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Patents

Supreme Court Rules For Samsung in Smartphone Fight With Apple (reuters.com) 45

The Supreme Court on Tuesday sided with Samsung in its high-profile patent dispute with Apple over design of the iPhone. The justices said Samsung may not be required to pay all the profits it earned from 11 phone models because the features at issue are only a tiny part of the devices. From a report on Reuters: The justices in their 8-0 ruling sent the case back to the lower court for further proceedings. The decision gives Samsung another chance to try to get back a big chunk of the money it paid Apple in December following a 2012 jury verdict that it infringed Apple's iPhone patents and mimicked its distinctive appearance in making the Galaxy and other competing devices. The court held that a patent violator does not always have to fork over its entire profits from the sales of products using stolen designs, if the designs covered only certain components and not the whole thing.
Patents

Supreme Court Considers When US Patent Violations Are 'Induced' Abroad (arstechnica.com) 23

The US Supreme Court today will take up a case that will determine how much help an overseas manufacturer can get from the U.S. without running afoul of US patent laws. From a report on ArsTechnica: The case originates in a dispute between two competitors in the field of genetic testing. Both Promega Corporation and Life Technologies (selling through its Applied Biosciences brand) make DNA testing kits that can be used in a variety of fields, including forensic identification, paternity testing, medical treatment, and research. Promega licensed several patents to Applied Biosystems that allowed its competitor to sell kits for use in "Forensics and Human Identity Applications." The license forbade sales for clinical or research uses. In 2010, Promega filed a lawsuit in federal court, saying that Life Technologies had "engaged in a concerted effort to sell its kits into unlicensed fields," thus infringing its patents. A Wisconsin federal jury found that Life Tech had willfully infringed and should pay $52 million in damages. But the district judge overseeing the case set aside that verdict after trial, ruling that since nearly all of the Life Tech product had been assembled and shipped from outside the US, the product wasn't subject to US patent laws.
Iphone

Apple Is Working With LG On Next-Gen 3D Camera For 2017 iPhone, Says Report (9to5mac.com) 29

An anonymous reader quotes a report from 9to5Mac: A brief report in The Korea Economic Daily claims that Apple is working with LG on a new dual camera module "which enables 3D photographing." LG already supplies the dual-camera module used in the iPhone 7 Plus. The LG Innotek system is said to be destined for one or more of next year's iPhone models, but the report is unclear what 3D applications Apple might have in mind. Apple has patents for 3D object and gesture recognition going back many years. However, it is likely nothing more than the next generation of Portrait Mode, which uses parallax effect to create a 3D model of a scene in order to identify foreground and background in what is captured by the twin cameras. Apple may be aiming to bring Portrait Mode to all iPhone models next year, which would require a more compact dual-camera module.
China

China Breaks Patent Application Record (bbc.com) 28

China-based inventors applied for a record-setting number of patents last year. The country accounted for more than a million submissions, according to an annual report by the World Intellectual Property Organization (Wipo). It said the figure was "extraordinary". From a BBC report:A total of 2.9 million patent applications were filed worldwide in 2015, according to Wipo, marking a 7.8% rise on the previous year. China can lay claim to driving most of that growth. Its domestic patent office -- the Property Office of the People's Republic of China (Sipo) -- received a record 1,101,864 filings. Many of the filings were for innovations in telecoms, computing, semiconductors and medical tech. Beijing had urged companies to boost the number of such applications. But some experts have cast doubt as to whether it signifies that the country is truly more inventive than others, since most of China's filings were done locally.
Patents

Samsung Patent Describes Holographic TV Technology (consumerist.com) 52

Patently Mobile is reporting about a new patent application filed by Samsung that lays out new holographic TV technology. Slashdot reader Rick Schumann writes via Consumerist: Holographic displays as described by Samsung would be able to make the depth the brain perceives consistent with the focus of the eyes. Lasers would be used to project holograms that float in front of the screen, which of course sounds a heck of a lot like a mini Princess Leia telling Obi-Wan Kenobi he's her only hope. The display apparatus could also include an eye tracking unit that would locate an observer's pupils and adjust how far it has to project the holographic image for optimum viewing.

Worth noting: This is just a patent application; no indication of even a working prototype.


