) bankruptcy of photo legend Kodak. Here’s the rest of the news for this Thursday, January 19, 2012.

Facebook Timeline Gets All “Appy” On Us

If you need further proof that the world has gone app crazy, look no further than Wednesday night’s Facebook pow-wow, which introduces the concept to Timeline. According to The Facebook Blog, users can now “enhance your timeline with apps that help you tell your story, whether you love to cook, eat, travel, run, or review movies.” Sure, Facebook has always had bolt-on apps, but the new initiative promises to integrate them into a user’s Timeline in a more organic way, with 60 companies providing apps at launch, including Foodspotting, Foodily, Ticketmaster, Pinterest, Rotten Tomatoes, Pose, Kobo, Gogobot and TripAdvisor. Facebook promises “there will be apps for all types of interests, as more apps will launch over time.” You have been warned…

An Unfortunate Moment for Kodak: Bankruptcy

The rumor mill has unfortunately churned up another true tale, as AllThingsD is reporting that photography legend Kodak has filed for bankruptcy protection. The news isn’t much of a surprise and “follows years of struggle by the film giant to transition to a digital imaging company.” Kodak will continue operations using 0 million in financing from Citigroup and hopes to come out of restructuring next year. “Kodak is taking a significant step toward enabling our enterprise to complete its transformation,” said Antonio M. Perez, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer in a company press release. “At the same time as we have created our digital business, we have also already effectively exited certain traditional operations, closing 13 manufacturing plants and 130 processing labs, and reducing our workforce by 47,000 since 2003. Now we must complete the transformation by further addressing our cost structure and effectively monetizing non-core IP assets. We look forward to working with our stakeholders to emerge a lean, world-class, digital imaging and materials science company.”

Apple Releases iTunes 10.5.3 for Textbook Syncing

The Big Apple was home to a (little) Apple media event this morning at the Guggenheim, which introduced iBooks 2, iBooks Author and iTunes U to the educational community. Along with those releases, Apple also pushed out a minor update to iTunes which is now available for download. “iTunes 10.5.3 allows you to sync interactive iBooks textbooks to your iPad,” the release notes explain. “These Multi-Touch textbooks are available for purchase from the iTunes Store on your Mac or from the iBookstore included with iBooks 2 on your iPad.” Hit the link to download the update directly or check Software Update if you prefer a smaller download.

Patently Apple Details Siri, “The Killer Patent”

Siri may be old news to those of us who bought iPhone 4S handsets back in October, but for patent junkies, things have just started to get interested. Patently Apple is reporting today that “the first killer patent application behind Siri was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.” Not surprisingly, Apple doesn’t plan to limit the technology to iOS devices but instead “envisions the technology playing a role in vehicles and in-vehicle entertainment systems where an Intelligent Assistant will be considered the king of user interfaces.” The website has a lengthy and detailed examination of the Siri patent filing, dating back to 1987’s “Knowledge Navigator Concept” which proves that Apple has envisioned this kind of technology well before the iPhone was even introduced. The report closes with some prospective uses for Siri which includes “the iPod touch (a personal digital assistant), iMac (desktop computer), MacBook (laptop computer), iPad (tablet computer), consumer electronic devices, consumer entertainment devices; iPod (music player); camera; television; Apple TV (set-top box); electronic gaming unit; kiosk or the like.”

How Can Apple Sell a Textbook for ?

Riddle us this: How can textbook publishers manage to sell a textbook for only through Apple? According to AllThingsD, it’s a matter of simple volume — or at least that’s how McGraw-Hill CEO Terry McGraw is looking at it. But there’s more than meets the eye, because such publishers traditionally sell their printed textbooks direct to schools, which continue to use them for “an average of five years.” The new iBookstore method is only .99 (or less), but the burden of the purchase is on the student (or their parents), although many schools will provide students with codes to download their textbooks. Since the digital textbook can’t be resold or passed on to another student, McGraw views it as a win for his company because in theory, each year another student will be purchasing a copy — and in five years’ time, they’ll have netted the same amount, even after Apple takes their slice of the pie. Apple’s Eddy Cue also confirmed that .99 isn’t part of any kind of “pilot pricing,” explaining “all of our books will be .99.”

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter

 

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Law & Apple: Samsung Devises New Corporate Strategy and Apple Performs the Electric Patent Slide

Law and Apple

Samsung has apparently chosen a new corporate strategy regarding mobile device design, one that would prevent any further lawsuits with Apple.

Meanwhile, Apple has secured a new patent that may lead to a new round of lawsuits against most of the Android devices available on the market today. Join us for another weekly edition of Law & Apple.

