Friday, 21 April 2017

Google And Top Android Partners Agree To Share Software Patents

Google and a group of top Android phone makers have sealed a new agreement to collectively defend themselves against patent lawsuits.

The group, which also includes Samsung, LG, and HTC, have agreed to share patents covering “Android and Google Applications” on any device that meets Android’s compatibility requirements. The patents will be shared for free, and the group is supposed to be free and open for any company to join.

The agreement’s proper name is the “Android Networked Cross-License,” but the group is calling it PAX for short. “Pax” means “peace” in Latin, and Google says the agreement is about reaching a legal peace within the tech world.

“In the world of intellectual property, patent peace often coincides with innovation and healthy competition that benefit consumers,” writes Jamie Rosenberg, an Android business VP with Google. “It is with a hope for such benefits that we are announcing our newest patent licensing initiative focusing on patent peace, which we call PAX.”

It’s not entirely clear what types of patents will be shared through this agreement, or what threats these companies hope to defend against. But generally speaking, the agreement ought to help participants defend against patent trolls — companies that own patents make nothing, and only bring in money through lawsuits — and potentially even other large tech companies should they get into a standoff over intellectual property. The PAX group writes that they believe signing up “materially reduces patent risk.”

We’ve reached out to Google for more information on what the agreement covers.

The agreement could be a big win for Samsung and Google. Samsung makes and sells more Android devices than any other company on the list, and this pact makes it a harder target for patent trolls to hit. For Google, this agreement also helps to open the Android ecosystem up to smaller companies that may be interested in making a device but fear litigation.

While this agreement should help to defend Android manufacturers against some lawsuits on its own, its scope is fairly specific and seems to be limited to software. This isn’t the only licensing agreement of its kind, though. Google previously started a group that pledges to only use patents defensively, while another group it co-founded, the LOT Network, prevented companies from buying up patents just to sue others.

Source : The Verge

Microsoft Patents "Dual Display" Device With E-paper Display


Microsoft patents seem to be popping up more frequently lately, perhaps because everyone's paying more attention in the run up to the company's next mobile device, thought to be the Surface Phone.

In March, a patent emerged for a multi-layered screen made up of panels with curved edges sitting below a single upper layer, which hinted at a possible design for the phone.

But this week, a patent has been spotted (via) for a "dual display device," which is likely to be a new tablet design rather than anything Surface Phone-related.

The patent details a device that features a regular screen on one side and a detachable e-paper display on the other.

According to the information in the filing, the regular screen would display visually dynamic user input controls, while the e-paper screen would be used for visually static user input controls.


That basically means, should this product ever actually materialise, the e-paper section would show various different input controls such as a keyboard, depending on what was required.

As the patent explains: "Although many of the examples described herein relate to textual input by the user, the user controls need not relate to textual input.

"For example, the visually static user controls may comprise controls for a music / video player and the visually dynamic user controls may show thumbnails of album art (e.g. for the particular song or album or related / similar songs) or related videos."W
As the e-paper section is said to be touch sensitive, removable, and a cover, it seems Microsoft could be working on a new e-paper Surface or Surface Pro cover.

Of course, there's absolutely no guarantee we'll ever see this product arrive, as a patent is simply a way for companies to protect an idea, rather than an indication of what's to come.

Source : Trusted Reviews
Link : http://www.trustedreviews.com/news/microsoft-patents-dual-display-device-with-e-paper-display

Mazda's Electric Car Gets Patents For Rotary Range-extender Engine



Mazda Demio EV test-fleet electric car in Japan 

Recent patent filings suggest Mazda’s next Wankel engine will equip a battery-powered car, not a rear-wheel drive heir to emblematic sports coupes like its RX-7 and RX-8.

Mazda has invested more time and money into the rotary engine than any other automaker, so executives are reluctant to let it fade away into history. While the RX-8 has been out of production for five years, the rotary remains a significant part of the company’s heritage.

The patent highlights how a brand-new rotary engine could play a role in accelerating the shift towards electric mobility by helping alleviate range anxiety.

It serves the same purpose as the two-cylinder engine available as an option on the BMW i3, according to Autoblog.

Instead of spinning the wheels via a transmission, it increases driving range by powering a generator that feeds electricity directly to the battery pack.

