On January 10, 2012, the US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of twenty-two newly granted patents for Apple Inc. This morning's patent report covers four of Apple's newly granted design patents covering such things as the MacBook Air and its Solid State Drive. Additionally, our report covers three important patents relating to Apple's original iPhone and associated smart cables. Since late December Apple has been on a roll chalking up original iPhone patents and today's patent wins continue that trend. Considering that there were over 200 patents on the books for protecting the iPhone on the very day that Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone, I would suspect that this trend is going to continue for some time to come.
Apple Wins Two iPhone Related Patents
Apple has been granted two new iPhone related patents this morning. The first granted patent relates to Apple's iPhone in respect to routing audio using a variety of sources and outputs, while the second granted patent relates to iPhone security.
When we think of the original iPhone, we think of its sexiness, it's groundbreaking multitouch display, its ability to surf the net via Safari, its inventive user interface and new form factor. What we don't think of are the mundane things that are required to make the iPhone both functional and safe.
Yet in respect to iPhone IP, it's certainly important for Apple to get the foundational aspects of the iPhone just right so that consumers could focus on the sexy stuff while their IP is in place to defend against patent trolls and copycats.
In order to appreciate some of the complexities that Apple had to overcome in 2007 in order to bring their successful iPhone to market, we'll review Apple's patent background to understand today's granted patents. One could appreciate Apple's marketing slogan of "it just works." For consumers, the iPhone is just a "magical" experience. But to deliver that magic, Apple had to grok over each and every detail of their smartphone in order to get it just right. In order to get it so right that every competitor wanted to copy it!
The approaches described in this section are approaches that could be pursued, but not necessarily approaches that have been previously conceived or pursued. Therefore, unless otherwise indicated, it should not be assumed that any of the approaches described in this section qualify as prior art merely by virtue of their inclusion in this section.
Computing devices often process multiple types of media. The media that may be processed by computing devices often include numerous forms and formats of video, and numerous forms and formats of audio. Within such computing devices, many applications may be competing for media input or playback. Examples of the types of applications that may attempt to play or input media within a handheld computing device include, for example, a telephone application, a web browser, an e-mail application, a short message service (SMS), a music player, a video player, instant messaging (IM) application, a multimedia message service (MMS), a voice over IP (VOIP) application, and a teleconferencing application.
Within computing devices, the various software applications that utilize media all contend for use of the various input or output resources, and have different rules and protocols for doing so. Some of these rules and protocols may conflict from one application to another.
To complicate matters further, many computing devices also have multiple possible inputs and outputs for routing audiovisual information. For example, a handheld computing device may have a line-out port, a headphone port, a docking port, a microphone, a line-in port, a wireless connection, and multiple built-in speakers, each of which may serve a different function and have different capabilities.
One way to handle the contention among the applications for the playback resources of a computing device is to design each application with logic to check the state of settings of the device and decide for itself where, when, and how to play its audiovisual information. Unfortunately, using this approach, each software application developer must implement code for a behavior tree that attempts to take into account the variety of factors that could impact media processing on a device. The result may be less-than-optimal media handling decisions made by more-complex-than-necessary applications.
Further complicating the routing of audiovisual information, it may be desirable to have the information processed in specific ways under specific circumstances. For example, when music and voice audio are to be played concurrently, it may be desirable to mix the music and voice audio in a particular way. Typically, such custom treatment of specific cases would be hard-coded into the logic of the software and/or hardware components involved in the playback. Hard-coding such customizations significantly increase the complexity of a devices software and/or hardware components.
Additional complications arise when a device is connected to one or more wireless inputs or outputs, such as Bluetooth headsets. While many conventional devices simply assume that audiovisual information should be routed through wireless connections whenever possible, a user may often prefer not to route audio through a connected device. For example, the user may have inadvertently entered into the range of such a device. Many conventional devices would automatically assume that audio should be transferred to the wireless device, even though the user may in fact not be in a position to even hear the device.
Further complications arise in managing certain accessory devices that include several logical inputs or outputs--such as Bluetooth headsets that implement multiple audio protocols--or in managing groups of inputs and outputs that have complementary uses--such as a headset and a microphone. Users and software developers alike find management of such groups of inputs and outputs confusing and tedious.
