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Apple's New Patent Weapon — Location Services 323

Posted by Soulskill
from the uspto-is-the-best-comedy-club dept.
DaveyJJ writes "Once again, it seems Apple is about to take intellectual property claims to a new level. Apple has been reissued a patent they acquired from Xerox that pretty much wraps up what we know as 'location services' as their own. In the overview, the patent says the system involved will display information specific to the location the device is in. The language used in the patent is broad and powerful. I guess now we wait and see whom Apple will use this against?"
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Apple's New Patent Weapon — Location Services

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2011 @09:55AM (#38084802)

    Alas, no longer can roadside maps or sextants be used.

    • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@@@gmail...com> on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:07AM (#38084936) Journal

      Avert your eyes from the stars, matey, ye be violatin' Apple's patents!

      • Re:You are here... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Technician (215283) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:36AM (#38085288)

        I am more interested if it broad enough to be shot down as prior art by Loran, Trimble, Magellan, Tom Tom, Navman, Lawrence, Rhino, Onstar, etc. They may have difficulties if the other established navigation players try to invalidate the claim. Apple is facing lots of prior art that existed long before they placed GPS in a phone. Time of arrival location services have preceded Apple cell tower location mapping back to World War One.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acoustic_location [wikipedia.org]

        • by poetmatt (793785)

          yes, but it'll take far longer to invalidate versus how quickly apple will go trying to use the patent monopoly to sue their competitors.

        • Re:You are here... (Score:4, Interesting)

          by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @11:51AM (#38086332) Homepage Journal

          The patent proceeded apple too, they bought it from xerox. You will need to check the actual patent, not the apple connection.

          Also, depending on what it references, it may still hold.

        • Re:You are here... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @12:33PM (#38086912) Homepage

          OMG, read the patent! Sheesh, they even linked to it so it was ONLY ONE CLICK AWAY. And you still didn't bother!

          The patent does NOT cover location determination, so your entire argument is moon. It DOES cover the combination of location information with the on-line lookup of relevant information. To whit:

          "The coordinate entry is transmitted to the distributed network for retrieval of corresponding location specific information. The location specific information may reside on a web page."

          The patent dates to 1998, so I seriously doubt that there's prior art. Certainly the mobile networks simply did not exist, and the web itself was still getting started. There's certainly examples of geotagged DB systems from this era, but I don't recall one being used to do web queries.

          This looks exactly as nuclear as the pundits are saying.

          • The patent dates to 1998, so I seriously doubt that there's prior art.

            I've got a http://www.ultradatasystems.com/products/ultraroadwhiz.html [slashdot.org]>Road Whiz that dates to the 1990's if I'm not mistaken. It's cool, you enter your location manually - typically by state, highway, and mile marker - and then what you're looking for, and it displays what's coming up at which exits for the next 20 miles or so. OK, it *was* cool, but the only thing Apple has done is move the database onto the internet. BIG FUCKING DE

    • Re:You are here... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by beelsebob (529313) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:20AM (#38085100)

      In what way do roadside maps and sextants transmit information to a distributed system in order to retrieve information about the location you've found yourself in?

      The only way that any argument that software patents are stifling innovation can ever work is if you don't lie when you make an argument about them.

      • Re:You are here... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@@@gmail...com> on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:24AM (#38085158) Journal

        Simple, the transmission of distributed information is the distribution of maps and sextants from the publisher/manufacturer, and the info retreival is done on the user's end by looking at the map or through the sextant.

        I know, I know, but this is ON A COMPYUTAR!

        • by kelemvor4 (1980226) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:33AM (#38085238)

          Simple, the transmission of distributed information is the distribution of maps and sextants from the publisher/manufacturer, and the info retreival is done on the user's end by looking at the map or through the sextant.

          I know, I know, but this is ON A COMPYUTAR!

          Not just any compyutar, one with rounded corners.

      • by PortHaven (242123)

        Easy...

        They transmit it by reflecting back specific segments of the visual light spectrum.

        OMG....your tiny brain thinks in such small dimensions. That you never even contemplated the transmission of light.

        ***

        Yes....this is a stupid comment. But let's be honest. Almost EVERYTHING in IP law today is stupid.

        Samsung Tablet banned because it's square, has a flat screen and somewhat resembles Apple's iPad. Which is also square, with a flat screen and oddly enough resembles Star Trek:TNG tablet pad.

