On May 31, 2012, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple revealing a new fault monitoring battery system. Apple states that the fault-monitoring mechanism will generate an alert and/or disable use of a portable electronic device containing the battery pack. For example, the fault-monitoring mechanism may indicate the fault through a visual alert (e.g., color-changing mechanism) or an audible alarm. Additionally, our report briefly touches on Apple's Audio Jack Assemblies patent and concludes with a simple question: Is Apple Changing Gears?
Battery Pack with Fault-Monitoring Mechanism
Apple's only original patent application published today generally relates to a battery pack that includes a fault-monitoring mechanism for detecting faults in the battery pack and indicating the faults to a user.
Apple states that the battery pack also includes a battery cell and enclosure material that encloses the battery cell. The fault may correspond to penetration of the battery pack, a puncture in the enclosure material, a short circuit within the battery cell, and/or a change in pressure within the battery pack. To detect the fault, the fault-monitoring mechanism may utilize a conductive mechanism, a color-changing mechanism, and/or a sensor mechanism in the battery pack.
Apple states that the conductive mechanism includes one or more conductive traces disposed within one or more layers of material inside the battery pack. As a result, the conductive mechanism may detect penetration of the battery pack from open circuits and/or changes in resistance in individual conductive traces, as well as short circuits between pairs of conductive traces.
Another feature includes a color-changing mechanism which includes one or more layers of enclosure material that change color upon exposure to air and/or in response to changes in temperature or mechanical stress. The color-changing mechanism may thus detect and indicate physical damage to the battery pack, puncturing of the enclosure material, and/or heat buildup in the battery pack.
In yet another feature, the sensor mechanism detects a change in pressure, temperature, and/or atmosphere within the battery pack using an air sensor, moisture sensor, temperature sensor, pressure sensor, strain gauge, and/or curvature gauge. Consequently, the sensor mechanism may detect punctures, swelling, and/or heat buildup in the battery pack.
To indicate the fault to the user, Apple states that the fault-monitoring mechanism will generate an alert and/or disable use of a portable electronic device containing the battery pack. For example, the fault-monitoring mechanism may indicate the fault through a visual alert (e.g., color-changing mechanism), an audible alarm, and/or a notification to the operating system of the portable electronic device. Alternatively, the fault-monitoring mechanism may cause a safety circuit for the battery to disconnect the battery from the portable electronic device.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 shows a battery pack; FIG. 6 shows a cross-sectional view of a battery pack; and FIG. 7 shows a flowchart illustrating the process of facilitating use of a portable electronic device.
The battery pack monitoring system may apply to MacBooks, the iPad, iPhone, iPad touch, iPod or a standalone digital camera.
Apple's patent application was originally filed in Q4 2010 by inventors Fletcher Rothkopf, Scott Myers and Stephen Lynch and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Jack Assemblies with Cylindrical Contacts
A second patent application published today titled "Jack Assemblies with Cylindrical Contacts," was originally published and covered in our April 2011 report. The change to note in today's version of the patent application is that Apple has cancelled their original 29 patent claims and replaced them with 29 new ones.
One of the points that we presented in our original report was that Apple's new audio jack assemblies would work with one of the widest list of miniatures and mobile devices ever published by Apple. The list includes the following:
Music players, video players, still image players, game players, other media players, music recorders, video recorders, cameras, other media recorders, radios, medical equipment, domestic appliances, transportation vehicle instruments, musical instruments, calculators, cellular telephones, other wireless communication devices, personal digital assistants, remote controls, pagers, computers (e.g., desktops, laptops, tablets, servers, etc.), monitors, televisions, stereo equipment, set up boxes, set-top boxes, boom boxes, modems, routers, keyboards, mice, speakers, printers, and combinations thereof.
The list continues with watches, rings, necklaces, belts, accessories for belts, headsets, accessories for shoes, virtual reality devices, other wearable electronics, accessories for sporting equipment, and accessories for fitness equipment, key chains, or combinations thereof.
In addition to the two patent applications presented in today's report, the US Patent and Trademark Office did publish a series of older continuation patents dating back to between 2001 and 2007. Most of the time continuation patents are about tweaking patent claims in an attempt to get their patents granted.
One obvious case this morning relating to tweaking patent claims, is found in continuous patent application 20120134442 titled Data Format Conversion for Electronic Devices originally filed in 2007. In this case you easily note that patent claims 2-24 were canceled.
Other patent applications that Apple is trying to get approved by the US Patent and Trademark Office include the following: 20120133301 "Active Enclosure for Computing Device," originally filed in 2001 (see original iMac with light enclosure above); 20120137028, "Method and System for Transferring Status Information Between a Media Player and an Accessory," originally filed in 2004 (see in right side graphic above); 20120134442 "Data Format conversion for Electronic Devices, originally filed in 2007.
Is Apple Shifting Gears?
As we near Apple's World Wide Developer conference the Mac Community is hoping to get a glimpse of some great new products. Back in March, Tim Cook ended his keynote with a slide that read "2012: There's a lot to look forward to."
One could only hope that Apple is on the verge of shifting gears so as to take the digital revolution to the next level. I wonder aloud if we're now in the calm before the storm. I've been covering Apple's patents for over six years now and I could tell you without a doubt that this is the slowest pace of IP activity that I've ever encountered.
For some, it could be interpreted as a cautionary yellow flag; a telltale sign that Apple is in decline without Steve Jobs; that innovation is already beginning to stagnate. While I can't deny that it could be a cautionary yellow flag, I tend to believe that it's simply a lull in IP activity as Apple changes gears. If you have any thoughts on the matter, then take a moment to send in your comments below.
Patently Apple presents a detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for full and accurate details. Revelations found in patent applications shouldn't be interpreted as rumor or fast-tracked according to rumor timetables. Apple's patent applications have provided the Mac community with a clear heads-up on some of Apple's greatest product trends including the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iOS cameras, LED displays, iCloud services for iTunes and more. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.
Sites Covering our Original Report