The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of twenty-three newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In our first of two reports covering today's granted patents, we cover one of Apple's latest patent wins for a camera control that only came to light as a patent application late last week and also take a look at three of Apple's new design wins and question whether changes are needed to better protect design patents in the future.
Apple Wins Design Patents for Apple TV, iPod Classic & iPod Nano
The US Patent and Trademark Office have officially granted Apple three new design patents today which cover Apple TV, the iPod Classic and second generation iPod nano. Both iPod designs list Steve Jobs as one of the designers.
Although Apple has been granted design patents for Apple TV before, the fact is that the design of Apple TV has dramatically changed since their last win. Apple TV has gone from a large metal embodiment to that of a plastic design with with a much smaller footprint. The new design also now runs on a modified version of iOS versus running on OS X as did the former design.
Design Patents Recently Under Fire
In a recent court ruling that was covered by Florian Mueller, Mueller discusses design patents under his report's sub-header "iPhone design: valid scope narrow, therefore close call on infringement." Mueller at one point states that "one factor that also limits the value of those particular design patents is that Apple only claimed the front side of the device." That's interesting being that Apple does have other iPad design patents clearly presenting the back side of the iPad in great detail. Unfortunately the detail is restricted to what one could see via Apple's patent figures, which is one of the drawbacks to design patents.
With that said, simply check out the flimsy verbiage associated with today's design patent wins for yourself, to see that design patents don't carry much detail. There's no mention of a design's dimensions, weight, or materials used so as to better protect these designs from copycats. Whether this is the fault of Patent Offices around the world for not enforcing stricter guidelines for design patents or an Apple specific problem, isn't known at this time. However, if I had to weigh in on the matter, then I'd say that from what I've seen of design patents, it's the former. Let's hope that Apple's legal case noted above turns out to be a catalyst for change. Otherwise, what's the purpose of going through the motions and costs of submitting a design for protection if the Patent Office's official grant can't hold its weight in court?
Apple Wins Patent for Scene-Aware Automatic-Exposure Control
Apple has received a Granted Patent that relates to a technique for stabilizing auto-exposure operations in a digital camera – and more specifically in an iOS device camera. Talk about timing: We just revealed Apple's patent application for this technology yesterday in our report titled "Apple Pounds out a New Round of Camera Related Patents." I've heard of fast tracking a patent application, but this is a first. I almost thought it was déjà vu.
Apple's patent FIG. 6 illustrates a scene-aware auto-exposure control process (100) comprises three primary operational phases: unstable (FIG. 1A), stable (FIG. 1B) and metastable (FIG. 1C). During unstable operations no consistent lighting environment has been detected and, accordingly, auto-exposure operations take place as normal. During stable operations a consistent lighting environment has been detected and, therefore, auto-exposure operations may be suppressed. During metastable operations, a lack of information makes continued stable operations suspect. Accordingly, either a stable lighting environment is detected in a relatively short time (in which case stable operations resume) or auto-exposure control is returned to normal (unstable operations resume).
Apple's First Claim: An exposure control method, comprising: obtaining a first image having a plurality of blocks; obtaining a second image having a plurality of blocks; comparing a first plurality of blocks in the first image with co-located blocks in the second image; selecting a second plurality of blocks, from the first plurality of blocks, in the first image based the act of comparing; calculating a first value of a first metric based on the selected second plurality of blocks; and suppressing an image capture device's automatic exposure control operation if the calculated first value is stable with respect to a specified number of prior calculated values of the first metric and, after the act of suppressing obtaining a third image having a plurality of blocks, comparing a third plurality of blocks in the third image with co-located blocks in the first image, selecting a fourth plurality of blocks, from the third plurality of blocks, in the third image based the act of comparing, calculating a second value of the first metric based on the selected fourth plurality of blocks, and restoring the image capture device's automatic exposure control operation if the calculated second value is significantly different from a specified number of prior calculated values for the first metric, each of the specified number of prior calculated values for the first metric having been calculated after the act of suppressing the image capture device's exposure control operation.
To review Apple's other 21 patent claims and invention detailing, see granted patent 8,077,256. Apple credits Douglas Price, Xiaosong Zhou, His-Jung Wu and James as the inventors of this patent which was originally filed in Q2 2010.
Final Patent Round-Up
Over and above the granted patents that were specifically reported on today, we present you with links to another eleven granted patents in our Final Patent Round-Up of this report as follows:
The first group of granted patents: 8,079,025 Asynchronous load of source dependencies; 8,078,982 Automatic creation of data relationships; 8,078,963 Efficient creation of documents; 8,078,847 Detecting memory-hazard conflicts during vector processing; 8,078,800 Dynamic operating point modification in an integrated circuit; 8,078,787 Communication between a host device and an accessory via an intermediate device; 8,078,776 Electronic device having a dual key connector; 8,078,772 Digital phase relationship lock loop; 8,078,747 Methods and apparatuses for transferring data; 8,078,685 Remotely configured media device; and finally, 8,078,224 Male plug connector.
Apple Applies for Magnetic Timeline Trademark in Europe
Apple's Magnetic Timeline is a new video editing feature found in their latest version of Final Cut Pro X. Of course Apple calls this feature, revolutionary.
Notice: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of granted patents with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each Granted Patent is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any Granted Patent should be read in its entirety for full details. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.