Apple vs. Samsung

According to a report from ITProPortal, Samsung has come to the realization that, when developing new mobile devices, it might be best to avoid getting sued by Apple. The strategy Samsung has devised to achieve this goal is revolutionary: stop making devices that look like Apple devices or infringe on Apple patents. Sounds easy enough.

“Now we will avoid everything we can and take patents very seriously,” said president of Samsung’s mobile division, Shin Jong-kyun.

Samsung mobile division president Shin Jong-kyun

Cool story, bro.

According to the Inquirer, Samsung’s upcoming smartphone release, the Galaxy Nexus, does not resemble any Apple device or infringe on Apple patents. “We will see if (the Galaxy Nexus) will be 100 percent free [from lawsuits],” said Jong-kyun. “I don’t think there is much gain (from lawsuits with Apple). What we are losing is the pride in our brand.”

Apple Secures Important Patent

Yesterday, the United States Patent and Trademark Office granted a patent to Apple for the “Slide to Unlock” feature popular on so many smartphones.

According to 9to5mac, the feature was a big part of the orignal iPhone launch in 2007, and iOS chief Scott Forstall is credited as one of the inventors. The patent application for the feature was originally filed in December 2005, over a year before the iPhone launched.

Neonode N1m slide to unlock

Neonode N1m slide to unlock. Outsite of the reality distortion field, it existed in 2004. 

Apple could choose to pursue licensing agreements with smartphone manufacturers currently employing this feature or could also use this patent to pursue legal action. If litigation ends up being the chosen course, it will be up to the courts to either uphold the patent or dismiss it due to prior art — such as the Neonode N1m, which came out in 2004, and was the very device referenced by a Dutch court when denying Apple a similar patent

 

Adrian writes the weekly Law & Apple column for MacLife.com. You can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to him on Facebook, if you want to.

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Steve Jobs Personally Attempted To Resolve Samsung Patent Dispute Before It Started

Samsung Galaxy Tab displayedApple has traditionally shied away from legal action against other companies, an unspoken policy that has become increasingly hard to do as Android-based competitors continue to ape the iOS look and feel. As it turns out, former CEO Steve Jobs personally stepped into the fray in an effort to resolve patent issues with Samsung.

Bloomberg is reporting that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs personally made contact with executives at Samsung Electronics back in July, 2010 over patent issues that have since exploded into legal battles spread out over four continents. According to newly revealed facts in one such dispute in Australia, Jobs was unsuccessful in his efforts with Samsung.

“Samsung is an important supplier with whom we have a deep relationship,” Apple senior director Richard Lutton testified in a Sydney Federal Court on Friday. “We wanted to give them a chance to do the right thing.”

Lutton’s testimony is part of Apple’s ongoing efforts to block Samsung from selling their Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet in Australia, at least until the company’s patent claims there are resolved. Samsung has agreed to delay sales of the tablet in that country until Justice Annabelle Bennett rules on Apple’s request, which is scheduled for next week.

Apple’s complaint stems from the Samsung Galaxy series of smartphones and tablets and their similarities to the company’s own iconic iPhone and iPad products. The dispute is a particularly thorny one for Samsung, given that Apple is the Korean electronics giant’s biggest customer for components — and likewise, Samsung is Apple’s second largest supplier.

For their part, Samsung has countersued in South Korea, Japan, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia claiming that Apple has violated their own patents.

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter

 

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Law & Apple: Verizon Backs Samsung and the USPTO Denies Apple Its Patent

Law and Apple

As Apple continues to battle Samsung across the globe in 21 different patent lawsuits, Verizon decides to join the fight here in the United States. Things should get really interesting.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the intellectual property spectrum, Apple was denied a trademark its been vying for since the iPhone was launched in 2007.

Apple vs. Samsung, Now Backed by Verizon

Verizon filed a “friend of the court” brief with the United States District Court for the Northern District of California in an effort to deny Apple’s request that it bans the sale of the Infuse 4G, Galaxy S 4G, Droid Charge, and the Galaxy Tab 10.1. 

Verizon argued that the injunction requested by Cupertino would hurt the consumer because it “would hinder Verizon Wireless in developing and deploying its next generation high-speed LTE [fourth-generation] network, the job growth dependant [sic] on that network, and will undercut key public policy goals, including expansion of American’s [sic] access to broadband networks and faster communication with emergency personnel.”

Google and Verizon

Join me, and together, we can rule with the Galaxy! 

Wireless carriers generally remain neutral when intellectual property disputes arise between hardware manufacturers. However, by backing Samsung, Verizon is stacking its chips with Google and Android. Verizon was always a key player in establishing Android as a smartphone OS, and partnered with Google on a controversial proposal to redefine “net neutrality”. And now, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that Google has treated Verizon very well for their efforts, which is no wonder why Big Red has its priorities on maintaining that special bond.