The first generation Chevrolet Volt used a similar technology, although unlike the "series hybrid" BMW i3 and Fisker Karma, it had the ability to clutch the engine directly into the drivetrain under circumstances when it would be the most energy-efficient way to power the car.


Patent drawing : Mazda rotary-engine range extender for electric car

Interestingly, a second Mazda patent shows a start-stop system developed specifically for Wankel engines, which use ports for intake and exhaust instead of valves.

Improving fuel economy represents one of the biggest challenges Mazda needs to overcome to resurrect the Wankel.

Even though it’s relatively thirsty, the rotary engine may be better suited to range-extender duty than a comparable four-cylinder.

It’s highly compact, which frees up more space for the battery pack, passengers, and cargo.

It’s also less intrusive when it turns on because it’s quieter and smoother than an engine with pistons.

Mazda hasn’t publicly spoken about what the future holds for the Wankel, so the patent images ultimately ask more questions than they answer.

Patent drawing : Mazda rotary-engine range extender for electric car

The Mazda2 RE concept shown in 2013 used a similar drivetrain.

It never made it beyond the prototype stage because it was a rolling laboratory used to test new technology, not a serious candidate for the showroom floor.

Mazda remains committed to introducing its first mass-produced electric car in 2019.

Other companies have experimented with using the unconventional rotary engine as a range extender.

Notably, in 2010 Audi introduced an experimental, A1-based prototype powered by roughly the same drivetrain Mazda engineers are apparently working on.

It was canned due to a lack of viability as a production model, and no one at Audi has openly spoken the word “Wankel” since.

—Ronan Glon

Source : Green Car Reports
Link : http://www.greencarreports.com/news/1109760_mazdas-electric-car-gets-patents-for-rotary-range-extender-engine

Disney Just Filed a Patent for Soft, Kid-Safe Humanoid Robots


Disney has filed for a new patent covering a soft robot designed to be able to interact safely with children. Many hope the move will lead to new consumer robots, but let’s be honest: the real dream of soft robots from Disney is a theme park full of huggable robotic actors.

The patent goes into great detail about just how Disney hopes it might accomplish its “playful physical interaction” with children — and it basically rules out any soft robotic princes or princesses, at least for now. The renderings are more reminiscent of a Care Bear, with smoothly curved arms and an enormous torso.


Still, Disney has certainly thought through how exactly these things will be safe. Not only are its hard inner components cushioned by the squishy, kid-durable exterior, the joints are made to immediately switch from powered to “freewheeling” when they encounter enough force. This means that when a joint is put under enough stress, like when a child haplessly clothes-lines himself on its swinging arm, the joint will simply give up, and collapse to cushion the impact and avoid, well, clothes-lining any hapless children.

In the patent, Disney mentions that it has already made and tested a “small toy-sized” soft robot, but makes no mention of the scale of the robots it thinks might come out of the design. Though there are some references that could be indicative of their thinking, like their forecast that “robots and humans [will] often work in close proximity, where they physically interact with one another.” It’s hard to imagine that sentence applying to a teddy-bot that only comes up to the knee.


Soft robotics are a big deal these days — or they’re about to be. The concept is important for robots to enter real world use alongside delicate objects like the family china, and human skulls. Advanced soft robotics will be important to create practical grabbers so robots can manipulate their (our) world, and medical robots that don’t cause more damage than they heal.

The technology has reportedly been in the works at Disney research since 2014 — which also just so happens to be the year Disney released Big Hero 6, featuring a character that looks very much like the rendering above.


Source : Inverse
Link : https://www.inverse.com/article/30151-disney-soft-robot-humanoid-cartoon-mascot-disney-land-world

New Patent Describes Waterproof AirPods Case That Could Double as iPhone or Apple Watch Charger

A new patent filed by Apple last year, and published recently by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, details a future iteration of the AirPods charging case that could simultaneously recharge the wireless headphones as well as an iPhone or Apple Watch. In the patent, Apple has visualized an AirPods case that, when placed flat on a surface, could turn into an Apple Watch charging pad thanks to a "wireless power transmitting component" (via Patently Apple). 



This would allow the AirPods case to double as a portable charging battery, providing power to both the AirPods internally and a separate device externally. The patent depicts multiple ways for the case to detect if an external device is ready to receive transmitted power, including an optical sensor, a mass sensor, or a mechanical interlock or button. When any of these methods are activated, the case would begin charging the external device, which also could include MacBooks. 