Businesses

Apple Considering Expansion Into Wearable Glasses, Says Report (bloomberg.com) 121

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Apple is weighing an expansion into digital glasses, a risky but potentially lucrative area of wearable computing, according to people familiar with the matter. While still in an exploration phase, the device would connect wirelessly to iPhones, show images and other information in the wearer's field of vision, and may use augmented reality, the people said. They asked not to be identified speaking about a secret project. Apple has talked about its glasses project with potential suppliers, according to people familiar with those discussions. The company has ordered small quantities of near-eye displays from one supplier for testing, the people said. Apple hasn't ordered enough components so far to indicate imminent mass-production, one of the people added. Should Apple ultimately decide to proceed with the device, it would be introduced in 2018 at the earliest, another person said. The glasses may be Apple's first hardware product targeted directly at AR, one of the people said. Apple has AR patents for things like street view in mapping apps. It was also awarded patents for smart glasses that make use of full-fledged virtual reality. Apple is unlikely to leverage VR in a mass-consumer product, Cook suggested in October. Apple's challenge is fitting all the technology needed into a useful pair of internet-connected glasses that are small and sleek enough for regular people to wear.
Music

Red Hat Announces Fedora Will Support MP3 Playback (fedoraproject.org) 140

Long-time Slashdot reader jrincayc shares news from Red Hat's Fedora Engineering Manager, Tom Callaway. On the Fedora-legal mailing list, Callaway announced: Red Hat has determined that it is now acceptable for Fedora to include MP3 decoding functionality (not specific to any implementation, or binding by any unseen agreement). Encoding functionality is not permitted at this time.
And the same day Christian Schaller announced on the Gnome blog that mp3 playback would be supported in Fedora Workstation 25. You should be able to download the mp3 plugin on Day 1 through GNOME Software or through the missing codec installer in various GStreamer applications. For Fedora Workstation 26 I would not be surprised if we decide to ship it on the install media.
He added, "I know this has been a big wishlist item for a long time for a lot of people..."
Businesses

The Internet Association, Whose Members Include Amazon, Facebook and Google, Writes Open Letter To Donald Trump (cnet.com) 19

The Internet Association -- a group of 40 top internet companies including Airbnb, Amazon, Facebook, Google, LinkedIn, Netflix, Twitter, Uber and Yahoo -- issued an open letter on Monday that congratulates Donald Trump on his victory and offers a long list of policy positions they hope he'll consider during his time as president. From a report on CNET:That list includes:
Upholding Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act so internet companies can't get sued easily for things their users say or do online.
Upholding Section 512 of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act so internet companies can't get easily sued if they quickly remove copyrighted content that users upload (such as infringing photos and YouTube videos).
Reforming the 30-year-old Electronic Communications Privacy Act -- "Internet users must have the same protections for their inbox as they do for their mailbox," states the association. Supporting strong encryption (Trump called for a boycott of Apple when it refused to comply with an FBI order to unlock an iPhone linked to terror.)
Reforming Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which lets the NSA collect online communications without a warrant.
Providing similar copyright protections for companies that operate outside the US.
Reforming the US Patent Office to deter patent trolls, a term for companies that sue other companies based on patents without actually producing new products.
Here's the full list.
Cellphones

Samsung's Latest Patent Is a Foldable Phone (theverge.com) 31

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: A recent patent application (PDF) shows that Samsung has ambitious ideas for future phone-design experimentation, although the South Korean manufacturer may have second thoughts about bendy phones after recent battery explosions and recalls. In April, Samsung was reported to have filed a patent with the Korean Intellectual Property Office for a foldable smartphone. The application was picked up by Dutch website Galaxy Club. The document shows a narrow Samsung device with a screen that bends and folds like an old-school flip phone handset. The device is described as something that can be "folded or unfolded semi automatically." The patent also referred to a "secondary" display, which is supposed to activate when you fold the device, according to International Business Times UK.
Iphone

Future iPhones Could Fold In Half (geek.com) 95

Apple has just received a patent, titled "electronic devices with carbon nanotube printing circuits," that suggests future iPhones may be foldable -- at least to some degree. Geek reports: Based on the language in the patent, it doesn't sound like Apple is specifically talking about a device that has a fully bendable display. It mentions one that can bend "along edges of touch sensors or displays." The carbon nanotube PCBs provide flexibility for some of the phone's internals, but not all of them. Those other parts will likely be covered by other patents if Apple is genuinely working on a seamless foldable device. The usual caveats apply here. For now, this is simply yet another patent padding Apple's already massive portfolio. Could they be planning to release an iPhone that folds in half? Definitely.
Google