But on the flip side, Apple and Verizon seemed to have forged a solid working partnership this past spring when Verizon (finally) launched the iPhone. With a purportedly new iPhone about to be announced, and the ongoing rumor of a 4G-capable iPhone next year, Verizon figures to be a key partner for Apple. It remains to be seen what impact this move by Verizon will bear on that relationship.

Apple vs. USPTO

Apple again tried and was again denied in its pursuit to trademark the term Multi-Touch. The Trademark Trial and Appeal Board at the United States Patent and Trademark Office handed down the decision, which should effectively end Cupertino’s quest to corner the market on a term that is now so widely used.

Apple originally applied for the trademark on January 9, 2007, the same day that the iPhone was introduced. However, that initial application was denied by the USPTO, which resulted in Apple going to the Appeal Board. The board has now upheld the initial decision, and refused to grant the trademark.

multi-touch

Apple: U can’t touch this. USPTO: Yes, U can.

Touch screens and Multi-Touch devices certainly existed prior to the iPhone, but Apple’s argument hinged the very defensible position that the market changed drastically when the first iPhone waslaunched. The board, however, decided that the term “multi-touch” has taken on generic meaning, being used by a wide variety of publications to describe the touchscreen technology on Android phones, tablets, and notebooks. Specifically, the board noted that the term not only identifies the technology, but also describes how a user of the goods operates the device” and “MULTI-TOUCH indeed is highly descriptive of a feature of the identified goods.”

Ownership of the term Multi-Touch may have been a boon for Apple marketing, but this was always and uphill fight for Cupertino that got harder the further away we got from the initial iPhone launch.

 

Adrian covers daily news as well as the weekly Law & Apple column for MacLife.com. You can follow him on Twitter, if you want to.

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Spotify Under Fire for Alleged Patent Infringement

Poor Spotify. Not even a few weeks have passed since it finally debuted in the United States and already someone’s doing everything they can to rid of ‘em — in this case, it’s PacketVideo. The company — one that you’ve never hard of, because I haven’t either — posits that Spotify committed patent infringement against their decade old streaming video idea, one that apparently never came to fruition (at least not to our knowledge).

The actual patent in question is for a “device for the distribution of music information in digital form.” But as TechDirt points out, this just sounds way too broad. Anyway, it’s not the title of the patent that makes the case, it’s really what’s in the fine print. The main claim:

a central memory device which is connected to a communications network and has a databank of digitized music information and, a terminal which is connected to the central memory device via the communications network, the central memory device being equipped with a retrieval module and the said modules having the capability to interact via the communications network in order to order and transmit selectively chosen music information, wherein the selectively chosen music information is organized with a defined format for transmission in a digital music information object, the format including a core and a number of additional layers, the core including at least one object identification code, object structure information, a consumer code and an encryption table and the one or more additional layers including the actual music information, wherein the central memory device has an encryption module for encryption of the music information object before transmission using the encryption table, and wherein the terminal has a decryption module for decryption of the music information object before its reproduction using the encryption table, an interpretation module for interpretation and reproduction conditioning of the music information object as well as an authorization device having identification information for identification of the terminal and of the consumer which is retrievable by the interpretation module and by the decryption module for authorization checking.

Did you get all that? Yeah, it’s all a jumble. TechDirt points out that PacketVideo actually had nothing to do with this patent initially — the company only purchased the rights to it a few years back. And anyway, there’s nothing absurdly amazing in the patent that says Spotify can’t continue executing what it’s managed to figure out — how to stream all that wonderful audio to our ears without exhausting bandwidth. In our opinion, it looks like just another case of patents being used to stir up trouble for no good reason.

 

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HTC Wants a Sit Down with Apple Over Patent Disputes

It's Business, Not PersonalHTC wants to end all the legal bloodshed, because it’s bad for business. In a call today, Winston Yung, chief financial officer of HTC, said, “We have to sit down and figure it out” and “we’re open to having discussions.” Maybe there is a new consigliere at the Taiwan based company, or maybe they’ve been watching a lot of Godfather movies and realized that Sonny, while cool and all, was never going to make any real money with all that fighting.

On July 6, HTC spent 0 million to buy S3 Graphics Co., a company that had just won an International Trade Commission ruling against Apple regarding two patents dealing with compression technology. That purchase gave HTC some much-needed intellectual property leverage against Apple, though just two weeks latter Apple won an ITC ruling against HTC regarding two other patents dealing with data detection and data transmission technologies. 

Getting all this?

Yung said he is not aware that any formal talks have begun yet, but went on to state that HTC was putting all options on the negotiating table, “as long as the solution and the terms are fair and reasonable.” It appears that with the ITC wins from the S3 Graphics purchase, HTC feels like they have a bargaining position against Cupertino.

