Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! No Flash necessary and runs on all devices. ×
Businesses

Amazon Patent Hints at Self-Driving Car Plans (theguardian.com) 28

Amazon is working on self-driving cars, according to a new patent that deals with the complex task of navigating reversible lanes. From a report on The Guardian: The patent, filed in November 2015 and granted on Tuesday, covers the problem of how to deal with reversible lanes, which change direction depending on the bulk of the traffic flow. This type of lane is typically used to manage commuter traffic into and out of cities, particularly in the US. Autonomous vehicles, the patent warns, "may not have information about reversible lanes when approaching a portion of a roadway that has reversible lane", leading to a worst-case scenario of them driving headfirst into oncoming traffic. More generally, the inability to plan for reversible lanes means cars and trucks can't optimize their routes by getting into the correct lane well in advance, something that could otherwise prove to be one of the benefits of self-driving cars. Amazon's solution to the problem could have much larger ramifications than simply dealing with highway traffic in large cities. The patent proposes a centralized roadway management system that can communicate with multiple self-driving cars to exchange information and coordinate vehicle movement at a large scale.
Businesses

US Antitrust Agency Sues Qualcomm Over Patent Licensing (reuters.com) 58

Qualcomm shares have plunged after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against the company on Tuesday, accusing the company of using "anticompetitive" tactics to maintain its monopoly on a key semiconductor used in mobile phones. Reuters reports: The FTC, which works with the Justice Department to enforce antitrust law, said that San Diego-based Qualcomm used its dominant position as a supplier of certain phone chips to impose "onerous" supply and licensing terms on cellphone manufacturers and to weaken competitors. Qualcomm said in a statement that it would "vigorously contest" the complaint and denied FTC allegations that it threatened to withhold chips in order to collect unreasonable licensing fees. In its complaint, the FTC said the patents that Qualcomm sought to license are standard essential patents, which means that the industry uses them widely and they are supposed to be licensed on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms. The FTC complaint also accused Qualcomm of refusing to license some standard essential patents to rival chipmakers, and of entering into an exclusive deal with Apple Inc. The FTC asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Jose to order Qualcomm to end these practices.
Microsoft

Microsoft Patent Hints At Foldable Tablet Design For Surface Phone (trustedreviews.com) 26

A new patent has surfaced from Microsoft that may shed some light on the company's upcoming Surface Phone. The patent, which was first filed in October 2014 and recently made public, details a 2-in-1 foldable device with a flexible hinge that can act both as a smartphone and a tablet. TrustedReviews reports: The device in the filings can be configured into various shapes, either folded out like tablets, or folded back inwards to create a smaller phone-like handset. There's also the opportunity to place it in a tent-mode much like Lenovo's range of Yoga hybrids which can be propped up to make it easier to watch media. Microsoft has taken a universal approach to Windows 10, in that the OS is designed to work across multiple devices, so a Surface Phone that could transform into another mobile product would make a lot of sense in terms of demonstrating Windows 10s capabilities. The inventor of the product in the patent is listed as Kabir Siddiqui, the man behind Microsoft's successful patent for the Surface kickstand and Surface camera angle -- which bodes well for this latest design in the long run. Unfortunately, there's every chance we'll never see this technology in a retail-ready product from Microsoft, though some version of the foldable device could well arrive.
Iphone

Apple/Samsung Patent Case Returns To Court To Revisit Infringement Damages (macrumors.com) 81

An anonymous reader quotes MacRumors: The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Thursday reopened a longstanding patent lawsuit related to Samsung copying the design of the iPhone nearly six years ago...according to court documents filed electronically this week... Apple's damages were calculated based on Samsung's entire profit from the sale of its infringing Galaxy smartphones, but the Supreme Court ruled it did not have enough info to say whether the amount should be based on the total device, or rather individual components such as the front bezel or the screen. It will now be up to the appeals court to decide.

Apple last month said the lawsuit, ongoing since 2011, has always been about Samsung's "blatant copying" of its ideas, adding that it remains optimistic that the U.S. Court of Appeals will "again send a powerful signal that stealing isn't right."

