Apple Won 51 Patents Today covering Smart Fabrics, a Series of Design Patents covering AirPods, the iPhone Notch GUI & more
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 51 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover a patent regarding smart fabrics for future devices; a patent that is in evolution mode. In addition, we cover design patents for AirPods, AirPods in charging case and more. As always, we wrap up this week's granted patent report with our traditional listing of the remaining granted patents that were issued to Apple today.
Fabric Control Device
Apple's newly granted patent covers their invention relating to fabric-based items and more particularly to fabric-based items such as electronic devices covered with fabric surfaces. One example of such a device is an Apple TV remote with an interface using smart fabric. Apple has already experimented with smart fabrics on an iPad keyboard.
According to Apple the fabric may include conductive strands that form touch sensor circuitry. The fabric may include portions that are patterned differently and that have different properties. For example, the fabric may include areas that transmit more light than other areas or are more opaque than other areas or may include areas that are smoother than other areas or are coarser than other areas.
Button labels and other features may be formed by weaving or otherwise intertwining strands of material in the fabric with desired patterns, by processing fabric through application of heat and using other processing techniques, and by applying ink or other materials.
Apple's patent FIG. 12 below is a perspective view of an illustrative fabric-based item such as a remote control or other electronic device with fabric covering; FIG. 15 is a perspective view of an illustrative self-righting fabric-based item with a cylindrical housing surface; and FIG. 16 is a side view of an illustrative fabric-based item with deformable housing walls. Apple further notes that when a user grabs the remote, the walls of the remote can compress inwardly.
Of course, Apple never restricts an invention/patent to a single application. Apple makes it clear that smart fabrics could be integrated into future devices such as a MacBook (laptop), an iPad (tablet), Apple Watch (wrist watch), headphones, in a vehicle, airplane, chair, sofa and clothing or other wearable item (e.g., a hat, belt, wrist band, headband, sock, glove, shirt, pants, etc.).
Apple's newly granted patent has updated the invention with 20 new patent claims. The previous granted patent focused on a "Fabric-covered remote-control device." In Apple's latest granted patent, Apple is purposely more generic with the claims focused on "The Fabric-based item," leaving the door wide open for smart fabric to be used in any device of Apple's choosing. It also covers "Virtual buttons" where light is emitted through the fabric to illustrate buttons, symbols or numeric keys. Below are just two of the new claims:
Patent Claim #1: "A fabric-based item comprising: a housing; a fabric layer covering a majority of the housing; a light-emitting component configured to emit light through the fabric layer in a pattern for a virtual button; wireless communications circuitry; and control circuitry configured to transmit wireless signals with the wireless communications circuitry."
Patent Claim #2: "The fabric-based item defined in claim 1, further comprising: a touch-sensitive component that is configured to detect touch input in an area on the fabric layer associated with the virtual button; and a haptic device that is configured to provide tactile feedback in response to the touch-sensitive component detecting the touch input."
You could review our coverage of Apple's first granted patent here for additional information or review Apple's granted patent 10,883,203 to review the full 20 new patent claims. Our report's cover graphic represents Apple's smart fabric patent FIG. 5 which is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative fabric layer overlapping electrical components.
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