Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that updates their classic invention for an iMac Touch desktop that was the inspiration behind Microsoft's Surface Studio desktop. While Microsoft could deny it all they want, the reality is that Apple filed for the iMac Touch invention back in 2008 that was reported on first by Patently Apple in 2010. The Surface Studio came to market in December 2016, eight years after Apple's patent filing.
Our patent report was covered by CNN, The Telegraph, Fast Company, PCWorld and a few dozen more. It rocked the news cycle of the day. So it wasn't a secret from Microsoft, it was in their face around the globe.
What's funny about today's updated invention is that a competing Apple news site truly believes that this is a new patent and that they're informing us of some grand revelation. This site continually delivers warped patent news and it's sad. But for today I'll laugh because Apple has already won a patent for this invention back in July.
In 2014 Apple's SVP of software Craig Federighi dropped the guillotine on the iMac Touch project / invention. Apple has since continually fought touch screens on any Macs and introduced the Touch Bar on the MacBook Pro to work around delivering a full touch display.
Despite Apple fighting the concept of an iMac Touch, Apple's original engineer has filed a continuation patent that keeps the invention alive while advancing it. Why is Apple paying this engineer to advance a device that they made crystal clear they have no interest in delivering?
Well, for starters, the engineer has added a "Touch Bar" that the patent filing refers to as a "Menu Bar." By "adding" new claims to an old patent that's been granted, Apple can update the invention and still be technically protected under the law as it's not completely new but rather an addition being added to a granted patent. Below is what the new Patent Claim #1 describes:
"A method for operating an electronic device with a display screen, the method comprising: while an angle of the display screen of the electronic device with respect to a lower base of the electronic device does not satisfy one or more criteria, displaying a user interface for editing an object displayed on the display screen, wherein the user interface includes a menu bar having one or more menu bar items selectable to edit the object displayed on the display screen; while displaying the user interface including the menu bar …"
Patent Claim #3: The method of claim 1, wherein: while the angle of the display screen of the electronic device with respect to the lower base of the electronic device satisfies the one or more criteria, the electronic device is configured to edit the object displayed on the display screen in accordance with one or more detected touch gestures.
Patent Claim #8: The method of claim 1, wherein determining that the angle of the display screen of the electronic device with respect to the lower base of the electronic device has changed from not satisfying the one or more criteria to satisfying the one or more criteria is determining based on measurements from a hinge rotation sensor.
You could review Apple's 12 new claims from continuation patent 20180314291 here.
The continuation patent doesn't come with added patent figures so it's close to impossible to accurately determine how Apple's new touch gesture "Menu Bar" will work on a future iMac. Is it a Touch bar that sits on the iMac's base or is it menu bar that part of the iMac's display?
Secondly, the new hinge rotation sensor is not further detailed so it's once again difficult to understand if it's referring to the patent's standing design concept or a new rotation hinge system that could give the display some horizontal movement.
The one thing we do know today is that this continuation patent tells us that technically the project is still alive. Whether it'll translate to a future iMac or modular desktop in the future isn't unknown at this time.
Apple Engineer / Inventor
Patently Apple presents a detailed summary of patent applications and/or granted patents 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.