IBM

IBM Is First Company To Get 8,000 US Patents In One Year, Breaking Record (silicon.co.uk) 94

Reader Mickeycaskill writes: For the 24th year in a row, IBM received the most patents of any company in the US. But for the first time it got more than 8,000 -- the first firm in any industry to do so. In total, its inventors were granted 8,088 patents in 2016, covering areas as diverse as artificial intelligence (AI), cognitive computing, cloud, health and cyber security.
That's equal to more than 22 patents a day generated by its researchers, engineers and designers, with more than a third of the patents relating to AI, cognitive computing and cloud computing alone. IBM is betting big on cloud and other services, having spun off its hardware units like servers and PCs to Lenovo. The other nine companies in the top ten list of 2016 US patent recipients consist of: Samsung electronics (with 5,518 patents), Canon (3,665), Qualcomm (2,897), Google (2,835), Intel (2,784), LG Electronics (2,428), Microsoft (2,398), Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (2,288) and Sony (2,181).

The Courts

A Federal Judge's Decision Could End Patent Trolling (computerworld.com) 168

"Forcing law firms to pay defendants' legal bills could undermine the business model of patent trolls," reports Computerworld. whoever57 writes: Patent trolls rely on the fact that they have no assets and, if they lose a case, they can fold the company that owned the patent and sued, thus avoiding paying any of the defendant's legal bills. However in a recent case, the judge told the winning defendant that it can claim its legal bills from the law firm. The decision is based on the plaintiff's law firm using a contract under which it would take a portion of any judgment, making it more than just counsel, but instead a partner with the plaintiff. This will likely result in law firms wanting to be paid up front, instead of offering a contingency-based fee.
The federal judge's decision "attacks the heart of the patent-troll system," according to the article, which adds that patent trolls are "the best evidence that pure evil exists."
Iphone

Original iPhone Prototype With iPod Click Wheel Surfaces Online (macrumors.com) 35

Famed Apple leaker Sonny Dickson has shared an early prototype of the original iPhone, with a collection of images and a video that provides a glimpse into one version of the iPhone that Apple created and tested before ending up with the first iteration of the device. Mac Rumors reports: The prototype includes some similar features to the first generation iPhone, like an aluminum chassis, multi-touch compatible screen, 2G connectivity and Wi-Fi, but its entire user interface is taken directly from the click wheel system of Apple's original iPod line. Called "Acorn OS," the prototype software includes an on-screen click wheel on the bottom half of the screen and a menu system on the top half, and the two are bisected by a bar with rewind, menu, play/pause, and fast-forward buttons. On the menu are options such as "Favorites," "SMS," "Music," "Settings," and "Recents," and it's navigated by circling around the click wheel to go up and down, with a center press confirming an action, just like on the iPod. Dickson references Apple's patent for a "multi-functional hand-held device," filed and published in 2006, as proof that such a prototype did exist at one point and could potentially have been an alternate version of the iPhone. In one of the patent's drawings, a click wheel can be seen as a possible input method for the proposed device. The patent's abstract describes a product with "at most only a few physical buttons, keys, or switches so that its display size can be substantially increased."
Iphone

Family Sues Apple For Not Making Thing It Patented (nymag.com) 455

An anonymous reader writes: A lawsuit filed against Apple last week argues that, by not actually making a product that it patented, the company is partly responsible for an automobile accident. According to Jalopnik, James and Bethany Modisette are suing the tech company after a car crash two years ago that killed one of their daughters and injured the rest of the family. The driver of the car who hit them had been using Apple's FaceTime video chat at the time. The patent in question was first applied for in 2008, and describes "a lock-out mechanism to prevent operation of one or more functions of handheld computing devices by drivers when operating vehicles," such as texting or video chatting. The complaint cites Apple's "failure to design, manufacture, and sell the Apple iPhone 6 Plus with the patented, safer, alternative design technology" -- in other words, lack of the program's inclusion -- as a "substantial factor" in the crash.
Microsoft

Microsoft Patent Suggests HoloLens Could Keep Track of Your Small Items (theverge.com) 62

A new Microsoft patent has been published that describes a system that would let its HoloLens glasses track small items like car keys, ultimately helping users find their lost belongings. What's more is that the system can "monitor the status of objects without any instructions from users, keeping tabs on anything that's important to their lives," writes Adi Robertson via The Verge. From the report: The patent's basic idea is pretty simple. HoloLens has outward-facing cameras that can make a spatial map of a room, and machine vision technology can identify or track specific objects in an image. So if, for example, you put your keys down on a table, HoloLens could hypothetically spot them through the camera and quietly note their position. When you're about to leave the house, it could give you the keys' last known location, even if they've since been covered up by a newspaper or slipped under a couch cushion. But what's really interesting isn't the idea of HoloLens tracking an object. It's HoloLens learning what items matter to you and choosing what to follow, before you ever worry about losing something. To be clear, you could designate objects: one example has a traveler telling HoloLens to track their passport while abroad. In other cases, though, it could check to see how often you interact with an object, or when you move it around, and start tracking anything that hits a certain threshold.
Patents

