The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 23 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this second round of granted patents, we primarily focus on the technology behind Apple's World Travel Adapter Kit and an important technology behind their word processing app "Pages" called semantic reconstruction. Yet the most important granted patent of the day, in our view, goes to Apple's virtual keyboard technology. This area of technology is one of Apple's strong suits and so this marks an important patent win as they push forward and take virtual keyboards to the next level.
Granted Patent: Virtual Keyboard
Apple has been granted a core virtual keyboard patent for touchscreen devices. In order to keep the nuts and bolts of this feature a secret from prying eyes, the patent was filed with the USPTO only two months prior to the iPhone's official launch date of June 29, 2007.
While Apple's virtual keyboard is without a doubt one of the best in the industry today, Apple is continually pushing the envelope in their R&D efforts to find and deliver a superior tactile feel to their virtual keyboards as well as for future reconfigurable MacBooks.
Apple's granted patent abstract states that their patent covers a method of operating a touch screen to activate one of a plurality of virtual keys. A touch location is determined based on location data pertaining to touch input on the touch screen, wherein the touch input is intended to activate one of the plurality of virtual keys. Each of the plurality of virtual keys has a set of at least one key location corresponding to it. For each of the virtual keys, a parameter (such as physical distance) is determined for that virtual key that relates the touch location and the set of at least one key location corresponding to that virtual key. The determined parameters are processed to determine one of the virtual keys. For example, the determined one virtual key may be the virtual key with a key location (or more than one key location, on average) being closest to the touch location. A signal is generated indicating activation of the determined one of the virtual keys.
Apple's patent, in respect to patent figures 1a,b and c duly noted above, states that it's desirable to process touches on a touch screen in a way that does not necessarily depend on a match between the visual target (seen as patent point #10) and a touch area of a touch to activate a GUI to which the visual target corresponds. It is desirable to process touches on a touch screen in a way that "makes sense," states Apple. That would include considering factors beyond (or instead of) a correspondence of the visual target and the touch area of a touch to activate the GUI to which the visual target corresponds. Apple has done exceedingly well on this point. I don't know how many times I know I've missed the intended letter-target slightly and yet I've grazed the key enough for the iPod touch's virtual keyboard to pick it up accurately.
In Apple's patent FIG. 2 noted above we see a flowchart illustrating a particular example of a virtual key activation method and finally in patent FIG. 8 we see a possible future arc-shaped virtual keyboard illustrated that's noted as being particularly suited for thumb activation of smaller touchscreen devices.
Apple credits Bartley Andre, Bas Ording and Greg Christie as the inventors of Granted Patent 7,900,156, originally filed in Q2 2007.
Granted Patent: Semantic Reconstruction
Trying to get my head around this patent this morning has been difficult to say the least. However, though the patent is about semantic reconstruction, in the bigger picture it appears to relate to Apple's iWork app called "Pages." Core of the patent details the process of a program like Pages having to convert very different and complex file formats from programs like Microsoft's Word, Excel or PowerPoint, or created indirectly from the content-editing programs, saved in a format such as PDF (Portable Document Format). Who knew the conversion process was so complex? If you didn't know, then this patent will teach a lesson or two, that's for sure. In a nutshell, see Pages "Compatibility" section.
Apple credits four Canadian engineers named Philip Mansfield, Michael Levy, Yuri Khramov and Darryl Fuller as the inventors of Granted Patent 7,899,826, originally filed in Q3 2009 or about two months after releasing iWork '09.
Granted Patent: Apple World Travel Adapter Kit
Apple has been granted a patent for "Compact Power Adapter" which relates to the World Travel Adapter Kit. The World Travel Adapter Kit includes a USB power adapter, a USB cable, and a set of six AC plugs with prongs that fit different electrical outlets around the world. For world travelers, this is the perfect kit to ensure power connectivity in most countries you may travel to.
The Kit is designed to work with iPod, iPhone, iPad, Apple MagSafe Power Adapters, Portable Power Adapters, and AirPort Express. The AC plugs included in the World Travel Adapter Kit directly support outlets in North America, Japan, China, United Kingdom, Continental Europe, Korea, Australia, and Hong Kong.
To read all about the technicalities of this granted patent, see patent 7,896,702, originally filed in Q2 2009. Apple credits Kurt Stiehl, Cameron Frazier, Jonathan Aase and Mathias Schmidt as the inventors.
Other Granted Patents Published Today
Apple has won a patent which relates to methods and systems for editing blocks of a web page in an email application. Apple's patent discusses Apple's mail client application and points to the use of Webkit or other HTML rendering engines. Unless you're an engineer or programmer, skip this cross-eyed read.
Another Apple granted patent published today discusses an invention involving circuits, methods, and an apparatus that allows a DisplayPort compatible host device to control the timing and data rate or speed of data transactions executed by an adapter over an I.sup.2C bus when communicating with a legacy monitor.
Other granted patents published today include the following: Method and apparatus for providing inter-application accessibility; online purchase of digital media bundles; multimedia data transfer for a personal communication device (iPhone or Walkie Talkie); and finally a granted patent relating to asymmetric two-pass graphics scaling.
Notice: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of patents with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application and/or Granted Patent is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application and/or Issued Patent should be read in its entirety for further details. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.