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Apple Files for OLED Keyboard Patent 188

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the prior-art dept.
pegdhcp writes to mention that Apple has applied for a patent on a 'dynamically controlled keyboard' with OLED keys. This may seem remarkably familiar, since an OLED keyboard has been bandied about by Art Lebedev studios for quite a while now. "while the Optimus Maximus is a bit expensive, Apple could certainly mass-produce something similar for less money, perhaps bringing the price into reality for most users. Lebedev has, however, apparently applied for several patents for the Optimus, so it's unclear just what Apple is up to, or what would happen if the company were ever to release such a product."
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Apple Files for OLED Keyboard Patent

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  • Sure... (Score:4, Funny)

    by denmarkw00t (892627) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @02:29AM (#21920212) Homepage Journal
    I'd like a keyboard like the Optimus [PRIME!!!!!] but, really, if I paid less because Apple did it a different way, I probably wouldn't be nearly as happy as with the Optimus. I mean, if its anything like a Newton, we amy have evry odd transplations, write?

    Also, first post (hopefully!>)
  • claim 25 (Score:3, Interesting)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @02:34AM (#21920238) Journal
    about the only thing in the patent that may be innovative [that is that hasn't already been done] is claim 25 about their new manufacturing process [or not, it could be obvious in of its self, who knows] other than that, why hasn't this been thrown out yet due to prior art?
    • Of course changing 2006 to 2005 in a research notebook isn't that hard ...
    • Process Patents (Score:3, Informative)

      about the only thing in the patent that may be innovative [that is that hasn't already been done] is claim 25 about their new manufacturing process [or not, it could be obvious in of its self, who knows] other than that, why hasn't this been thrown out yet due to prior art?

      One family of patents is the process patent. The invention is the manufacturing process, not the item. Whether or not the items manufactured are ordinary is irrelevant.
  • by pcbob (67069) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @02:37AM (#21920250) Homepage
    Who ever figures out how to do it more efficiently (patents aren't for ideas, but particular implementation, right?) should be victorious. I'm glad to be on the consumer side on this one, however.
  • by Zymergy (803632) * on Saturday January 05, 2008 @02:38AM (#21920254)
    IANAL, but it seems that Art. Lebedev Studio could just negotiate a fat licensing fee for the technology/idea with Apple and both would win from the collaboration...?
    Surely that beats a costly Patent fight?
    What about Prior Art?
    Re: Optimus Keyboard With OLED Display Keys http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/07/14/1335215 [slashdot.org]
    Re: Optimus OLED Keyboard Pre-Orders Start Dec. 12 http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/11/19/1911235 [slashdot.org]

    I would love to see this technology in an affordable Laptop/Notebook keyboard. (Particularly one that has open source GPL'd base drivers.)
    • No, but you see, theirs goes to green-leven.
    • What about Prior Art (Score:4, Informative)

      by Udo Schmitz (738216) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:59AM (#21920836) Journal
      Yeah, what about Prior Art? You think Lebedev was first? Check the Wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optimus_Maximus_keyboard [wikipedia.org] which has links to http://www.unitedkeys.com/ [unitedkeys.com] and http://lcd-keys.com/english/history.htm [lcd-keys.com]
      • by Romwell (873455)
        LCD keys aren't as impressive and use a different technology (monochrome lcd vs. color OLED), although the "idea" is "the same". As for United Keys - never heard of them, show me the product please. They only have design concepts so far. The real achievement of Art Lebedev, though, is that his studio turned a mere concept into something one can touch, and looks kewt =)
    • by nguy (1207026)
      IANAL, but it seems that Art. Lebedev Studio could just negotiate a fat licensing fee for the technology/idea with Apple and both would win from the collaboration...?

      Only if Lebedev Studio has a patent. If they don't, they can't force Apple to do anything. They might ask for the patent to be re-examined, but they can't get money from Apple for that.

      If the patent issues, Apple, on the other hand, can sue Lebedev. Then, Lebedev can defend itself claiming prior art, but that's all.
  • I'll take 2, please. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cioxx (456323) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @02:52AM (#21920328) Homepage
    Art Lebedev managed to scrape together some cash and "released it" before anyone else. Big deal.

    I would never purchase an Optimus keyboard because there is no muscle behind it. They can't mass produce the thing and have been paper launching the keyboard for 2 years now. Imagine getting one and needing quick support like an immediate replacement, or getting really used to the thing and discovering they don't have the money to continue producing it. Apple, Logitech, or Microsoft have the resources to do it.