Oracle Will Officially Appeal Its 'Fair Use' Loss Against Google (arstechnica.com) 99

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The massive Oracle v. Google litigation has entered a new phase, as Oracle filed papers (PDF) yesterday saying it will appeal its loss on "fair use" grounds to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. For a brief recap of the case: after Oracle purchased Sun Microsystems and acquired the rights to Java, it sued Google in 2010, saying that Google infringed copyrights and patents related to Java. The case went to trial in 2012. Oracle initially lost but had part of its case revived on appeal. The sole issue in the second trial was whether Google infringed the APIs in Java, which the appeals court held are copyrighted. In May, a jury found in Google's favor after a second trial, stating that Google's use of the APIs was protected by "fair use." Oracle's appeal is no surprise, but it will be a long shot. The four-factor "fair use" test is a fairly subjective one, and Oracle lawyers will have to argue that the jury's unanimous finding must be overturned. There are various ways a jury could arrive at the conclusion that Google was protected by fair use. The case will go back to the Federal Circuit, the same appeals court that decided APIs could be copyrighted in the first place. That decision overruled U.S. District Judge William Alsup, the lower court judge, and was extremely controversial in the developer community. However, the same decision that insisted APIs can be copyrighted clearly held the door open to the idea that "fair use" might apply. Unless Oracle pulls off a stunning move on appeal, its massive legal expenditures in this case will be for naught.
Cellphones

Will The iPhone 8 Include Augmented Reality? (bgr.com) 55

Earlier this month Mashable wrote "it's now even more obvious what [Apple] is working to bring to the masses, and it's probably not, as some rumors have indicated, virtual reality." They cited CEO Tim Cook's recent predictions that augmented reality "is going to become really big" -- he said it again on Thursday -- and BuzzFeed noted that Apple "has quietly put into place the components of what could prove to be an AR ecosystem: The iPhone 7 Plus has...a two-camera system capable of gathering stereoscopic data and generating image depth maps... In Apple Watch, the company has a spatially-aware, wearable device outfitted with an accelerometer and GPS. In its new AirPod wireless earphones, Apple essentially has a pair of diminutive, spatially-aware microcomputers -- each one with an Apple W1 wireless chip (the company's first), two accelerometers, two optical sensors, beam-forming microphones, and an antenna... And sources tell BuzzFeed News that the company has recently been taking meetings with immersive content companies like Jaunt.
Their article also lists AR companies that Apple's bought over the last three years -- plus their patents for a "head-mounted display" and a "peripheral treatment for head-mounted displays." BGR adds that Tim Cook "likes to tease future products," and points out that Cook has even said Apple is working on AR features "behind the curtain". This casts a new light on those rumors of an all-glass case for next year's iPhone 8. Will the whole body of the phone become part of an Augmented Reality display system? (And could AR also explain Apple's aggressive push for wireless headphones?)
Advertising

Yahoo Patents Smart Billboard That Would Deliver Targeted Ads To Passersby or Motorists (thestack.com) 131

An anonymous reader writes: Yahoo has filed a patent for advertising billboards outfitted with a wide array of sensors -- including drone-based cameras -- which would use facial and vehicle recognition, data brokers, cell-tower information and social network information to attempt to identify worthwhile advertising targets and aim personalized ads at them as they pass on foot or in cars. The scheme, which was submitted on October 6th, anticipates using the same kind of micro-auction processes that currently determine which ads users see in webpages and mobile apps. The implementation of public ad-targeting brings up some fascinating and chilling prospects, as users find that the ads which "bloom" around them betray much about their private lives. Yahoo provides an example via its patent application: "According to one example, a digital billboard adjacent a busy freeway might be instrumented with or located near traffic sensors that detect information about the context of the vehicles approaching the billboard, e.g., the number and average speed of the vehicles. Such information might be used in conjunction with information about the time of day and/or the day of the week (e.g., Monday morning rush hour) to select advertisements for display that would appeal to an expected demographic and to display the advertisements for durations that are commensurate with the level of traffic congestion." The patent application also mentions how it will gather required information from individuals: "Various types of data (e.g., cell tower data, mobile app location data, image data, etc.) can be used to identify specific individuals in an audience in position to view advertising content. Similarly, vehicle navigation/tracking data from vehicles equipped with such systems could be used to identify specific vehicles and/or vehicle owners. Demographic data (e.g., as obtained from a marketing or user database) for the audience can thus be determined for the purpose of, for example, determining whether and/or the degree to which the demographic profile of the audience corresponds to a target demographic."
Patents

