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Displays Patents Apple

Apple Patents Portrait-Landscape Flipping 354

Posted by timothy
from the video-is-unrelated dept.
theodp writes "On Tuesday, the USPTO granted a patent to Apple for Portrait-landscape rotation heuristics for a portable multifunction device (USPTO), which covers 'displaying information on the touch screen display in a portrait view or a landscape view based on an analysis of data received from the one or more accelerometers.' Perhaps the USPTO Examiners didn't get a chance to review the circa-1991 Computer Chronicles video of the Radius Pivot monitor before deeming Apple's invention patentable. Or check out the winning touchArcade trivia contest entry, which noted the circa-1982 Corvus Concept sported a 15-inch, high-resolution, bit-mapped display screen that also flipped between portrait and landscape views when rotated, like our friend the iPhone. Hey, everything old is new again, right?"
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Apple Patents Portrait-Landscape Flipping

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  • by lul_wat (1623489) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @08:38PM (#36770570)
    I'm going to patent the First Post.
  • Not prior art (Score:2, Interesting)

    by pauljlucas (529435)
    Neither of the two cited examples of "prior art" cited in the summary were portable as is claimed (also according to the summary) by the Apple patent.
    • Re:Not prior art (Score:4, Insightful)

      by lattyware (934246) <gareth@lattyware.co.uk> on Thursday July 14, 2011 @08:45PM (#36770604) Homepage Journal
      And taking an existing invention and putting it into something smaller is patentable innovation? Come on. Even if that is the way it works (which I'm pretty sure it isn't) - anyone with half a brain can see that's stupid and not the intention of patents.
      • If it was "obvious," why was Apple the first to implement it in a mobile phone user interface? Why is it "not the intention of patents" that Apple should be able to protect (through patent) just one aspect that made the iPhone unique and created a spawn of imitators?
        • Re:Not prior art (Score:5, Insightful)

          by erroneus (253617) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @09:03PM (#36770766) Homepage

          Because someone has to be first regardless of who. That's hardly an argument against obviousness. Screens have been rotating for decades. The sensor devices have been in cameras and other devices for about as long. Cameras have demonstrated this long before Apple did it. Somewhere out there in the patent jungle, there is a patent on this as applied to cameras. I think this is more than enough... more than enough to prove that the USPTO needs to learn to say "hell no."

          • Where in the camera world is there a touch screen locking orientation based on user input gestures?

            THAT is what this patent covers.

            • by thegarbz (1787294)

              So my ability to touch the screen suddenly makes a patent on a rotating screen new? Say it ain't so.

              Since the combover has already been patented, I'm going to patent the combover done holding the comb in the left hand now.

        • by lattyware (934246)
          If something has been done - by definition someone must have been the first to do it. It is obvious to use a device for it's intended purpose.
        • Re:Not prior art (Score:4, Interesting)

          by KiloByte (825081) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @09:13PM (#36770838)

          Not Apple, it was Nokia who did it first on a phone. And it's annoying as hell. It can be disabled (a must for sanity), but then you get warnings all the time about the "orientation lock". You see, I'm secure with my orientation and please get the hell away from trying to get me to change it.

        • by decora (1710862) on Friday July 15, 2011 @01:22AM (#36772136) Journal

          if big business back in the 1980s had come down on Apple like Apple comes down on joe blow hacker nowdays, Apple could never have gotten out of the garage.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by pauljlucas (529435)

        And taking an existing invention and putting it into something smaller is patentable innovation?

        The cited "prior art" didn't work using accelerometers either, so there was really no "existing invention" (at least the cited ones weren't).

        • by lattyware (934246)
          Accelerometers exist. Their purpose is to give orientation data.
          Devices which use orientation data to chance screen layout exist.

          Are you saying that using a device for it's intended purpose to do something people have done before is non-obvious?
          • Can you name a product that used them together the way the iPhone and iPad do? If not, then, apparently, it's not sufficiently obvious to all the other consumer gadget makers out there otherwise somebody else would have done it.
            • It isn't sufficient to marry Part A to Part 2 in ways that both Part A and Part 2 are designed to work.

              Rotating display, as a previous user noted RADIUS had them Back when there were still Apple Mac IIs being sold. I actually sold a few back in that day. Dell has rotating Monitors for years now.

