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Apple Granted 42 Patents Today Covering the Apple Watch Band, Hover Sensors, the New MacBook Keyboard & More


The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 42 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover Apple's design patent win for the basics of the Apple Watch Band, hover sensors and the foundation of the invention which led to Apple's new MacBook low profile keyboard with stable keys. We wrap up this week's granted patent report with our traditional listing of the remaining granted patents that were issued to Apple today.


Apple Granted Three Design Patents Today


Apple was granted 3 design patents today. The first major design wins covers a display stand that's used on Apple Store tables (D724,597) and the second design win covers the Apple Watch Band as noted below (D724,469). Last week Apple was granted a design patent for the clasp element of the Apple Watch.




3af Apple Watch Bands


Granted Patent: Touch and Hover Sensor Compensation


Apple's newly granted patent covers their invention relating to relates to compensation for sensors in a touch and hover sensing device. Compensation can be for sensor resistance and/or sensor sensitivity variation that can adversely affect touch and hover measurements at the sensors. To compensate for sensor resistance, the device can gang adjacent sensors together so as to reduce the overall resistance of the sensors. In addition or alternatively, the device can drive the sensors with voltages from multiple directions so as to reduce the effects of the sensors' resistance. To compensate for sensor sensitivity variation (generally at issue for hover measurements), the device can apply a gain factor to the measurements, where the gain factor is a function of the sensor location, so as to reduce the sensitivity variation at different sensor locations on the device. Sensor compensation can advantageously provide improved touch and hover sensing.



Apple's patent FIG. 29 noted above illustrates another exemplary touch and hover sensing device that can compensate for sensor resistance.


Apple credits Brian King, Omar Leung, Paul Puskarich, Jeffery Bernstein, Andrea Mucignat, Avi Cieplinski, Muhammad Choudry, Praveen Subramani, Marc Piche, David Amm and Duncan Kerr as the inventors of granted patent 8,982,060 which was originally filed in Q3 2010 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.


Apple has recently been more active regarding hover event inventions. There was one filed in January 2014 and another just last month. The two patents related to both finger and stylus hovering events.


Granted Patent: Keyboard Mechanisms


Apple's newly granted patent covers their invention relating to a new keyboard design with lower profile keys and more.


Apple's design page for the new MacBook introduces the new keyboard's "Butterfly Mechanism" this way:


Traditional keyboards use a scissor mechanism, which tends to wobble around the edges. This creates a lack of precision when you strike anywhere except the center of the key. We needed to reduce key wobbling for a keyboard this thin; otherwise, striking a key off-center could result in the keycap hitting bottom before a keystroke registers. So we designed an entirely new butterfly mechanism, which is wider than the scissor mechanism and has a single assembly made from a stiffer material — allowing for a more stable, responsive key that takes up less vertical space. This innovative design improves stability, uniformity, and control — no matter where you press on the key.


Apple's latest granted patent notes similar thinking as following: In some embodiments, the keys of the keyboard may have a vertical travel motion relative to the enclosure of the computing device. When the user provides a downward force on the key cap, the keycap may travel downward while supported by the support mechanism. In one embodiment, the support mechanism may be one or more supports interconnected together. In some embodiments, the supports of the support mechanism may be formed of a rigid material to substantially prevent the keycap from bending or tilting when a downward force is exerted on a portion or an entire area of the keycap.


Apple further notes that the "scissor mechanisms for conventional keyboards typically suffer from some torsional twisting if a keycap is pressed at an edge or corner. That is, if a user presses a corner of the keycap, that corner may travel downward more than other parts of the keycap, such as the opposing corner."



Apple's invention was about reducing the key stack and stabilizing the keys from twisting. This was likely the first of a few patents on this invention as I'm not sure that this patent actually nails the new butterfly mechanism as it ended up in the new MacBook. The invention's foundation is clearly present as we noted with the patent's verbiage covering the problems with scissor mechanisms and unstable keys. Most inventions that end up in a product are usually made up of a combination of patent filing concepts and claims. This current granted patent is most certainly related to the new MacBook Keyboard evolution.


Apple credits Craig Leong, James Niu, Keith Hendren, John Brock and Thomas Wilson as the inventors of granted patent number 8,981,243 which was originally filed in Q4 2012. For the record, the patent figure noted above from the current patent is to generally represent a modern low profile notebook like the MacBook Air (or MacBook). The original design showed multiple ports.


The Remaining Patents granted to Apple Today


6AF - Apple's Remaining Granted Patents for March 17, 2015

Note: In order to see a clearer image of the list above, simply click on the image above to enlarge it. Some browsers may require that you click on the image and then a second click on the image to enlarge it fully.


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