Appeals Court Reinstates Apple's $120 Million Slide-To-Unlock Patent Win Over Samsung (bloomberg.com) 70

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Apple Inc. won an appeals court ruling that reinstates a patent-infringement verdict it won against Samsung Electronics Co., including for its slide-to-unlock feature for smartphones and tablets. In an 8-3 ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said a three-judge panel was wrong to throw out the $119.6 million verdict in February. Instead, it ordered the trial judge to consider whether the judgment should be increased based on any intentional infringement by Samsung. In this case, Apple claimed that Samsung infringed patents for the slide-to-unlock feature, autocorrect and a way to detect phone numbers so they can be tapped to make phone calls. The bulk of the award, $98.7 million, was for the detection patent that the earlier panel said wasn't infringed. The February decision also said the other two patents were invalid. That was a wrong decision, the court ruled Friday, because it relied on issues that were never raised on appeal or on information that was beyond the trial record. "The jury verdict on each issue is supported by substantial evidence in the record," Circuit Judge Kimberly Moore wrote for the majority.
Businesses

Prominent Pro-Patent Judge Issues Opinion Declaring All Software Patents Bad (techdirt.com) 294

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Techdirt: A lawsuit brought by the world's largest patent troll, Intellectual Ventures, and handled on appeal (as are all patent cases), by the notoriously awful Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) may have actually killed off software patents. The ruling came from a judge that has ruled over patent cases since the 1980s, and it appears he's been born again into the anti-software patent world. Judge Mayer pointed out that the First Amendment says that "some" patents should not be allowed. The whole concurrence is worth reading, starting with the First Amendment argument -- which is kind of fascinating in that it goes well beyond what most people had talked about in the past concerning software patents. Judge Mayer makes the point that basically all software is unpatentable because software is "a form of language," which we don't patent: "All software implemented on a standard computer should be deemed categorically outside the bounds of Section 101. ("Section 101" is 35 U.S. Code; 101 is the part that governs patents.) The central problem with affording patent protection to generically-implemented software is that standard computers have long been ceded to the public domain .... Because generic computers are ubiquitous and indispensable, in effect the 'basic tool []' of modern life, they are not subject to the patent monopoly. In the section 101 calculus, adding software (which is as abstract as language) to a conventional computer (which rightfully resides in the public domain) results in a patent eligibility score of zero .... Software lies in the antechamber of patentable invention. Because generically-implemented software is an 'idea' insufficiently linked to any defining physical structure other than a standard computer, it is a precursor to technology rather than technology itself."
Patents

Apple Loses Patent Retrial To VirnetX, Owes $302.4 Million (reuters.com) 64

Slashdot reader chasm22 quotes Reuters: A federal jury in Texas on Friday night ordered Apple Inc to pay more than $302 million in damages for using VirnetX Holding Corp's patented internet security technology without permission in features including its FaceTime video conferencing application. The verdict came in a new trial in Tyler, Texas that had been ordered by the judge in the case, Robert Schroeder, who last August threw out VirnetX's $625.6 million win over Apple from a previous trial because he said jurors in that case may have been confused...

A jury in 2012 awarded $368.2 million in damages, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C., partly overturned that verdict, saying there were problems with how the trial judge instructed jurors on calculating damages. On remand, VirnetX's two suits were combined, and in February, a jury returned with an even bigger verdict, $625.6 million, one of the highest ever in a U.S. patent case... However, Schroeder later voided the result, saying that the repeated references to the earlier case could have confused jurors and were unfair to Apple... Apple will also have to contend with the trial in a second lawsuit VirnetX filed against Apple over newer versions of Apple security features, as well as its iMessage application.

The article points out that "Many patent cases are handled in the Texas court, which has a reputation for awarding favorable verdicts to plaintiffs alleging infringement."
Microsoft

Microsoft Patents A User-Monitoring AI That Improves Search Results (hothardware.com) 68

Slashdot reader MojoKid quotes a HotHardware article about Microsoft's new patent filing for an OS "mediation component": This is Microsoft's all-seeing-eye that monitors all textual input within apps to intelligently decipher what the user is trying to accomplish. All of this information could be gathered from apps like Word, Skype, or even Notepad by the Mediator and processed. So when the user goes to, for example, the Edge web browser to further research a topic, those contextual concepts are automatically fed into a search query.