        Star Trek alone

        • Easy...

          They transmit it by reflecting back specific segments of the visual light spectrum.

          OMG....your tiny brain thinks in such small dimensions. That you never even contemplated the transmission of light.

          ***

          Yes....this is a stupid comment. But let's be honest. Almost EVERYTHING in IP law today is stupid.

          Samsung Tablet banned because it's square, has a flat screen and somewhat resembles Apple's iPad. Which is also square, with a flat screen and oddly enough resembles Star Trek:TNG tablet pad.

          Star Trek alone should have been enough to dismiss this case.

          Or the 1968 film (2001) that clearly shows a nearly identical device playing video... IP law is currently a mess.

      • by JAlexoi (1085785)
        If you put up the sign using a GPS, then what? And please you shouldn't be missing the funny side of his comment. (remember this is /., noone ever reads the source)
      • Re:You are here... (Score:5, Informative)

        by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:47AM (#38085418)

        How about at the point where you make a ask a bunch of friends and say "hey, it looks like I'm going to ShucksTown EndOfNowhereState; do you know a good place to go and eat there". Even more so when one of your friends says "never been there and never want to go; but I heard Jake went there; why don't you ask him".

        Oh sorry; you meant "on a computer".

        Having said that, your comment is generally on topic and in place. People, please learn. Most patents are not about doing something. They are (supposed to be) about a way to do something. The fact that someone makes a patent on "moving from A to B" doesn't make it wrong just because you have moved from A to B. If the patent discloses a new system for teleportation then it's very likely a real and useful patent. The fact that you previously drove from A to B doesn't make the patent on teleportation invalid.

        Read through the patent till you get to the claims. Generally the first independent claim of a series of dependent claims will be the outrageous one which you can shout about. Note that all the claims in the patent have been approved as individually valid by the patent office, so you can choose whichever one you want to complain about. Complaining about the title, without specifying an actual claim allows patent lawyers to discredit your argument by claiming that you are ignorant.

      • by sgt scrub (869860)

        If someone uses information from the internet to learn how to read a map then use that information to make a decision about their location they have "used a System and method for obtaining and using location specific information".

  • Nice Things (Score:5, Funny)

    by Manfre (631065) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @09:59AM (#38084830) Homepage Journal

    This is why we can't have nice things.

    The patent office and laws are at best dysfunctional.

    • by Anubis IV (1279820) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:12AM (#38084982)

      This is why we can't have nice things.

      You're confused. You can have Apple's nice things. Please report to your nearest iReprogramming Center immediately. The Geniuses there will help you.

    • by shentino (1139071)

      No

      They, like every other part of the government, is simply for sale to the highest bidder.

      And when you can buy something that can make other people poor, you can stay on top pretty nicely.

    • by Aeros (668253)
      Are we sure that Apple doesn't own the patent office now?
  • by GiantRobotMonster (1159813) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @09:59AM (#38084834)

    Hand in your eyeballs - they can be used to acquire information specific to the location the eyeballs are in.

    You wouldn't steal a car -- violating someone else's laughable intellectual property is theft!

    • by justforgetme (1814588) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:19AM (#38085084) Homepage

      Ok, I don't know about all the otehr stuff you wrote but:
      Why wouldn't I steal a car?
      This kind of prejudging that happens on /. really offends me!

  • by Covalent (1001277) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @09:59AM (#38084836)
    This patent is from 1998. I'm not saying Xerox shouldn't have gotten a patent for this (though it is awfully broad), but that patent should be long dead by now. 13 years is an eternity in the tech world and Apple is going to lord this over Google and everyone else for ... 17 years? Longer?
  • Suspens (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Issarlk (1429361) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:00AM (#38084844)
    >> we wait and see whom Apple will use this against?

    Not willing to kill the suspens but I think it will be a company whose name starts with the letter G.
    • I was thinking more along the lines of "every company that has a name that isn't 5 letters, starts with an 'A', and is named for a seed-bearing fruit that grows on trees, founded in the late 1970s.

    • by mosb1000 (710161)

      I'm thinking Samsung, HTC, and RIM.

    • Re:Suspens (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:22AM (#38085118)

      Not willing to kill the suspens but I think it will be a company whose name starts with the letter G.

