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Apple Reveals a New Keyboard Illumination System Designed for yet Thinner MacBooks

1. Cover - Apple patent, new light pipe system for keyboard Illumination
On April 25, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a new In-Plane Keyboard Illumination system designed to allow future MacBooks to be even thinner. Apple's engineering teams are always pushing the boundaries of industrial design to deliver the very best products in the marketplace.

Apple's New In-Plane Keyboard Illumination System


While many designs and techniques used with respect to illuminated keyboard assemblies have generally worked well in the past, there is always a desire to provide further designs and techniques for illuminated keyboards. In particular, what is desired are improved keyboard assemblies that provide for an aesthetic backlighting type illumination of the keyboard in low light conditions without sacrificing any thickness in the keyboard.


Apple's invention generally relates to providing a keyboard for a personal computer, laptop, or other similar device, with such a keyboard being illuminated yet as thin as possible. This can be accomplished at least in part through the use of alternative keyboard lighting arrangements that utilize illumination sources in the same plane as the keyboard keys, with the light therefrom being delivered to illuminate the keys by way of light pipes located within or alongside a webbed structure that runs between the keys.


In some embodiments of the present invention, a keyboard includes a plurality of keys arranged in a pattern contained within a plane, a webbed structure surrounding the keys and defining openings for each of the keys, an illumination source located along at least one side of and within the same plane as the pattern of keys, and one or more light pipes positioned along the webbed structure and arranged to deliver light from the illumination source to the keys, wherein each of the plurality of keys is illuminated thereby. Each of the plurality of keys can include a keycap and an actuating component, such that the key can be depressed by a user.


About Apple's Patent Figures Below: FIG. 1 illustrates in front perspective view an exemplary laptop computer having a built-in keyboard; FIG. 4 illustrates in top plan view an exemplary illuminated keyboard; and FIG. 5 illustrates in side cross-sectional view the keyboard from FIG. 4.


2. In-Plane Keyboard Illuminiation, Apple Patent figs 1, 4 and 5

Patent Credits


Apple credits Peter Mahowald, Patrick Kessler and Harold Welch as the inventors of this patent application which was originally filed in Q4 2012. To review Apple's patent claims, see Apple's patent filing under number 20130100028. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing to market of such an Apple product is unknown at this time.


A Note for Tech Sites Covering our Report: We ask tech sites covering our report to kindly limit the use of our graphics to one image. Thanking you in advance for your cooperation. 


3. Flowchart for new keyboard lighting system

A Word about Continuation Patents


It should be noted that the US Patent and Trademark Office did in fact publish a series of 15 older continuation patents today dating back to between 2004 and 2011. The continuation patents listed below are specifically referenced as such under the section titled "Cross-Reference to Related Applications."


Generally speaking, this type of patent application contains modifications that Apple's legal team have made to the original patent claims in an effort to have the US Patent Office finally approve their invention. In general continuation patents don't represent any new developments from the original patent filing. Some websites mistakenly report on continuation patents as if they were new Apple filings to which they are not.


Here are the older continuation patents that were published today by the US Patent Office:

1. Old 2009 Patent 20130103967: Methods and Apparatuses for Dynamic Power Control

2. Old 2010 Patent 20130103906: Combining Write Buffer with Dynamically Adjustable Flush Metrics

3 Old 2010 Patent 20130103860: Portable Storage Interface

4. Old 2008 Patent 20130104221: Group Formation Using Anonymous Broadcast Information

5. Old 2010 Patent 20130104147: Method and System for Synchronous Operation of Linked Command Objects

6. Old 2004 Patent 20130104043: Handheld Devices as Visual Indicators

7. Old 2011 Patent 20130104042: Anchor Override for a Media-Editing Application with an Anchored Timeline

8. Old 2010 Patent 20130103968: Methods and Apparatuses for Dynamic Power Control

9. Old 2010 Patent 20130103968: Methods and Apparatuses for Dynamic Power Control

10. Old 2010 Patent 20130099745: External Power Source Voltage Drop Compensation for Portable Devices

11. Old 2010 Patent 20130100055: Cover for an Electronic Device

12. Old 2010 Patent 20130100607: Handheld Computer Device

13. Old 2011 Patent 20130100638: Side Cured Light-Transmissive Display System

14. Old 2009 Patent 20130102097: Content Selection Based on Simulcast Data

15. Old 2008 Patent 20130102329: Location-Based Services


PA - Bar - Notice

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. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.


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