              Accelerometers have been in use for all sorts of purposes. It was bound to happen to marry the two eventually. Tell me, what is the difference between a couple mercury switches and an Accelerometer if they do the sam

              • by Wovel (964431)

                If you think a rotating display is the same thing, take one of those displays in your hand and turn it around in the air. You know what happens, nothing. They did not rotate based on an orientation sensor. They rotated based on a electro-mechanical switch...

                • by cskrat (921721)
                  Actually it sounds like the Radius monitor used a mercury switch to detect orientation so it would respond if you just picked it up and tilted it over.
            • Re:Not prior art (Score:5, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 14, 2011 @09:57PM (#36771118)

              Can you name a product that used them together the way the iPhone and iPad do? If not, then, apparently, it's not sufficiently obvious to all the other consumer gadget makers out there otherwise somebody else would have done it.

              Nokia N95. 3-axis accelerometer used to orient screen. 2006.

              • Read Claim 1. This is about using gestures on a portable touch screen device to override the accelerometer data and lock the orientation.

        • by msobkow (48369)

          Oh come on. You change the type of sensor used and that's supposed to make it patentable?!?!

          Lame...

          • by sessamoid (165542)

            Oh come on. You change the type of sensor used and that's supposed to make it patentable?!?!

            Lame...

            Actually, that's exactly how patents are supposed to work. This is a method for detecting and changing screen orientation that Apple patented. It's not the only method, as shown by prior methods and different companies.

        • by jrumney (197329)

          Nokia N95 was released 3 months before the original iPhone and iPod Touch, and used accelerometers to tag the orientation of photos taken using its camera. So the use of accelerometers to detect orientation has prior art, as does the use of sensors to orientate the screen (from Radius monitors, and the HTC TyTn which predates the iPhone by over a year and used a switch that detected whether the keyboard was slid out to decide that the screen needed to be landscape).

          The combination of these is obvious to a

      • by EdIII (1114411)

        Quite the opposite. At least according to the lawyers. If you can take an existing process and substantially add to it, or modify it, and make original claims, it makes no difference if the existing process is patented. You can still be awarded the patent...

        However....... that does not eliminate your obligations to the patent holder of the existing process. You need to have a licensing deal with them, and in order for them to use your "added value" process they need to license from you.

        It does work that

      • Did you notice that Slashdot's description of the patent is five words long and the patent itself is several pages?

    • Re:Not prior art (Score:4, Insightful)

      by wierd_w (1375923) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @08:47PM (#36770616)

      Forgive me, but that's like saying something like:

      "Yes, you have prior art for an alarm clock, and for a radio, but my patent is for an alarmclock radio!"

      The same reasons why you would want a display that can auto-rotate the contents based on screen orientation on a large fixed display would be equally applicable to a portable one, thus making the invention fail the obviousness requirement.

      Duh-- If you are holding something in your hand, you would consider it useful for it to rotate when you turned it over, so you arent reading it upside down or sideways. Same with rotating a fixed display.

    • by jcr (53032)

      More than that, the Radius monitor didn't use an accelerometer. It had a switch in the housing that was tripped when you rotated the display.

      -jcr

      • Re:Not prior art (Score:5, Informative)

        by bmo (77928) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @08:58PM (#36770716)

        It's a cheap kind of accelerometer.

        In the Pivot monitor, it's a mercury switch, operated by gravity (acceleration at 9.8m/sec^2).

        Apple could have used a mercury switch and done the same thing and the user would not have noticed the difference. The only thing about an acelerometer chip is that it's a mercury switch without the mercury (I'm oversimplifying, of course).

        --
        BMO

      • by erroneus (253617)

        Replace accelerometer with "sensor device" and you've got it. What Apple did was take something simple and made it more complex... and this makes it patentable? The switch on rotate is a sensor just as an accelerometer is. Get over yourself.

        • by NoNonAlphaCharsHere (2201864) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @09:20PM (#36770892)
          You are missing the point entirely. Steve Jobs has invented acceleration! That's what all the fuss is about.
          • by enoz (1181117)

            I was under the impression that Steve Jobs had invented magic, hence all their revolutionary products/patents. /trollin'

        • by MacTO (1161105)

          In a lot of senses, Apple's solution is much more elegant since you can figure out the orientation of a device that can be rotated around 3 axes (assuming triple axis accelerometer), the sensor can be in motion and the device still works, you can have a bit of a hysteresis effect in the rotation, and it does not use hazardous chemicals that are fluid at STP. Remember, it's the implementation that they're patenting, not the idea.