"Such devices can include, for example, portable music players (e.g., MP3 devices and Apple's iPod devices), portable video players (e.g., portable DVD players), cellular telephones (e.g., smart telephones such as Apple's iPhone devices), video cameras, digital still cameras, projection systems (e.g., holographic projection systems), gaming systems, PDAs, as well as tablet (e.g., Apple's iPad devices), laptop (e.g. MacBooks) or other mobile computers. Some of these devices can be configured to provide audio, video or other data or sensory output."

Additionally, a future version of the AirPods case could have an entirely waterproof design, providing even further protection to the AirPods when they're placed within the charging case for long periods of time. Apple's patent depicts ways that the AirPods charging case could have simple water resistance, or could include a full waterproof seal that would be able to survive submersion up to 100 feet for 30 minutes. 

"Apple notes that In various embodiments the liquid-tight seal shall be rated between 3 (spraying water) and 6 (powerful water jets) while in some embodiments the liquid-tight seal shall be rated between 4 (splashing water) and 7 (immersion up to 1 meter). In various embodiments the liquid-tight seal shall be rated between 5 (water jets) and 8 (immersion beyond 1 meter) while in some embodiments liquid-tight shall mean the seal will protect the electronic device against liquid ingress up to 100 feet for 30 minutes."

Wireless charging has been rumored for this year's upcoming iPhone 8, which is said to most likely use Apple's in-house wireless charging methods -- like the Apple Watch's inductive charging -- and not an extended-range solution. If the company integrated an inductive charging pad right onto the AirPods case, it would be an interesting mobile solution for users to juice up their Apple Watch or iPhone, but the amount of power that the AirPods charging case could hold remains unclear.

Source : MacRumors


Oculus wants new trial against Zenimax over VR intellectual property

If at first you don't succeed, trial and trial again.


VIRTUAL REALITY OUTFIT Oculus is looking to replay its trial against Zenimax, owner of Bethesda, by claiming that "the verdict is against the great weight of the evidence, [and] the damages award is excessive".

That is according to a report by UploadVR.com and comes after Facebook itself said that it would not let the decision rest.

According to the report, Facebook, Oculus, Oculus co-founders Palmer Luckey and Brendan Iribe, and former Zenimax employee John Carmack have filed for a partial re-trial of the case in the US District Court in Dallas.

The group filed for a re-trial "because the verdict is against the great weight of the evidence, the damages award is excessive, the verdict is based on unreliable and prejudicial expert testimony", according to the latest filing.

A subsequent filing also claimed that Zenimax's claims were unenforceable due to the company's delay in making them. That's unlikely to have much traction, however, as there is no statute of limitations on intellectual property claims.

Zenimax, for its part, has threatened to take out an injunction against Facebook and Oculus, which could stymy plans to fully commercialise the technology and to take on rivals such as the HTC Vive, which is the current market leader thanks to its link-up with Valve Software and its Steam PC games retail subsidiary.

Facebook acquired Oculus for $2bn in 2014. A start-up company, it had been funded from private contributions via the crowdfunding website Kickstarter just two years earlier. While the crowd funders received Oculus headsets when they finally came out, Oculus founder Palmer Luckey was made an instant billionaire.

However, Zenimax claimed that much of the crucial technology behind the Oculus VR headset had been developed by noted games developer John Carmack when he was employed by Zenimax and that it, therefore, was the ultimate owner of the intellectual property behind the Oculus headset.

Furthermore, Zenimax claimed it had plenty of evidence, too: "Carmack secretly and illegally copied thousands of documents containing Zenimax's intellectual property from his computer at Zenimax to a USB storage device, which he wrongfully took with him to Oculus," the company claimed when it sued Oculus.

The court agreed and handed a $500m bill to Facebook to cover "unlawful infringement of Zenimax "copyrights and trademarks".  

Source : the Inquirer

Patent Suggests Microsoft’s CloudBook May Focus On Roaming Profiles

There is growing momentum behind the idea that Microsoft’s locked down Cloud OS would be targetted at the education environment and specifically be designed to take on Google’s successful Chrome Books.