In a nutshell, Apple's patent relates to a centralized resource manager that manages the routing of audio or visual information within a device, including a handheld device such as a smartphone. The resource manager evaluates data-driven policies to determine how to route audio or visual information to or from various input or output components connected to the device, including headphones, built-in speakers, microphones, Bluetooth headsets, cameras, and so on.
Among the data considered in the policies are connection status data, indicating if a device is connected, routing status data, indicating if a device is permitted to route information to or from a component, and grouping data, indicating logical relationships between various components. Components may be considered inherently routable, automatically routable, or optionally routable. Numerous other uses exist for such data, including providing simpler and more logical management interfaces.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is that of Apple's smartphone (iPhone); patent FIG. 10 is an example process flow for handling routing status for resources that connect to an electronic device.
Apple's First Patent Claim: A method comprising: maintaining status data for each component of a plurality of components; wherein the status data for each component includes: connection status data indicating whether the component is connected to a device; routing status data, different from the connection status data, indicating whether the device is permitted to route audio or visual information to or from the component; maintaining policy data indicating one or more policies for selecting routes by which to route audio or visual information; based at least on the connection status data for one or more components and on the routing status data for the one or more components, evaluating the one or more policies to select one or more routes for routing particular audio or visual information; wherein the step of evaluating the one or more policies to select one or more routes is performed by the device.
To review Apple's other twenty-three patent claims and invention detailing, see granted patent 8,095,694. Apple credits Andrew Rostaing; Andrew, Anthony Guetta and Greg Chapman as the inventors of this patent. The patent states that it was filed in Q2 2011, though it should be noted that Apple presents a "Priority Claim" pointing to an original filing back in 2007 – which was granted in in Q4 2010.
Apple's second granted patent for the iPhone relates to installation and booting software of a device. More particularly, Apple's invention relates to securely installing boot components and booting a device into an operating state authorized according to a received ticket. To understand what that actually covers, we look to Apple's patent background for an overview of what their invention's solution:
As more and more computing devices are being used in people's daily life, security has become a widespread concern for users and content providers. Viruses, worms, Trojan horses, identity theft, software and media content piracy, and extortion using threats of data destruction are rampant. Usually, these attacks involve installing and executing malicious software codes to expose access to device resources that would otherwise be private to the system, the content provider, the user or an application.
An operating system may provide some security features to guard against such attacks. However, the security features of an operating system often fail to keep up with new attacks occurring on a daily basis. Moreover, when booting a computing device, security features may not yet be initialized and are vulnerable to bypass and/or tampering.
To reduce the possibility of system exploits, a secure boot system may be employed to require a signature verification for each production software image. Such a code audit measure, however, may not be completely bullet proof as the number of codes involved is usually very large and continues to increase.
Therefore, current security measures do not deliver a robust solution to protect applications and content inside a computing device, while at the same time providing the flexibility to update the software and or firmware for the device.
Apple's invention includes a method and apparatus for secure software installation to boot a device authorized by a ticket. A ticket request including a device identifier of the device is sent for the ticket which includes attributes for one or more components to boot the device into an operating state. The ticket is cryptographically validated to match the one or more components with corresponding attributes included in the ticket. If successfully matched, the one or more components are executed to boot the device.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating one embodiment of networked systems to authorize installing boot components for securely booting a device according to tickets authorized; FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating one embodiment of system components to receive an authorized ticket to install boot components for booting a device.
Apple's First Claim: A computer implemented method, comprising: sending a ticket request for booting a device into an operating state, the ticket request identifying a collection of components previously authorized to boot the device, the ticket request including a unique identifier associated with the device; in response to receiving a ticket for the ticket request, cryptographically validating whether the ticket is authorized by a remote authorization server capable of personalizing the ticket for the device according to the unique identifier, the ticket identifying a separate collection of components for booting the device, the ticket including attributes for the separate collection of components, at least one of the separate collection of components not belonging to the collection of components previously authorized for the device, the collection of components including a particular component; determining, if the ticket is valid, if the particular component is invalidated via the attributes in the ticket; and executing the particular component based on the determination.
To review Apple's other patent claims and invention detailing, see granted patent 8,095,799. Apple credits Jerry Hauck and Michael Brouwer as the inventors of this patent which was originally filed in Q4 2008.