      Actually, I found an interesting column the other day (about the gesture-based lock screen patent) where the author opined that Apple isn't inclined to go directly after Google because Google has too much money/lawyers and any litigation against them would take years and years.

      Instead, the author concluded, Apple is going to (and has already started to) go after the handset makers like HTC and Samsung. By making their life miserable for having some Android phones in their product line, Apple hopes to dissuade any other manufacturers from making 'Droid phones because it's just too expensive and/or risky.

      • by ICLKennyG (899257)
        This actually has a name. Patent Thicket [wikipedia.org]
      • I don't know about Google having too much money.

        I'd suspect it's more along the lines of where Apple makes their money - hardware. Hit your competitors hard, and get more profit. Google is not a direct competitor of Apple, only an enabler of their competitors.

  • In what way does this differ from IP-based location services? IOW, would that be prior art? And if not, does that mean that all of the IP-based geolocation now being done, even via a standard PC/browser, e.g. by Google, etc., is subject to this patent?

    • by omnichad (1198475)

      I think they're claiming that showing information based on a fairly specific location is new - not the locating itself. Of course, all the ad networks going back to the 90's use IP-based geo-location.

  • by firex726 (1188453) <firex726@ya[ ].com ['hoo' in gap]> on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:04AM (#38084892)

    How would a GPS not qualify as prior art?

    It shows you a map and surrounding area based on where device is, or area entered. One could argue even the very early military models which had Long, Lat and a compass could qualify.

    • by GameboyRMH (1153867) <gameboyrmh@@@gmail...com> on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:09AM (#38084954) Journal

      If prior art ever meant shit, 99% of these BS software patents wouldn't exist.

    • by icebraining (1313345) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:22AM (#38085122) Homepage

      This patent only applies to "devices" which retrieve information from the Internet/Web/Other network based on your current location, which it can gather from GPS or other system.

      It doesn't cover GPS.

    • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:34AM (#38085254) Journal

      Abstract A location information system uses a positioning system, such as the civilian Navstar Global Positioning System (GPS), in combination with a distributed network. The location information system includes a radio transceiver for communicating to the distributed network and a GPS receiving system. The GPS receiving system receives a signal from the GPS and converts it into a coordinate entry. The coordinate entry is transmitted to the distributed network for retrieval of corresponding location specific information. The location specific information may reside on a web page. The coordinate entry may be incorporated into the web page address that supports the coordinate entry or linked to an existing web page associated with the coordinate entry. The web page and associated information is displayed. Bar code labels, infrared beacons and other labeling systems may also be used in the location information system in place of or in addition to the GPS receiving system to supply location identification information.

      Unfortunately, the patent does not cover a self contained system using GPS receiver. This patent is about transmitting the gps coordinates to a network, either in the url itself or using GET or POST methods or by a table of URLs for for the given GPS coordinate.

      One small ray of hope is, what it does after posting the URL. It can display a web page. So if you argue that widgets and apps and other things are not really displaying a web page, may be you can escape.

      Usual disclaimers. Not a lawyer, does not mean to play one on slashdot.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    This is great news! Hopefully Apple will sue Android related companies, making it illegal to provide location services. Then we could use Android without worrying about our carriers, or other service providers logging and tracking our every move. Let Apple have the monopoly on spying on their customers.

  • So... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Chewbacon (797801)
    So Apple is gonna sue all GPS manufacturers? The government? Nice.
    • I would assume if Apple has a case against them, Xerox would have had a case. If Xerox didn't sue in all those years, then Apple might have lost the ability. Also who is to say Xerox didn't license the patent to them.
    • It doesn't look like many of the GPS makers would be affected, since the patent explicitly says that their method relies on communication with both a GPS network (or some other method of grabbing location data) and a distributed network for providing additional information (i.e. the actual services) to the device. Until recently, most GPS devices worked by keeping a complete copy of the location-specific data stored locally, then seeking out periodic updates, rather than pulling data from a "distributed" ne

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Apple doesn't have a history of suing all patent violators. Just the ones that want to compete. Suing everyone is too costly. Picking battles and knowing who to pay off is what leads to success.

  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:09AM (#38084950)

    Man, that company has really went downhill.