By restricting users to the Windows Store it should, like Chrome Books, vastly improve the safety and manageability of the devices, but so far we have not heard of a second major benefit of Chrome Books – that of being able to log into any device and have all your apps and files available automatically.

Now a recently renewed patent by Microsoft filed in December 2016, suggests this feature will also be part of the OS.

The patent for APPLICATION INSTALL AND LAYOUT SYNCING, “relate to synchronising configuration information between devices associated with a user. The synchronised configuration information can relate to application installations and uninstallations as well as to user modifications to user interfaces for managing and invoking the applications.”



The patent notes “this description of inventive embodiments will begin with an overview of cloud-linked computing and computing devices used therefor” and continues to say “FIG. 1 shows an example of a multi-user multi-device cloud-oriented operating environment. Users may use or control respective sets of computing devices. Each user may have a user credential, user account, user identity, or some functional equivalent for distinguishing identity across computing devices forming and using a computing cloud. Account names, email accounts or addresses, and website accounts, are examples of user identities. Other information that can uniquely identify users can also serve as a user identity, such as a public key, a digitally signed certificate, a cookie, a hashtag, a biometric, etc. Such will be referred to as user identities.



The computing devices or servers providing these services or resources may have infrastructure that coordinates and facilitates cooperation among the servers, for example, midware, clustering management, standby servers, data mirroring, virtual machine management, migration software, database engines, and so forth. 

 The account service manages the user identities 102 that are used within the cloud and on the user computing devices. The user identities might be stored in a table or the like…. Returning to FIG. 1, the account service may also track user computing devices in a table or data store of environment or device identifiers .”

Windows of course long had the underpinnings of this technology, and since Windows 8 we have also been able to roam using our Microsoft Accounts. It is likely Windows 10 Cloud will take this one step further.

Of note is that Windows 10 being abe to run on ARM would make the OS a drop-in replacement for Chrome OS, which is also available on both ARM and x86 devices.

It is clear to me that for Microsoft to take on the very successful Google Chrome OS in the classroom they would need to be feature competitive, which means not just being locked down and secure, but also cloud-based and specific device agnostic.

While current Windows 10 Cloud builds do not yet reveal these elements it is likely that we will hear much more details about the OS at Microsoft’s upcoming Education event on the 2nd May.


Source : MSPoweruser

Huawei Rings Another Win In Patent Battle Against Samsung

Huawei Technologies Co Ltd scored another point in its patent fight with its rival Samsung Electronics Co Ltd in China, which may weigh down on the South Korean company's business in the world's largest smartphone arena.

The Patent Reexamination Board of the State Intellectual Property Office said on its official website that the patents involved in Huawei's lawsuit against Samsung's units in China are valid.

The move came shortly after a Chinese court ordered Samsung's Chinese subsidiaries to pay 80 million yuan ($11.6 million) to Huawei for patent infringement.

Huawei filed a lawsuit against Samsung's two units in China, one in Huizhou in Guangdong province and the other in Tianjin, as well as against Samsung China Investment Co Ltd and two Fujian-based electronics companies, claiming that more than 20 models of Samsung smartphones and tablet products, including the flagship Galaxy S7 and the Galaxy S7 Edge, have infringed its patents.

Samsung filed requests with the Patent Reexamination Board of the State Intellectual Property Office in July, 2016, seeking invalidation of several involved patents.

Source : Flipboard

Microsoft Patents An Advanced Eye Scanning System For Potential Use In Future Devices



With Windows 10, Microsoft has introduced some interesting technology around security, namely Windows Hello. Windows Hello offers users a more intimate way of logging into devices by using your face or your fingerprint. While this is all well and good, what happens when Microsoft decides to take this a step further?

According to Patently Mobile, Microsoft has patented an enhanced form of iris recognition that could go into future devices. In the patent filing, the device will house several elements that will illuminate the eye from multiple angles. While illuminated, the camera will capture photos of all of these different instances of the eye, creating distinct data points.

Using the aforementioned data, the technology will be able to differentiate a real eye from a photograph of an eye. This new method of recognition should enhance security by taking extra steps to validate the data presented. Naturally, this is just a patent filing and this technology may never see the light of day in a retail consumer product but it is interesting nonetheless.