Apple Patent Hints At Magnetic Ear Hooks To Keep Future AirPods In Your Ears (digitaltrends.com) 73

Patently Apple has recently uncovered a new Apple patent that may help AirPods stay in your ears. The patent details a magnetic mechanism that wraps around the user's ear. Digital Trends reports: The magnets attract each other through the ear tissue, keeping the AirPods in place and ensuring that they don't get lost. Of course, it's not certain if Apple filed this patent with AirPods in mind -- one of the images clearly shows a wired pair of headphones, and the patent was filed in June. The concept, however, would help keep both wired and wireless earbuds in place. The issue of keeping AirPods in the ear has been arguably the biggest issue related to the AirPods, and for good reason -- they're pretty expensive little devices, so losing them is definitely not something you want to do. It's possible that Apple decided against using the ear hooks for aesthetic reasons -- Apple is known for its excellent design and the ear hooks in the patent don't exactly look great. Not only that but the design of the charging case would have to change with the ear hooks. Some reports indicate that the patent could be implemented with future versions and given the hullaballoo surrounding keeping AirPods in, we wouldn't be totally surprised. It's also possible, however, that Apple patented the design but ultimately ended up nixing it.
Patents

Amazon Patents Floating Airship Warehouse For Its Delivery Drones (techcrunch.com) 94

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: We've known about Amazon's drone delivery ambitions since 2013. But patent filings from Amazon, circulated today by CB Insights' Zoe Leavitt, reveal more details about how the e-commerce titan could make drone deliveries work at scale, namely through "airborne fulfillment centers." Yes, that's a warehouse in a zeppelin. The airborne fulfillment centers, or AFCs, would be stocked with a certain amount of inventory and positioned near a location where Amazon predicts demand for certain items will soon spike. Drones, including temperature-controlled models ideally suited for food delivery, could be stocked at the AFCs and sent down to make a precise, safe scheduled or on-demand delivery. An example cited in the filing was around a sporting event. If there's a big championship game down below, Amazon AFC's above could be loaded with snacks and souvenirs sports fans crave. The AFCs could be flown close to a stadium to deliver audio or outdoor display advertising near the main event, as well, the filing suggested. The patent reflects a complex network of systems to facilitate delivery by air. Besides the airborne fulfillment centers and affiliated drones, the company has envisioned larger shuttles that could carry people, supplies and drones to the AFCs or back to the ground. Using a larger shuttle to bring drones up to the AFC would allow Amazon to reserve their drones' power for making deliveries only. Of course, all these elements would be connected to inventory management systems, and other software and remote computing resources managed by people in the air or on the ground. The filing also reveals that the shuttles and drones, as they fly deliveries around, could function in a mesh network, relaying data to each other about weather, wind speed and routing, for example, or beaming e-book content down to readers on the ground. Amazon also recently patented a system to defend its drones against hackers, jammers and bows and arrows.
Businesses

Qualcomm Fined $865 Million By South Korean Antitrust Regulator (zdnet.com) 14

South Korea's antitrust regulator has fined Qualcomm $854 million for what it called unfair business practices in patent licensing and modem chip sales, a decision the U.S. chipmaker said it will challenge in court. From a report on ZDNet: Qualcomm's business model includes collecting royalty payments from clients, which are calculated on the price of the handset using the chip, rather than the price of the chipset itself, and royalties from its patents. The KFTC has said it will issue a corrective order specifying the precise business practices with which it took issue, although Qualcomm has pointed out that this usually takes between four and six months. "Qualcomm strongly believes that the KFTC findings are inconsistent with the facts, disregard the economic realities of the marketplace, and misapply fundamental tenets of competition law," Don Rosenberg, executive vice president and general counsel for Qualcomm, said in response to the fine.
Patents

Amazon Patents System To Defend Drones Against Hackers, Jammers and Arrows (geekwire.com) 122