    Now there is lots of prior art in this area, going as far back as 1978 in monochrome alterable keys. Perhaps Apple patented this as a countermeasure against someone who would try to claim this as an original idea. A differently-worded patent on a new product is better than no patent at all. At least that's my opinion.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by fortunato (106228)
      Your other comments may have merit but the complaint about mass production and quick support is one I have to take exception to. I mean REALLY, you can't just plug in any old keyboard and keep typing away? If you find some obvious business model around OLED keys that is irreplaceable I would be more sympathetic, but as new as this technology apparently is I don't find that a compelling argument. Time and success of the product will bring the mass production and quick support. Anyone who has ever been in
    • by Fizzl (209397)
      Well, Gee..I wonder why startups offering real tangible products have no other option than to hope for a merger with one of the big boys.
    • by houghi (78078)

      A differently-worded patent on a new product is better than no patent at all.

      No patent at all is better. If the product is good, it will sell. If the competition starts making things better and cheaper, that is also good, because that way the consumer gets a better products.

      Patents do not encourage inovation, they block it. Could be that that was different 100 years ago, but it isn't now. Patents are used to block ideas.

      Remember the saying 'I am standing on the shoulders iof giants.'? Patents tell you that

    • I would never purchase an Optimus keyboard because there is no muscle behind it.
      Funny, that. I seem to avoid purchasing products from companies when there's too much muscle behind it. Big companies are too powerful as it is. No Microsoft keyboard for me, for example, I rather spend on a small, promising player.
    • I like Apple's keyboards right now. I haven't really been able to find a faster (to type on), quieter keyboard yet. Easier to clean, too.

      The problems I have are all related to the funny layout Apple's got. The "Super" key is where the alt key should be, so I have to swap those in a keymap -- which isn't working flawlessly, yet, and is a pain on my laptop, where the only way I know of messing with keys like that requires a reboot (or logout/login) to take effect. This means I can either have the Apple keyboa
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Angostura (703910)
        To summarize:

        I suppose it would be the perfect keyboard if I was on OS X
        • Which means I have to choose between the perfect keyboard and the perfect OS (Linux). I want them both, damnit!

          (Alright, Linux isn't perfect, but it's closer (for me) than OS X will ever be.)
    • Lebedev didn't apply for a patent, Apple did. By doing so, Apple is falsely claiming that they invented the technology, and they are trying to exclude others from using it. That is both dishonest and wrong.

      Perhaps Apple patented this as a countermeasure against someone who would try to claim this as an original idea.

      That's not how patents work. You can only legally patent things that you actually invented. You aren't patent things that you know to be invalid simply because you think you might be able to
  • by edwardpickman (965122) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @02:58AM (#21920356)
    1.Come up with a plan for a keyboard we can't build but is so cool some one will want to.

    2.Sue first company to actually try to build keyboard.

    3.Profit!

    Now wait'll some one tries to knock off Duke Nuke Em Forever!
  • This could be fun... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by padonak (687721)
    Now maybe they (the A.L. Studio) will get some sence about Apple and the likes. Because they love doing business with them, apparently.
    Notice how they only promise windows and mac support [artlebedev.com] for the keyboard because linux doesn't have enough marketshare:

    Why isnt there any Linux software?
    Because first we want to let 95% of people to work with the keyboard.

    Is there a chance it will support Linux?
    Maybe sometime.

    I hope they feel violated.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Get over yourself. A small company (Art Lebedev) scrapes together some money to produce the most expensive keyboard on the market (hell, who could reasonably justify $1500 for a keyboard?), and then decide to forgo the one market (Linux) containing people who complain when they have to pay for anything, and demand that the source be available for all to rape and pillage? It's been hard enough for A.L. to get Optimus off the ground, let alone pay money for someone to develop a Linux driver for it that no L
      • A small company (Art Lebedev) scrapes together some money to produce the most expensive keyboard on the market (hell, who could reasonably justify $1500 for a keyboard?), and then decide to forgo the one market (Linux)

        With that price point, why would they forgo a market if they don't have to? Is it really that hard to develop cross-platform USB drivers? (Hint: From what I understand, it is harder to go from Windows to OS X than from OS X to Linux.)

        You want free GPL drivers to run your $1500 keyboard on L

      • You want free GPL drivers to run your $1500 keyboard on Linux?

        No, I want that FAQ to contain a link saying "here's the API, write your own driver" with a link to the USB HID spec for the keyboard all the way down to interfaces and end-points and packets.
    • by AaxelB (1034884)

      Notice how they only promise windows and mac support for the keyboard because linux doesn't have enough marketshare

      Note that A.L. Studio is not in any way a hardware or even computer-related company; they are a design studio.