The search engine (e.g., Bing and Cortana) uses contextual rankers to adjust the ranking of the default suggested queries to produce more relevant [results]. The operating system...tracks all textual data displayed to the user by any application, and then performs clustering to determine the user intent (contextually).

The article argues this feels "creepy and big brother-esque," and while Microsoft talks of defining a "task continuum," suggests the patent's process "would in essence keep track of everything you type and interact with in the OS and stockpile it in real-time to data-dump into Bing."
The Almighty Buck

Accenture Patents a Blockchain-Editing Tool (techweekeurope.co.uk) 87

A blockchain "produces a permanent ledger of transactions with which no one can tamper," reports TechWeekEurope. "Until now." Slashdot reader Mickeycaskill quotes their report: One of the core principles of Blockchain technology has potentially been undermined by the creation of an editing tool. The company responsible however, Accenture, says edits would only be carried out "under extraordinary circumstances to resolve human errors, accommodate legal and regulatory requirements, and address mischief and other issues, while preserving key cryptographic features..."

Accenture's move to create an editing system will no doubt be viewed by some technology observers as a betrayal of what blockchain technology is all about. But the company insisted it is needed, especially in the financial services industry... "The prototype represents a significant breakthrough for enterprise uses of blockchain technology particularly in banking, insurance and capital markets," said Accenture.

They're envisioning "permissioned" blockchain systems, "managed by designated administrators under agreed governance rules," while acknowledging that cyptocurrency remains a different environment where "immutable" record-keeping would still be essential.
Patents

'Corporate Troll' Wins $3 Million Verdict Against Apple For Ring-Silencing Patent (arstechnica.com) 84

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A non-practicing entity called MobileMedia Ideas LLC won a patent lawsuit against Apple today, with a Delaware federal jury finding that Apple should pay $3 million for infringing MobileMedia's patent RE39,231, which relates to ring-silencing features on mobile phones. MobileMedia is an unusual example of the kind of pure patent-licensing entity often derided as a "patent troll." It is majority-owned by MPEG-LA, a patent pool that licenses common digital video technologies like H-264, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4. Minority stakes in MobileMedia are owned by Sony and Nokia, which both contributed the patents owned by the company. MobileMedia also has the same CEO as MPEG-LA, Larry Horn. The battle ended up being a long one, as MobileMedia first filed the case in 2010. It went to trial in 2012, and the jury found that Apple infringed three patents. After reviewing post-trial motions, the judge knocked out some, but not all, of the infringed patent claims. Then came an appeal in which a panel of Federal Circuit judges upheld (PDF) some of the lower court's judges and overturned others. A $3 million verdict is hardly going to make an impact on Apple, and it doesn't represent a huge win for MobileMedia, which was reportedly seeking $18 million in royalties from the trial. Still, getting a verdict in its favor does represent some validation of MobileMedia's business model, which was a striking example of technology corporations using the "patent troll" business model as a kind of proxy war. Nokia and Sony were able to use MobileMedia and the licensing talent at MPEG-LA to wage a patent attack on Apple without engaging directly in court. In all, after years of back-and-forth, the ring-silencing patent was the one that MobileMedia had left. While Apple didn't win the case against one of the first "corporate trolls," it was able to severely pare down the scale of the attack and show that it's willing to fight a long legal war of attrition to make its point.
Patents

Apple Patents a Paper Bag (theguardian.com) 202

mspohr writes: Continuing its leadership in innovation, Apple has patented a paper bag. We all remember the groundbreaking "rounded corners" innovation, now we have a paper bag! Just try to make your own paper bag and you'll be speaking with Apple lawyers. (Note: In fairness to Apple, this is a "special" paper bag which is stronger due to numerous improvements on your ordinary recycled paper bag -- just don't try to copy it.) The patent application summarizes the bag as follows: "A paper bag is disclosed. The paper bag may include a bag container formed of white solid bleached sulfate paper with at least 60% post-consumer content." Apple's patented paper bags are designed to be sturdy, while remaining "both pearly white and environmentally friendly." Let's just hope they don't remove the handles...

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