          That being said, I do feel that the solution is obvious since one of the first

          • by JimboFBX (1097277)

            Give a mid-entry level programmer an accelerometer, an SDK for it, and 2 days (on and off) and watch them come up with the same solution as this patent.

            • by sessamoid (165542)

              Give a mid-entry level programmer an accelerometer, an SDK for it, and 2 days (on and off) and watch them come up with the same solution as this patent.

              Lots of programmers had SDKs for digital devices/phones/mp3 players, plenty of time, and there certainly isn't a lack of accelerometers in the last generation or so. Why did nobody do this until Apple did? Maybe it wasn't so obvious.

        • by tyrione (134248)

          Replace accelerometer with "sensor device" and you've got it. What Apple did was take something simple and made it more complex... and this makes it patentable? The switch on rotate is a sensor just as an accelerometer is. Get over yourself.

          The 6 degrees of Freedom Accelerometer sensors that flip either a 2D or 3D View from Portrait to Landscape of a portable device is new as it rotates, translates, and tilts seamlessly with the human interaction and it's own 6 degrees of freedom. The Kinematics and Dynamics in this implementation is no way in hell something previously done, let alone in this form factor.

      • by EdIII (1114411)

        That's why it all comes down to claims and obviousness of the invention. If the accelerometer made that much of a difference it could easily by bypassed just by the switching mechanism you mention. I can imagine a non-toxic conductive liquid in a simple loop around the device that can close and open circuits as you rotate and flip the device. Bulky, and would require more to make it work, but just a really simplistic example.

        I am sure that the patent will not hold up to scrutiny though and the first pers

    • by erroneus (253617)

      You're right. I'm going ot go patent the same thing "on the internet and a can opener attached."

    • by jrumney (197329)
      Ah yes, the novel extension of being portable. That makes all the difference.
    • Neither of the two cited examples of "prior art" cited in the summary were portable as is claimed (also according to the summary) by the Apple patent.

      Not to mention that they didn't act on the actual orientation (as indicated by accelerometers), but on a simple switch in the pivot. Turn them on the side (not rotate them around the pivot) and the image is on the side, no matter how you then rotate them. Turn an iPhone/iPad on the side and the image is up right.

      Anybody not able to understand the fucking difference will also believe that the horse is prior art to a motor cycle because you can sit on its back, ride down the street, and if you go "vroom-vroom

    • by Tehrasha (624164)
      Perhaps they would like to see my Canon digital camera... it is far older than any iPhone, and has this functionality.
    • by sjames (1099)

      Because, God knows, the concept of making something portable is so incredibly revolutionary it could NEVER be thought of as an obvious extension of an existing non portable thing.

  • But ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tjp($)pjT (266360) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @08:41PM (#36770588)
    The others used other gravity sensors like little metal balls and contact sets or mercury switches not accelerometers. And they weren't touchscreen devices. Trivial differences, but different technology. Better to argue it was obvious than say the others represent prior art. Still accelerometers in portable media players and phones is pretty much an Apple thing for display orientation, since everyone before had an attached keyboard!
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      And to clarify, touch is part of the patent. It doesn't just cover flipping the image, but also flipping the touch co-ordinates.

      Whatever your feelings are on this, it's a valid patent under the current laws because it's an improvement.

      • Re:But ... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by 0123456 (636235) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @09:09PM (#36770812)

        Whatever your feelings are on this, it's a valid patent under the current laws because it's an improvement.

        I suspect you'll find that's what people are complaining about. If this is a valid patent under current laws then current laws are absurd.

        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by pdabbadabba (720526)

          As is so often the case, Slashdot has mischaracterized the patent. (I'm only talking about "Portrait-landscape rotation heuristics for a portable multifunction device." I don't have time to read the others.)

          The patent is on a touch-based mechanism to change and lock screen orientation IN CONJUNCTION with the use of accelerometers. Filing a patent requires a lot of expensive lawyer time; a company like Apple typically will not file one that it cannot defend. It knows that it's competitors have plenty of lawy

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Well shit, so walking is fine, and chewing gum is fine, but if you do both then you have to pay apple?

            I mean its an obvious 'next step'.

          • Re:But ... (Score:4, Funny)

            by strikethree (811449) on Friday July 15, 2011 @04:58AM (#36772778) Journal

            So they essentially patented using a finger gesture to lock the screen in portrait or landscape mode...