      On their website [artlebedev.com] they have a large repertoire of websites and advertisements and logos and objects that they've designed. Some of the things they have were obviously designed just for fun, as a bit of a joke (e.g. a ridiculous TV remote [artlebedev.com] and an adapter [artlebedev.com] to stick your fingers in an electrical socket) while others are simply interestingly designed everyday objects (like this coffee cup [artlebedev.com]). I have a fee

  • Apple and IBM (Score:3, Informative)

    by NickCatal (865805) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @03:09AM (#21920402)
    Apple and IBM own enough patents to patent every square inch of my kitchen if they wanted... it is called R&D... most of this stuff won't make it to market
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by bennomatic (691188)
      Although, as of about 10 years ago, IBM was pulling in over a billion dollars a year solely in patent license fees. They could have stopped selling hardware, software and services and still pulled in a billion dollars a year.

      I'll bet that number's gone up significantly since then.

  • Publicity Stunt (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Z00L00K (682162) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @03:32AM (#21920496) Homepage
    is probably the cause for this - it doesn't matter if there is any substance to the content or if the filing is denied as long as it makes it to the papers - which will provide free advertisement for Apple. "Them guys ain't dumb" [lyrics007.com]

    The irony is that even Slashdot bought it - but maybe I shouldn't be surprised anymore...

    The basic idea about a keyboard that can get programmed to display different text on the keycaps aren't really new - the difference is that the technology is better today. But the use is limited - only a few doing writing in multiple international languages/character sets will really benefit from this in a real keyboard. For ordinary people it's easier to buy a secondary keyboard and switch whenever necessary.

    But in specialized applications the use of programmable keytops may be really useful. Think cash registers and other kinds of devices.

  • by Infonaut (96956) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Saturday January 05, 2008 @03:49AM (#21920570) Homepage Journal

    Until you've read the actual claims in a patent, it is impossible to know what Apple is actually attempting to patent. The fact that the description is of an OLED keyboard doesn't mean that prior art will negate the claims any more than the existence of LCD screens would necessarily invalidate a patent on an LCD screen.

    Now to settle in and watch the ill-informed rants about patent law multiply like rodents. Anyone have any popcorn?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by makomk (752139)
      I've read the claims, and it seems to be a patent application for exactly what people are saying it's a patent application for - keyboards with OLED displays on the keyboard, like the Optimus Maximus. (Actually, it covers slightly more than that - claim 1 is for any computer peripheral with one or more keys containing more than one LED that can be switched on or off. It's not narrowed down to just things like the Optimus Maximus until claim 4.)
    • by Mike1024 (184871)
      Until you've read the actual claims in a patent, it is impossible to know what Apple is actually attempting to patent.

      Sounds good - let's take a look! [uspto.gov]

      Claims

      1. A computer peripheral including one or more keys, each key having a plurality of light emitting diodes disposed on a face of the key, each of the light emitting diodes being operable to switch on or off in response to a data signal received from an application specific integrated circuit dedicated to the key.

      2. The computer peripheral of claim 1, whe

      • by TheLink (130905)
        Personally I don't see why anyone should be granted a monopoly over any of the possible ways of doing that sort of stuff.

        So far in the past 20 years there have been very very few real innovations (not just incremental improvements).

        Way back in the 1960s that Douglas Engelbart guy had a chord keyboard, mouse, was doing hypertext, wordprocessing, shared screen collaboration with another person over a remote link, etc. Too bad he was a bit too early ;).

        The people who are really innovative would be so far ahead
      • Nice analysis, Mike. I appreciate you taking the time.

        You actually looked at the claims and based your opinion about prior art on what you saw in the claims. This is in contrast to the posters I was referring to, who start firing off salvos about prior art without any factual basis.

  • by slyall (190056) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @03:54AM (#21920584) Homepage
    The book Imperial Earth http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_Earth [wikipedia.org] by Arthur C. Clarke from 1976 featured something similar:

    The 'Sec was the standard size of all such units, determined by what could fit comfortably in the normal human hand. At a quick glance, it did not differ greatly from one of the small electronic calculators that had started coming into general use in the late twentieth century. It was, however, infinitely more versatile, and Duncan could not imagine how life would be possible without it.

    Because of the finite size of clumsy human fingers, it had no more controls than its ancestors of three centuries earlier. There were fifty neat little studs; each, however, had a virtually unlimited number of functions, according to the mode of operation--for the character visible on each stud changed according to the mode. Thus on ALPHANUMERIC, twenty-six of the studs bore the letters of the alphabet, while ten showed the digits zero to nine. On MATH, the letters disappeared from the alphabetical studs and were replaced by X +, / --, = and all the standard mathematical functions.

    Shame on Apple for trying to claim they invented the idea.
  • ...don't expect it to be cheap. And I mean that even if Apple produces such a thing, the Logitech diNovo [logitech.com] is going to seem cheap by comparison.