  • by Chrisq (894406) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:12AM (#38084994)
    Damn. I guess I'll go and paint all my car windows black.
  • It's dark (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MadKeithV (102058) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:14AM (#38085008)
    You are in a maze of twisty little claims, all alike. It's pitch black. You are likely to be eaten by a patent or copyright lawyer.
  • From TFA:

    A location information system that displays location specific information, the location information system, comprising: a receiver that receives location identification information from at least one site specific object identifying a location.Iadd., where the at least one site specific object is a beacon.Iaddend.; and a transceiver that transmits the location identification information to a distributed network and that receives the location specific information about the specified location from the

    • Those markings are there because the patent is a reissue. Reissued claims include markup to indicate what was changed from the original patent. In this case, the material in between .Iadd. and .Iaddend. was added to the claim, and material in between .[. and .]. was removed.

      It looks better in the actual printed patent. The USPTO's website gives you the information but unfortunately doesn't make it pretty.

  • by ndixon (184723) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:23AM (#38085138)

    According to the patent, it's a reissue filed in 2010 of an earlier patent application which was was filed in 1998 and issued in 2000.

    Why reissue it? Because it's under new ownership?

    The reissued patent cites earlier patents going right up to 2009, and Apple didn't get into location-based services (i.e. iPhone) until 2007, after the LG Prada appeared. Meanwhile this happened [wikipedia.org]:

    The first consumer LBS-capable mobile web device was the Palm VII, released in 1999. Two of the in-the-box applications made use of the ZIP code-level positioning information and share the title for first consumer LBS application: the Weather.com app from The Weather Channel, and the TrafficTouch app from Sony-Etak / Metro Traffic.

    Since Palm had a LBS product out before the original patent was issued, and Xerox never really turned their patent into a product, how the f**k is this new patent enforceable?

    • by Grond (15515)

      Why reissue it?

      Apple filed the reissue application in order to amend the claims. It appears that some small, slightly narrowing tweaks were made to add references to "beacons." The reissue does not affect the term of the patent. Check out 35 U.S.C. 251 for more details. Notably, if anyone did anything that would infringe the reissued claims but didn't infringe the original claims, then they can continue doing so. This can even apply to taking substantial preparation towards something that would infring

  • by kikito (971480) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:29AM (#38085204) Homepage

    I think the patent offices should stop hiring geniuses. They are clearly not up to the task.

  • by grqb (410789) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:33AM (#38085236) Homepage Journal

    After reading multiple posts and comments about Apple's patents, there are a lot of people who feel this is counter productive...I don't know why.

    IMHO, the patent system is broken when a company can file a patent without actually having a solid working product first, this sometimes happens. But clearly, in a lot of Apple's patents, such as this one, it isn't the case. If Apple, or another company, invests billions of dollars into R&D to make a product, they should be able to protect it. In fact, it would be counter productive if they couldn't protect it because it would discourage them from investing in R&D and then the nice things wouldn't even be invented in the first place.

    • Apple didn't get this patent because they invented something, they bought it from Xerox.

      • by grqb (410789)

        Apple purchasing this patent from Xerox is essentially equivalent to Apple outsourcing their R&D. Same end result.

  • Apple: All Your Base Are Belong To Us.
    Google: All your map are belong to us.
  • by timholman (71886) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:37AM (#38085294)

    Too many people are missing the point.

    If Apple didn't take out a patent on a concept like this, you can guarantee that some patent troll would, and would sue both Apple and Google, along with everyone else in the marketplace. That's the way the system works nowadays.

    Patents aren't just offensive weapons; they're defensive weapons as well. Apple and Google have huge patent portfolios, and both have too much leverage to win any major court battle against the other. At best, it would be mutually assured destruction, and do nothing but enrich a lot of lawyers.

    What patents like this actually do is protect Apple (and Google, and everyone else) from the bottom-feeding trolls. You either file these "obvious" patents, or you can bet your bottom dollar some slimeball will instead, and take you to court.

    • by Issarlk (1429361)
      >> some slimeball will instead, and take you to court
      That would be Apple. And your point is?
  • by strangeattraction (1058568) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @10:39AM (#38085320)
    They use GPS and the network. How bout 4 Square... The list is long.
  • by nurb432 (527695) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @11:53AM (#38086358) Homepage Journal

    Why are we blaming apple here? They bought an *existing* patent. It was not their invention ... If you want to blame anyone or shout prior art, shouldn't that be towards xerox instead?

  • by kawabago (551139) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @02:34PM (#38088662)
    A commercial in the near future.

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