As Amazon prepares its drone-based delivery service Prime Air for the United States, the company has been looking for ways to keep its drones safe while they're flying to and from their destinations. According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, the company has patented a plan that lays out countermeasures for potential threats ranging from computer hacking to lightning flashes to bows and arrows. GeekWire reports: The "compromise system" that Amazon's engineers propose relies on an array of sensors to orient the drone based on the sun's position in the sky, if need be. That's in case the drone gets confused by, say, lightning or a muzzle flash. The system also provides for a mesh network, in which drones would check with each other and other data sources -- including satellite signals -- to verify the readings they're following. If there's a discrepancy in the data, the drone would tally up the verdicts from all of the sources available, then go with the majority opinion. The onboard compromise system would be designed to keep the drone on track even if someone tried jamming its communication system. And if the drone became completely disoriented, it would be programmed to land safely and broadcast its location to its handlers. Now, about those arrows: Amazon lays out a scenario in which an attacker shoots an arrow at a drone in the air. "The malicious person may be attempting to cause the UAV to fall to ground, so that that malicious person may steal or destroy the UAV," the application reads. This is what Amazon suggests would happen: "The compromise module detects the presence of the arrow and generates the UAV compromise data indicating that a threat exists that may compromise the UAV. The fail-safe module terminates the navigation to the first computing device, and the fail-safe module directs the UAV towards the ground. In some implementations, the fail-safe module may be configured to direct the UAV to take evasive maneuvers, navigate to a safe landing or parking zone for inspect, and so forth."
Patents

Fitbit Drops Lawsuit Against Jawbone (arstechnica.com) 4

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Just before the Christmas holiday, Fitbit dropped a case it filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission claiming Jawbone had violated one of Fitbit's patents. The trial for this case had been set for March 2017, and if Fitbit had won, it would have prevented Jawbone from importing its devices into the US. In a report from The Wall Street Journal, Fitbit states: "Jawbone appears to be a different company. SEC filings of one of its biggest investors now value Jawbone shares as worth nothing, as well as indicate that Jawbone has filed for bankruptcy or is in default." There are no reports of Jawbone being in default, nor has the company filed for bankruptcy. Jawbone gave a statement to Recode which states: "By dismissing this action, Fitbit is no longer seeking to block importation of Jawbone devices, including Jawbone products in development. Jawbone believes this case -- involving patents already found once to be invalid -- should have been dismissed long ago by Fitbit." This is likely the simplest ending that any of the lawsuits between Fitbit and Jawbone will have. In April, the ITC ruled in Fitbit's favor after Jawbone filed a claim stating its rival had infringed on some of its sleep monitoring and data output patents. Later in August, Fitbit came out on top again after the ITC ruled it did not misappropriate trade secrets from Jawbone.
Businesses

Apple's Beef With Nokia Gets Intense, All Withings Products Pulled From Online Store (recode.net) 118

In less than a week after Nokia sued Apple for patent infringement in courts around the world, saying that Apple has refused to license its patents, Apple has pulled all Withings products from its stores. Earlier this year, Nokia bought Withings, which makes Wi-Fi scales and other digital health and fitness gear.
IBM

IBM On Track To Get More Than 7,000 US Patents In 2016 (venturebeat.com) 34

IBM wants to put the patent war in perspective. Big Blue said that it is poised to get the most U.S. patents of any tech company for the 24th year in a row. From a report on VentureBeat: In 2015, IBM received more than 7,355 patents, down slightly from 7,534 in 2014. A spokesperson for IBM said the company is on track to receive well over 7,000 patents in 2016. In 2016, IBM is also hitting another interesting milestone, with more than 1,000 patents for artificial intelligence and cognitive computing. IBM has been at it for more than a century, and it is seeking patents in key strategic areas -- such as AI and cognitive computing. In fact, one-third of IBM's researchers are dedicated to cognitive computing. IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said during the World of Watson conference in October that the company expects to reach more than 1 billion consumers via Watson by the end of 2017. (Watson is the supercomputer that beat the world's best Jeopardy player in 2011.)
Iphone

Nokia Sues Apple, Claims Patent Infringement in iPhone and Other Devices (marketwatch.com) 77

Nokia today announced a number of patent infringement complaints against Apple in Europe and the U.S. courts. There are 32 patents in total that Nokia claims Apple infringed, covering technologies such as display, user interface, software, antenna, chipsets and video coding. From a report on MarketWatch: Nokia said Apple agreed to license a few of Nokia Technologies' patents in 2011, but has declined offers by Nokia since then to license other patents whose inventions have been used in Apple mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPad, and the Mac. The lawsuits, filed in a Munich, Germany, regional court and a district court in Texas, cover technologies such as display, user interface, software, antenna, chipsets and video coding. Nokia said it's in the process of filing further actions in other jurisdictions as well. "After several years of negotiations trying to reach agreement to cover Apple's use of these patents, we are now taking action to defend our rights," said Ilkka Rahnasto, head of patent business at Nokia.
Patents

Supreme Court Rules For Samsung in Smartphone Fight With Apple (reuters.com) 100

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) 31

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.

Slashdot Top Deals