Tag Archives | Patents

Can Motion Control Actually Shake Up Apple Keyboards?

While Apple’s been assaulting the traditional mouse with multi-touch surfaces, so far the keyboard remains unchanged from its basic design.

But an Apple patent found by MacRumors suggests that there’s keyboard revolution on the brain in Cupertino. It calls for four small cameras around the main keys, pointing upwards at the user. By hovering hands above the keys, users could point and perform gestures like they would on a track pad.

In other words, it’s Kinect for your keyboard.

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Ho! Ho! Ho!

Merry Christmas! Here’s a 2008 story I forgot I did: The Santaland Patents, a look at the art of the Christmas-related patent drawing.

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Great, Now Microsoft is Suing Motorola

Microsoft has announced that it’s suing Motorola for making Android phones that violate Microsoft patents. I’ve lost track of all the phone-related suits out there, but off the top of my head: Apple is suing Nokia, Nokia is suing Apple. Apple is suing HTC, HTC is suing Apple. and Oracle is suing Google. Oh, and Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen is suing…well, pretty much everyone except Microsoft, but I’m not sure if any of the patents in question relate to phones.

Microsoft VP Horacio Gutierrez has a blog post up in which he says:

Our action today merely seeks to ensure respect for our intellectual property rights infringed by Android devices; and judging by the recent actions by Apple and Oracle, we are not alone in this respect.

I dunno–I’m in favor of intellectual property, but I’d like someone (ideally someone who isn’t in the process of suing anyone else) to explain how the current patent system and its impact on the technology industry helps the industry, consumers, or the country. Is it possible to root against everyone involved?

Also, can someone explain to me how this suit will help Microsoft become relevant again in the phone business, or why it’s a better investment of time and money than pouring as much effort as possible into Windows Phone 7?


Sony's Playstation 2 Backwards Compatibility Patent: Don't Count On It

From the wild world of Sony video game patents comes a little adapter box that can supposedly run Playstation 2 games when attached to a Playstation 3.

According to Eurogamer, the patent application calls for a device with its own DVD decoder and emulator, CPU, GPU, sound processor and memory. The adapter would read information from Playstation 2 discs, inserted into the PS3, and perform all the legwork, possibly sending compressed audio and video back to the PS3 via ethernet connection. This would allow PS2 support without the Emotion Engine, a processor Sony included in early PS3 models specifically for playing last-generation games.

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Supreme Court Leaves Software Patent Issues Unanswered

Yesterday, the Supreme Court handed down a long awaited decision on a patent case that could have changed how or whether software patents are granted. Ultimately, little changed, except that the Court’s decision was at odds with 150 years of patent law, says a legal expert.

The Court’s Bilski v. Kappos decision could have invalidated many software patents had it accepted a Federal circuit court’s “machine or transformation” test for what is patentable. Proponents of the lower court’s decision had hoped that the high court would finally bring an end to excessive patent litigation and eliminate questionable patents that they say can slow the pace of innovation in technology.

The Bilski case involved a patent claim for a business method for hedging risks in commodities trading. The Justices affirmed the lower court’s decision that the Bilski patent was too abstract and therefore un-patentable. However, it did not accept the machine or transformation test, thus failing to provide any guidance to government patent examiners, defendants, or patent filers.

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Amazon Gets to Keep 1-Click

Amazon’s 1-Click e-commerce patent–everybody’s favorite poster child for overly-broad patents that don’t actually foster innovation–lives. After a four-year investigation, the U.S. Patent Office has concluded that the somewhat more limited version of the 1997 patent which Google Amazon refiled in 2007 is legitimate. When will other shopping sites be allowed to let you place an order with a single click? 2017, when Amazon’s patent expires.


Laptopia! The World’s Weirdest Portable Computers

LaptopiaThere aren’t many pieces of technological design that simply can’t be improved upon, but the clamshell-style laptop computer case–introduced by Grid Systems in 1982–may be one of them. That’s why the vast majority of the portable computers built ever since have used it. But for more than a quarter-century now, inventors have been trying to top it, with folding screens, screens on stalks, folding keyboards, two-screen clamshells, tri-fold clamshells, and more. Most never even get off the drawing board. Herewith, a gallery of designs from Google Patents (click the filing dates to see the patents). There’s only one in here I might have considered buying, but on some perverse level I admire them all.


Microsoft’s Patent Pipedream

Yesterday, Microsoft’s Deputy General Counsel Horacio Gutierrez called for a world authority on patents, and a single judicial body for litigation. The world needs to cycle more resources toward processing backlogged patent applications and to allow corporations to protect their intellectual property, he said.

“By facing the challenges, realizing a vision, overcoming political barriers, and removing procedural obstacles we can build a global patent system that will promote innovation, enrich public knowledge, encourage competition and drive economic growth and employment,” he added. “The time is now–the solutions are in reach,” he wrote.

After reading Gutierrez’s blog, I began to consider how many interests are vying to influence patent reform in the U.S alone. The politics of patents become infinitely more complicated internationally. Stanford law professor Mark Lemley mused that a standard global patent system may be a good idea, but then so is world peace, obviously making light of Guiterrez’s lofty goal.

Don’t look for this to happen in the immediate future, however.

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EchoStar Ordered To Pay Up in TiVo Patent Case

EchoStar will be forced to pay a total of $190 million to TiVo as a result of a Texas District Judge’s ruling that the company was infringing on technologies patented by TiVo. Furthermore, it was found the company had violated an earlier injunction by attempting to develop a “workaround” which it said still violated TiVo’s patent rights.

TiVo’s case against EchoStar has been going on for quite awhile now: it lost the original case in 2006. This set off a seemingly endless stream of attempts by EchoStar to appeal, of which it lost all major rulings.

In an attempt to avoid further infringement, EchoStar developed what it called a “workaround,” which it said removed what TiVo claimed to be patented technologies. The DVR maker disagreed, and the courts have now found that the workaround did still infringe on patents held by TiVo.

The patent infrigement claims will be worth $73.9 million plus $15.7 million in interest, plus another $103.1 million has been tacked on as a result of infringement that occurred during the injunction period.

In addition, the company will now be required to shut off the infringing technology from practically all of its DVR recorders. In addition, it will not be allowed to attempt another “workaround” without telling the court first.

¬†EchoStar is remaining ever defiant, saying it will appeal the order with a federal appeals court, however its beginning to look like sooner or later the company’s going to have to pay up.

TiVo seems to enjoy the fact that EchoStar wants to continue pushing its luck: “EchoStar may attempt to further delay this case but we are very pleased the court has made it clear that there are major ramifications for continued infringement,” it said in a statement.

It may make better business sense for EchoStar to just pay up and license the technology. A single court has yet to side with them on any major decision regarding the actual infringement, thus chances of victory in the courts seem slim to none.

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