            I am guessing that you can figure out what the finger gesture is that I have for the patent office and Apple.

          • Re:But ... (Score:4, Insightful)

            by poor_boi (548340) on Friday July 15, 2011 @05:10AM (#36772830)
            Filing a patent requires a lot of expensive lawyer time; a company like Apple typically will not file one that it cannot defend.

            It's not true. Tech companies spam the USPTO with patent applications, taking the shotgun approach of hoping something, anything will stick. It is not terribly expensive to file patents, especially when compared with the amount of money that Apple can throw around.

      • Re:But ... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by shutdown -p now (807394) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @09:34PM (#36770982) Journal

        I may be reading the patent wrong, but it sounds like it's not about changing orientation only from accelerometer input, but rather changing it according to the gesture, and then locking that change (i.e. preventing further accelerometer-triggered changes) until the device is positioned such that the locked orientation corresponds to natural orientation.

        If I understand correctly, what it means is this. Suppose I'm sitting and holding an iPad in portrait mode, surfing the web. I then want to lie down on the side and read a book from it. When I put the iPad down on the side, the orientation will change to landscape, which isn't what I want, so I use the touch gesture (holding the corners and rotating?) to rotate it back into portrait. Now it's locked in that orientation, and I can read it for however long I want. But when I stand up and pick up the device, its locked orientation now matches its physical one, and so it auto-unlocks - so if I rotate it after standing up, it will change orientation automatically again (which is what I want).

        • You're not supposed to RTFP! That's cheating and besides the point that patents are evil.

          I'd mod you insightful if it wasn't just common sense to be an informed commenter. Oh well. Thanks for being at least one ray of hope in a wasteland of self indulgent mediocrity.

        • No, you're not reading the patent wrong. I'm guessing you actually read the claims, since that's what's important - the claims actually include the gestures that you mentioned.

          Once again, Slashdot displays its ineptitude at reporting on patent issues. Another poorly written summary gets published accusing the USPTO of issuing a bad patent, but the submitter failed to perform the required legal analysis before leveling that accusation.

      • by samkass (174571)

        Besides, isn't this exactly what the patent system is for? No one can argue that before the iPhone there existed a hand-held touchscreen device that flipped its interface based on an accelerometer. This doesn't even fall into the complaints of patenting pure math-- it's an actual device with a specific function that didn't exist before Apple created it. If this isn't the sort of R&D investment that patents are supposed to protect, then what is?

        If it's not innovative, and if a mercury switch is all th

        • If you agree that there should be some market benefit to the person who comes up with this, then the problem with current patents is that the time for which they guarantee exclusivity/right to license is too long when compared to the pace of modern technology. Patents are granting protection to single companies well beyond the lifespan of the associated products, stiffing competition.
    • The others used other gravity sensors like little metal balls and contact sets or mercury switches not accelerometers. And they weren't touchscreen devices. Trivial differences, but different technology.

      You're making it too complex. This is the idea: a display surface rotates, and the image it is displaying gets automatically re-oriented according to the rotation. It's kind of ridiculous to start claiming that somehow it's a new idea because the things that are around and outside the display surface are different, or that the display surface is made of a different material, or that the sensor that detects movement is different. It's the same idea, and the patent office needs to stop with granting patent

    • Wouldn't any sort of gravity sensor be measuring acceleration due to gravity? They're basically rudimentary accelerometers. Any object using gravity could be spun to fool it's sensor.

  • Accelerometers? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 14, 2011 @08:41PM (#36770590)

    Did the Radius monitors use accelerometer data? Nope, they used a positional switch mounted on their stationary base. Since this specifically addresses use of accelerometer data (no fixed mount on a netbook or smartphone) that isn't prior art here, sorry. Making in-jokes about the patent system mocks its all-to-real deficiencies, of which this is not one. Oh, and way to write a terrible headline - Apple hasn't patented portrait-landscape flipping. You really did read about this before writing.....didn't you?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by lattyware (934246)
      So using an accelerometer (a component used to detect orientation) to detect the orientation of a device... This is clearly patentable genius! Come on, patents are there to give incentive to innovate and develop. Using a component for it's intended use is not that. If they developed the Accelerometer, fair play, otherwise, this is rubbish.
  • by roc97007 (608802) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @08:44PM (#36770598) Journal

    ...it's whether you can get away with patenting it.

    • by EdIII (1114411)

      ...it's whether you can get away with patenting it.

      It's not whether or not you can get away with patenting it....