    Judging by the pictures on this site: Optimus Mini [deadprogrammer.com], the backplane for the full blown 103 key version must be staggeringly complex, not to mention extemely difficult to manufacture within the confines of a standard-sized keyboard. Plus, a regular keyboard must be able to withstand normal typing, unlike the three-button jobbie; you have to wonder at the amount of abuse
  • Epic leet (Score:3, Funny)

    by xx01dk (191137) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:20AM (#21920680)
    I'm going to run my Optimus in stealth mode [daskeyboard.com].

    • by canajin56 (660655)
      When you said stealth mode, I imagined taking a picture of your desk and mapping the corresponding portions of the photo to the keys above that location, so it looks like the keys are transparent ;)
  • by FlyingGuy (989135) <flyingguy.gmail@com> on Saturday January 05, 2008 @04:21AM (#21920682)

    IBM made a bit of hardware for the US Navy called the A/N-BQQ5 SONAR system. The main consoles had an array of buttons ( keys if you will ) that called functions and of course changed that actual text that was displayed on each button based upon the current function(s) selected. If memory serves, mind you this was 30 years ago, they had an acronym ( the Military has acronyms for everything ) and it was DROS . This is a link to a site that has a decent photo [si.edu] of the control consoles, Click on the image ( yes unfortunately it will open in a pop-up, sorry its the ONLY photo I can find ) for a larger version. As you can see the three consoles are identical; however, each console could be assigned any function that the system performed. Thus each set of keys displayed text appropriate for the consoles currently assigned function, and sub-functions.

    I rode USS-OMAHA SSN-692 in winter of '78 and USS Los Angeles was commissioned in '76, so given how long it takes to get a bit of hardware like that from IBM in those days, I would imagine those buttons / keys were more then likely developed in the late 60's.

    So there you have your prior art.

    • Now *that* sounds like a good example of prior art related to what appears to be the core unique concept on the Apple patent application. Significantly closer than the Lebedev keyboards, if I understand correctly. MOD PARENT UP!

  • by originalhack (142366) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @05:25AM (#21920944)
    This 1984 patent [freepatentsonline.com] kills their first 12 claims and this product [nforcershq.com] shipping in 2005 kills their remaining 13 claims unless you believe that the product had a wiring harness going from an lcd driver not on the keytop down up to the keytop.

    That's all 25 claims dead right there.

    • by tgd (2822)
      You should learn how to read a patent before declaring something dead because of prior art on early claims.

      You just look like a fool in public, particularly on a site like Slashdot which has a lot of people who work with patents all the time.
  • right. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by apodyopsis (1048476) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @06:14AM (#21921110)
    I would imagine the real question is: how large a firm are lebedev and can they afford to see Apple in court to protect their IP?

    ..after all, I find thats the real issue at stake in these weaselesque (is that a word?) situations..
    • by phorest (877315)

      ..after all, I find thats the real issue at stake in these weaselesque (is that a word?) situations..

      I'd at least copyright it if I were you...

    • by dfghjk (711126)
      Why would you imagine that? Have you seen or do you suspect any Apple product infringing on such IP?
    • Maybe they'll just buy the rights like they did with coverflow [google.com]?
  • Apple will probably get their patent, then they'll release the product, then they might sue Lebdev.

  • Several lives ago I worked for the company that patented the holes on the left/right of forms allowing them to run though "pin fed" equipment like printers. The were called KS holes as in Can't Slip. I know, maybe CS was already taken... The original concept was to keep multi-ply forms interlaced with carbon paper aligned while they were fed through a device.

    I asked if we had the patent why were other companies producing forms with holes on the sides. As explained, first the patent expired like 40 year
  • these. Not with OLED, but with leds. It was just a bank of keys, but still the same. THe idea that a patent could allow the matrix to change AND the number of keys is expanded indicates to what level companies like Apple (and MS) have sunk.
  • by Cloud K (125581) on Saturday January 05, 2008 @11:06AM (#21923326)
    I love how if Microsoft stole ideas from some little innovational business they'd be seen as the scum of the universe, but Apple does the same thing (this and not to forget Konfabulator) and everyone is busy thinking up excuses for how it's perfectly fair.

    OLEDs are rubbish anyway, I have one of those OLED MP4 watches, it got burn-in within mere hours. They also have a ridiculously low MTBF (they'll stay bright for like a year max)
  • Wait... WHAT?!?!? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Khyber (864651) <techkitsune@gmail.com> on Saturday January 05, 2008 @10:02PM (#21929062) Homepage Journal
    while the Optimus Maximus is a bit expensive, Apple could certainly mass-produce something similar for less money

    This is APPLE we're talking about. Mass produce for LESS money? Now I know who's been dipping too far into my stash!

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