Apple Wins a Patent for iPhone/iPod Smart Cables
Apple has received a Granted Patent that relates to a smart cable apparatus which includes resources that provide for additional functionality such as cable authentication and cable identification. The cable apparatus could be configured for coupling an electronic device such as a media player to other electronic devices such as media player accessories.
The cable apparatus includes one or more processing components that could be integrated as part of the cable apparatus. The one or more processing components could be configured to identify the type of signal the cable apparatus is intended to carry, and to communicate that information to the electronic device to which it is connected. The one or more processing components could also be configured to process authentication inquires to indicate whether the cable apparatus is an authorized accessory for the electronic device.
Examples of media devices with a highly versatile connector system are Apple's iPod and iPhone. These media devices may communicate with their accessories and other peripheral devices through one or more cable apparatus. For example, the media devices could send audio signals to a speaker, and/or send video signals to a computer display or television. In order to transmit various kinds of signals, different types of cables may be used. Different cables may have different performance characteristics and may be designed to operate with different communication protocols. Such information often needs to be efficiently communicated to the media devices. Hence it is highly desirable to improve electronic cabling techniques for media devices.
One example of such an interface protocol is the iPod Accessory Protocol developed by Apple Inc. that could facilitate communication between an iPod or iPhone and accessories via a smart cable apparatus according to the present invention.
Apple's patent FIG. 2 noted above illustrates a portion of the cable apparatus including incorporated circuitry.
Apple's First Claim: A cable apparatus comprising: a first connector including a housing, a plurality of contacts, and one or more processing components, the plurality of contacts being configured to couple to a first electronic device; a cable coupled to the first connector; and one or more second connectors coupled to the cable and configured to couple to one or more second electronic devices; wherein the one or more processing components comprise a micro-controller and an authentication coprocessor, where the micro-controller is configured to receive an authentication inquiry from the first electronic device through the plurality of contacts and to provide the authentication inquiry to the authentication coprocessor, and wherein the authentication coprocessor is configured to process the authentication inquiry and generate an authentication response, and send the authentication response to the micro-controller, where the micro-controller is further configured to provide the authentication response to the first electronic device through the plurality of contacts.
To review Apple's other thirty-five patent claims and invention detailing, see granted patent 8,095,713. Apple credits Jahan Minoo, Scott Krueger, Jesse Dorogusker and Jay Laefer as the inventors of this patent which was originally filed in Q1 2008.
Granted Design Patents Issued to Apple
The US Patent and Trademark Office have officially granted Apple 4 design patents today which cover the MacBook Air and its Solid State Drive (SSD), the iPhone's phone icon and the Calorie Workout UI from the Nike + iPod Product.
Apple credits VP Industrial Design Jonathan Ive and team members Jody Akana, Bartley Andre, Jeremy Bataillou, Daniel Coster, Daniele De Iuliis, Evans Hankey, Richard Howarth, Duncan Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Peter Russell-Clarke, Christopher Stringer, Eugene Whang and Rico Zorkendorfer as the inventors of Granted Patent D652,032, originally filed in Q3 2011.
Final Patent Round-Up
Over and above the granted patents that were specifically reported on today, we present you with links to all of the other granted patents in our Final Patent Round-Up as follows:
Apple's patent 8,094,079 titled "Handheld electronic devices with isolated antennas" generally relates to wireless communications circuitry, and more particularly, to wireless communications circuitry for handheld electronic devices. Previous patent reports covering this technology were published in Nov. 2009 and July 2010.
Other granted patents published today include: 8,094,816 System and method for stream/block cipher with internal random states; 8,095,533 Automatic index term augmentation in document retrieval; 8,095,716 Method and system for communicating capability information from an accessory to a media player; 8,094,813 System and method for modulus obfuscation; 8,094,729 Method and apparatus for variable accuracy inter-picture timing specification for digital video encoding with reduced requirements for division operations; 8,094,724 Order value for specifying relationship between video pictures; 8,094,167 Display color correcting system; 8,094,161 Virtualization of graphics resources; 8,094,159 Method and apparatus for frame buffer management; and finally, 8,094,128 Channel scan logic
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