      It's whether or not you have the resources to sue people that will be willing to settle just to make you go away, and whether or not your patent can stand up in a court case in Texas.

      If the patent was just stupid to begin with and a mistake it is only a threat to smaller people who cannot defend themselves, a cost of business to larger people that can afford to just pay the extortion fee.

      The real key with patents like this is not to pick a fight

  • by Aphrika (756248) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @09:03PM (#36770762)
    Many cameras - not phones - cameras, had this functionality way before the iPhone did. Granted that in most circumstances it was only available in a camera application, but I had my Nokia N95 about three months before the original iPhone came out, and it used the exact same chip to do the same thing...

    I'm pretty sure that some high end digital SLRs had this function, possibly as far back as 2003 if memory serves me correctly.
  • Apple is the same or worse than Microsoft, just smaller.

    People, it's not trendy, it doesn't "just work" - it is just the same bullshit with a better marketing campaign. Gods help us if Apple ever attains a real market share in PCs.
    • Apple is the same or worse than Microsoft, just smaller

      Except that by some metrics now they are bigger, and arguably far more powerful since they've escaped virtually any regulatory control. Microsoft is now truly a tamed beast, while Apple is a like Godzilla on the loose stomping all over the place.

  • I was playing around with a Wiimote on my Mac a few years ago, looking at the plots generated from the X/Y/Z accelerometers. The first thing that I noticed about the readings for a stationary Wiimote was, "oh, one of the accelerometers is giving a non-zero reading." My second thought was, "like duh, that's acceleration due to the gravitational field." Then I tested the theory, and it worked.

    Now I'm not going to claim that I came up with rotating a display based upon the readings from accelerometers. On

    • It's not as simple as you're suggesting. The accelerometer has no way of telling the difference between gravitational pull and normal movement.

      That can only be done reliably by taking input from the accelerometer, magnetometer (compass) and gyroscope. Run all that data through some complicated math functions, and you'll have a fairly reliable value of what direction is "down". Even with all that, it's still not perfect (especially the magnetometer, which is sitting right next to electronics that put out a s

  • "Patents are anything you can get away with".
  • by KNicolson (147698) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @09:34PM (#36770978) Homepage

    Stupid question I know, but Apple is NOT patenting rotation, but rather two gestures to lock the screen in either portrait or landscape mode, regardless of detected orientation. Whether or not such a matter is patentable is another kettle of fish.

    On a related matter, Apple long ago bought a patent from British Telecom that appears actually to be for screen rotation [theregister.co.uk].

  • Patent Everything (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Paradise Pete (33184) on Thursday July 14, 2011 @09:38PM (#36771010) Journal
    It's a necessity today for companies to patent everything they possibly can. It is becoming impossible to create anything without having an arsenal of patents to fire back at the inevitable patents suits against your own device or software.

    Look at Google. They've (seemingly sensibly) not accumulated a huge portfolio of patents. The unfortunate consequence of that is that Android is going to get squeezed more and more by patent claims.

    Patent trolls' strongest weapon is the fact that they don't make anything, and so there's nothing against which a counter-claim can be made.

    The long-term bright side of this is that sooner or later Google and others will have no choice but to mount a campaign for sweeping change in the patent system. But until then, small developers will find it harder and harder to produce useful software and devices without spending all their income defending patent claims.

  • I need a rush on this patent to change things back from portrait to landscape once they have rotated the screen back..also the other way. ..taps toe...
  • *All* of the following have to be true, to infringe on Claim 1:

    * It must be a portable, multifunction computer device with a touch screen
    * It must use accelerometers
    * It must orient the display according to the accelerometers
    * It must detect a specific finger gesture from the user, on or near the touch screen
    * In response to the *gesture*, it switches orientation, and *locks* it
    * If you rotate the device to the new orientation, it detects that, then unlocks it

    A device must do *all* of the above things in or

  • What the patent covers is laid out in claim 1, and in no other place in the patent. Not the abstract, not the title, not the description. That stuff is legally required window dressing. The important stuff is in claim 1.

    Claim 1 for this patent.

    A computer-implemented method, comprising: at a portable multifunction device with a touch screen display and one or more accelerometers, displaying information on the touch screen display in a portrait view or a landscape view based on an analysis of data received fr

  • Silly Apple, all they'd have to do is add "on computers" and make it a whole new patent... oh... wait...

    Sorry. Usually that works.

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