This may end up being a “take the cash, leave the lawsuits” situation, where both companies walk away with a fair compromise. Which would be good for everyone. After all, it’s business, not personal.

Via Bloomberg

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Apple Files Patent for the Perfect Keyless Keyboard

Apple's Keyless KeyboardSteve Jobs hates buttons. While he may not like the idea of touchscreen MacBooks, one path to achieve his dream of a flat, buttonless future is a keyboard without keys. It appears Apple just got another tap closer to realizing that vision.

PatentlyApple, who has been following Apple’s quest for a keyless keyboard for over two years, reports that the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple last week that may have finally solved the keyless question. This patent is Apple’s fifth dealing with keyless keyboards and includes their new piezo-based acoustic and capacitive detection system with a cool glass enclosure.

The problem, according to Apple, is that touch-sensitive surface keyboards can be less precise than traditional keyboards with, you know, keys. By utilizing a graphic display beneath glass showing a complete keyboard, and engineering a variety of haptic feedback mechanisms, acoustic pulse recognition system, and other devices such as one or more microphones, a seismometer, or an accelerometer, Apple aims to be able to accurately detect the acoustic pulse created by a tap on the keyless keyboard.

This research by Apple could be the foundation for a next generation Bluetooth keyboard for the iMac, or could represent the future of MacBook keyboards. Either way, while we admittedly do enjoy the occasional button, this would be one very slick keyboard.

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Lodsys Reloads Patent Shotgun, Takes Aim At Video Game Powerhouses

Angry BirdsThe dust has yet to settle on the first wave of patent disputes targeting iOS and Android app developers, but that isn’t stopping Lodsys, LLC from reloading and firing a second round, this time aimed squarely at the video game giants who hang their shingle on these platforms.

MacRumors is reporting that Lodsys, LLC is back for more, armed with a new set of patent complaints aimed at mobile video game giants such as Electronic Arts, Atari and Rovio, makers of the wildly successful Angry Birds. (As if they need any more reasons to be angry!) According to FOSS Patents, Square Enix and Take-Two Interactive have also been added to the amended complaint.

“Defendant Rovio has infringed and continues to infringe, directly, indirectly, literally, under the doctrine of equivalents, contributorily, and/or through the inducement of other, one or more claims of the ’565 patent,” the amended Lodsys complaint against Rovio reads. “Rovio makes, sells, uses, imports, and/or offers to sell infringing applications, including but not limited to Angry Birds for iPhone and Angry Birds for Android, which infringe at least claim 27 of ’565 patent under 35 U.S.C. § 271.”

The addition of these five video game companies to the patent lawsuit means that Lodsys is now targeting 37 entities, “with defendants ranging from small developers to major firms such as HP, Best Buy, The New York Times and EA.” MacRumors also notes that Lodsys has dropped Vietnamese developer Wulven Games from their suit, for unspecified reasons.

Lodsys, LLC claims that iOS and Android developers are in violation of patents they hold regarding the use of in-app purchasing and upgrade links. For their part, Apple has publicly stepped forward in defense of their developers, claiming that the company has “indisputably licensed” the intellectual property in question from Lodsys, including the third parties creating apps for the iOS platform.

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter

 

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Amidst Multiple Battlefronts, Apple’s Chief Patent Lawyer to Exit

Apple Inc. logoWhile Apple wages war over patents on a number of different fronts against Google’s Android, a new report claims that the company’s chief patent attorney is planning to leave the company soon, in what can only be considered bad timing.

Reuters is reporting that Apple Inc. chief patent counsel Richard “Chip” Lutton, Jr. is planning to leave the company soon, just as Cupertino’s “expanding web of litigation concerning smartphone patents” continues to get larger and more complex. Lutton still had voicemail set up at Apple as of Monday, but is expected to leave within the next month, according to sources familiar with the situation.

Taking Lutton’s place is a former deputy general counsel with Hewlett Packard, B.J. Watrous, who is now listed as Apple’s chief IP counsel on his LinkedIn profile. Neither Lutton nor Watrous were available for comment on the matter, and spokesman for both Apple Inc. and HP also declined to comment.

Apple is fighting patent battles worldwide, primarily against manufacturers using Google’s Android operating system, including litigation against HTC and Samsung for aping the look and feel of the iPhone. Ironically, Samsung Electronics is also one of Apple’s key hardware suppliers, which is likely making for some uncomfortable meetings of late.

Cupertino will need all the muscle it can to defend itself against contenders to the iOS throne. Among Apple’s other intellectual property hires of late is former Sun Microsystems litigation specialist Noreen Krail.

Follow this article’s author, J.R. Bookwalter on Twitter

 

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