Source : Neowin
Link : https://www.neowin.net/news/microsoft-patents-an-advanced-eye-scanning-system-for-potential-use-in-future-devices

Appeals Court Revives Apple’s Patented “Rubber Banding” Tech Because Of One Small Tweak

AOL invented "snap forward" years earlier, but Apple innovated by snapping backwards.



Apple went all-out in its patent assault on Samsung beginning in 2012, when Steve Jobs' promised "thermonuclear war" against Android became a reality. The patents used by the Cupertino device maker weren't just challenged in court, though. Various parties have challenged Apple's most important patents at the US Patent and Trademark Office, as well.

On Friday, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued an opinion (PDF) about an "ex parte reexam," filed against Apple's patent by an anonymous party. The reexam claimed that one of the patents upholding Apple's big win against Samsung, US Patent No. 7,844,915, never should have been issued at all. The '915 patent was described in a general way as the "pinch to zoom" patent, but its claims describe a way of distinguishing between one-touch and two-touch operations.

In 2013, the US Patent and Trademark Office's reexamination unit rejected all claims of Apple's '915 patent. A patent appeal board upheld the cancelation, leaving Apple to turn to the Federal Circuit, which has ultimate jurisdiction. On Friday, a panel of Federal Circuit judges sided with the patent office on some of the claims, but revived three others.

The judges found that the Board was correct about the "scroll and gesture limitation" part of the patent, which was properly rejected. But it had a different definition of the "rubberbanding" limitation.

This gets even more confusing because a different Apple patent, the '381 patent, is generally referred to as the "rubberbanding" or "bounce-back" patent. But the '915 patent also describes some elements of rubberbanding. When you pull down content on an iPhone, the phone takes a particular action—typically refreshing the page—if you pull past a certain point. The content then snaps back up, like a rubber band.

Tiny tweak

The Board of Patent Appeals found that Apple's "rubberbanding" patent claims were obvious in light of an earlier 2003 patent application by America Online, invented by Luigi Lira. That application describes a user scrolling between columns in a way that would cause another column to "snap into alignment with the display window."

So, a touchscreen, a pulling motion, and then the content "snaps into alignment"—in the view of the Patent Office, AOL had a kind of "rubberbanding," invented years before Apple launched the first iPhone.

Federal Circuit judges who considered the matter, though, said the Board improperly looked at all types of "rubberbanding." The judges gave weight to Apple's point that the earlier Lira patent "teaches that the screen should 'snap' to the next region of content" and achieved "the opposite effect from rubberbanding." Because the board should have limited its definition of rubberbanding to "sliding content backwards," the judges revived claims 2, 9, and 16 of the patent, remanding it for further consideration.

Although this is just one piece of the seemingly never-ending Apple v. Samsung conflict, it is a significant one—the '915 patent was one of a few non-design patents that Apple won significant damages for.

Looked at in a broader sense, the battle over the '915 patent is a pattern that has been repeated. Apple told judges and juries that its inventions in this case were a "revolution" that should remain pristine icons of American innovation, untouched and unused by competitors. Upon further review, though, there were earlier technologies that did almost exactly the same thing. When it comes down to brass tacks, Apple's inventions aren't so revolutionary; they're tiny tweaks to UI. The fact that the top patent judges in the country think that Apple should get a monopoly over snapping "backward," when snapping "forward" was invented years before, tells you a lot about how we got into the messy patent system we're in today.

What Apple did incredibly well was to package and execute ideas that weren't that new. The combination of the iPhone's concepts, design, and execution was truly revolutionary. But you can't get a reward for that in the form of a patent, at least not one that holds up under real scrutiny. Of course, a patent skeptic might argue that the billions of dollars in iPhone sales that Apple reaped were a pretty good reward.

Before we end, here's a brief recap on the state of play in the two big US lawsuits between the companies.

The first Apple v. Samsung case ended up with a $399 million win for Apple after two jury trials and other tweaks to the damages figure. The case went to the US Supreme Court, which heard oral argument in October. The justices ended up tossing the case back to the Federal Circuit for yet another recalculation of damages.

The second trial ended up with a $120 million win for Apple, which was ultimately upheld by the full Federal Circuit in October. Samsung has asked the Supreme Court to look at that, as well. If the justices aren't interested in hearing a second Apple v. Samsung case, then Apple's win will stand.

Source : ars TECHNICA