Apple’s New iPhone Patents

Two New Camera-Related Patents Granted to Apple

Consumers look to Apple for innovative technology that enables them to do more with their smartphones, tablets, computers and more. To meet this demand, Apple has built a reputation as an aggressive seeker of patent protection.

It is not unusual for Apple to file dozens of patent applications at a time. Additionally, they have a habit of acquiring patents from smaller innovators, which further helps to support their reputation as a leader in technology innovations.

That reputation is bolstered by two of the new U.S. patents that were recently granted to Apple. Both are related to camera technology. While one of these inventions may one day end up in the hands of consumers, the other may be used by Apple as part of the manufacturing process.

The Standalone Depth Camera

U.S. Patent No. 10,298,913 is directed to Apple’s family of TrueDepth camera innovations. This patent, in particular, requires a table-mounted device that is able to quickly and comprehensively scan an entire room and its contents.

According to the disclosure in the patent, the device relies upon a scanner and a light-emitting transmitter to generate time-of-flight data. This data then produces a depth map that is akin to the capabilities of a smartphone camera that is enabled to capture images in three dimensions.

In the case of the current patent, the device includes a gimbal that rotates so that the device may capture the entire room. As it turns, light pulses are projected all around with the assistance of a mirror mechanism. Some embodiments of the invention include the projection of images onto objects in the room using the calculated depth data for reference.

This is not Apple’s first patent that is related to the TrueDepth camera technology. Other patents are directed toward the company’s face ID system, which is sometimes called a “vision system.” This system measures the depth of the subject’s facial features to create a map. This data is then transformed into a mathematical representation that makes determining a particular subject’s identity with unquestionable certainty.

It is unknown at this time what Apple plans to do with the subject matter of the most recent patent.

Body Including Surface Having Concentric Annular Portions

The other patent that was recently granted to Apple appears to be directed to technology that may be used in the manufacturing process. Referred to as a “confocal inspection system,” the invention is capable of analyzing light at narrow, specific depths within a chosen scene or object. To obtain the most accurate data, information that may be obtained from other depths is ignored.

In general practice, similar devices may be used to create a three-dimensional image one thin slice at a time. The optical properties of a selected sample also may be measured by such a device.

Commonly, these devices would use a Fresnel lens to capture the necessary data. This new invention from Apple uses ring-shaped, or annular, components to accomplish this instead. These annular portions reflect light in order to capture the desired data. Such devices may be used in conjunction with materials science or the inspection of semiconductors, suggesting that this technology may not be intended for use by consumers.

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Author: Jeff Williams

Jeff Williams is an experienced mechanical engineer and lawyer that consults closely with clients in a strait forward and clear manner. He brings a particular set of strengths and unique perspectives to the firm.

Jeff received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Arizona State University in 2005. He was an engineer for a number of years at a number of large corporations before pursuing his law degree. He graduated from Texas A&M University School of Law (formerly Texas Wesleyan University School of Law) with a J.D. in 2010. By combining his education and prior work experience into the field of intellectual property law, Jeff has developed key skills to fully assist clients.

Google Vs Apple: The Patent War

November 5, 2015

Intellectual Property in Technology

The technology sector is one of those industries where developments happen with lightning speed. No sooner do users upgrade their technology with a new laptop or smart phone than it seems like yet another improvement is available on the market. It’s virtually impossible for consumers to keep up without considerable trouble and expense. Companies that develop and market new technologies have a similar quandary when it comes to patent protection. The patent process just doesn’t move as quickly as technological developments seem to.

This doesn’t stop technology companies from trying to protect their intellectual property or from trying to prevent competitors from unfairly using their inventions. Giant companies like Apple and Google have departments devoted to the pursuit of patents. These departments also spend vast amounts of resources enforcing those patents. It’s an enormously expensive and time-consuming process, and it doesn’t always have a clear outcome.

The Beginning of the Patent War

Apple and Google entered a war of attrition back in 2007. The smart phone was a new, incredibly desirable product. Apple’s iPhone was probably the hottest tech product, but phones using the Android operating system were catching on too. The trouble was that higher ups at Apple felt that phone manufacturers putting Android on smart phones were making a “stolen product.” Apple founder Steve Jobs was particularly angered by what he felt was an infringement of many of his company’s intellectual property rights. Promising to “spend my last dying breath if I need to,” Jobs filed suit against Google in the first of what would eventually become dozens of patent lawsuits that the two companies would file against each other.

Of course, Google and Apple didn’t just have each other to worry about. Other players in the smart phone market were also believed to be infringing on each other’s rights. The ensuing tangle of litigation appeared never ending. Companies in the tech industry seemed to file lawsuits as often as they applied for patents. A patent would issue only to come under immediate fire from all competitors. Innovators who should have been spending their time improving existing products and developing new ones were trapped in an endless cycle of explaining the finer points of their inventions to patent lawyers, judges and court reporters.

The Patent War Resolution

A ceasefire was declared in 2014 when Apple and Google announced a landmark agreement in which all pending litigation involving the two companies was dropped. Management for both organizations declared an intention to work together toward patent reform. Moreover, they evinced a commitment to focusing on innovation and marketplace competition instead of expending so much energy and resources in litigation.

This did not mean a total end to the patent wars. Apple still had litigation pending against other companies that use the Android operating system on their smart phones. In fact, Apple had just been awarded a sizable amount of money from Samsung for infringement of various patents, a decision that is still under appeal. Nonetheless, it’s interesting that these two tech giants seem to have reached some level of accord.

If you are interested in protecting the new technology you invented, contact Texas technology patent attorney Jeff Williams. With his experience and legal knowledge he can help you determine what kind of steps you should take to protect your intellectual property. Call or click today to schedule a free consultation.