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Reexamination Request Filed Against Another Apple Patent 85

Posted by timothy
from the from-the-florian-front dept.
An anonymous reader writes "After the rubber-banding, 'Steve Jobs' heuristics and pinch-to-zoom patents, another Apple patent in use against Samsung comes under pressure. An anonymous filer, most likely Samsung, has filed a reexamination request against Apple's RE41,922 patent on a 'method and apparatus for providing translucent images on a computer display.' It's not among the patents a California jury evaluated this summer, but one of four patents an ITC judge preliminarily found Samsung to infringe. The reexamination request features five new pieces of prior art (three U.S. patents from the early 1990s and two Japanese patents), all of which dealt with translucent images. The patent office will decide next year whether to grant or deny the request for reexamination. Expect more such petitions targeting Apple patents."
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Reexamination Request Filed Against Another Apple Patent

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  • by etash (1907284) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @07:37PM (#42372139)
    like, seriously?
    • by alen (225700) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @08:47PM (#42372463)

      I thought Microsoft had them in the 1990's

      • by Gadget_Guy (627405) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @10:31PM (#42372821)

        To be fair, Apple's original patent on this was filed in 1993 [uspto.gov]. That version of the patent talked about pen computing on a tablet, which presumably referred to the Apple Newton [wikipedia.org], which was also released in 1993. This patent covered the opaque image under the pop-up keyboard on the Newton.

        I believe Microsoft introduced translucent windows with Windows 2000, although it is possible that like many other Microsoft new features that it was merely public access to a technology that already existed in previous versions of Windows.

        I don't think that the concept of two programs each building an image and then a third program blending them together is really novel enough to justify a patent. The concept of blending two images together were not unknown then, so the idea that you use that existing technology just to blend two screenshots together seems technically obvious. If they really wanted to patent an opaque representation of the underlying screen under a pop-up keyboard then they should have made it a design patent.

    • by jkrise (535370) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @09:51PM (#42372709) Journal

      Yes, there is a patent on translucent images; granted to Apple. Despite the fact that there's been tons of prior art from many other software implementations for layered imaging techniques.

      According to one of Floriam Mueller's posts, Apple has got 100s of multi-touch patents alone, and 1000s of patents on non-touch features related to smartphones.

      Until Apple came along, hardware and software companies armed themselves with patents to ward off threats from trolls, or as a defensive measure alone. Now this company which has built an empire using copied technologies; has filed and gotten patents for obvious, trivial extensions of the same. Worse, they are using these patents to try and secure billions as 'security money' instead of competing in the markets based on the superiority of their products.

      About 15 years ago, the company was on the verge of bankruptcy. Now they have presumably the largest cash reserves of any technology company. And their ex-CEO who is now dead, proclaimed that he did not want merely monetary compensation of billions of dollars. He wanted total destruction of entire competing platforms, period. One such platform is the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS for short) platform to which Android belongs.

      Linux, Android, Apache, MySQL, PostgreSQL are a few examples of leading FOSS products which have completely changed the technology landscape over the past 2 decades. Companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter etc. have built their empires using FOSS almost exclusively. Even Apple's earlier software offerings were based on FOSS products such as OpenBSD.

      A patent regime does not sit well with the FOSS philosophy, and companies like Apple, Microsoft and Oracle have tried directly or covertly to litigate FOSS based competing products by behaving like litigious thugs. The referenced blog by Florian Mueller is tiled FOSS-Patents; however he is very much anti-FOSS; and indeed has acknowledged receipt of monies from the above companies in their anti-FOSS campaigns.

      There are many such absurdities in the patent wars being waged, which have come to a head in recent years, because of enormous monies involved. Many companies like HTC have caved in and settled in the face of such absurdities, which causes higher prices for customers. It also results in lucrative business opportunities for lawyers, and so-called IP experts such as Florian Mueller. None of which serve the purpose of granting patent monopolies - which is to promote the progress of Science and useful Arts.

      So you need not be surprised at the existence of patents on translucent images. There are patents on glossiness, rounded corners, shapes of icons, black colour, etc. based on which some schizophrenic companies expect billions in compensation from 'violating' companies.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        just FYI, its not just 'earlier' software offerings were based on FOSS/OSS, OSX is predominately FOSS/OSS as in more code comes from linux or a bsd than from apple..

      • by kanweg (771128)

        "Until Apple came along, hardware and software companies armed themselves with patents to ward off threats from trolls, or as a defensive measure alone. "

        It is not a defense again trolls. Your own patents don't give you any right to do what you're doing. A patent gives a right to forbid others. So, if you infringe a troll's patent, your own patent portfolio won't help. As a troll doesn't do anything productive himself, he won't be infringing so you can't check your own patent portfolio to get leverage in th

        • by jkrise (535370)

          I also agree with the lubricous amounts of money for damages in case of infringement.

          Your statement is unclear. Do you agree that the damages claimed by patent holders from infringers are ludicrous, or do you assert that even though the damages levied might appear ludicrous, it is justified in your view?

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          if you infringe a troll's patent, your own patent portfolio won't help. As

          It will if you own a patent that not only invalidates his but it actually turns out that his important patents are derivatives of yours. That's why companies like Apple want to patent things like transparency and rounded corners, the broad applicability. Not just against trolls though, that was bullshit. It's against competitors first and trolls second, because as you say, there is less utility there.

          Also, in contrast to a regular patent, a software patent doesn't teach the person skilled in the art (a developer) very much

          Well now, that should probably be the standard for software patents if we're going to have them at all, shou

      • by rtb61 (674572)

        One addendum to this. On the whole it seems to be American companies doing this, specifically aided by corrupt courts and politicians and the latest revision to patent laws not only did not prevent it but are further aiding it.

      • by node 3 (115640)

        Until Apple came along, hardware and software companies armed themselves with patents to ward off threats from trolls, or as a defensive measure alone.

        That's not true at all. Cell technologies (like CDMA, GSM) are all heavily patented, and not simply for defensive measures. And patent trolls really don't have much surface area to counter-attack with patents.

        The main difference is that these become FRAND patents, allowing everyone equal opportunity to use these necessary technologies, while still encouraging innovation and participation in standards processes. Although I wonder if even these types of patents are sub-optimal, at least they tend to work out

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      Oh, for fuck's sake.

      Utility patents are for a method of doing something, not the general concept of the something that's being done. It's even in the language, which is in TFS here: a "method and apparatus for providing translucent images on a computer display". The patent is on a particular technique for "providing translucent images".

      Sometimes patents are broadly-worded enough to cover most conceivable implementations of the thing they describe, but I'm going to bet that since the patent itself cites mult

  • Apple (Score:4, Interesting)

    by future assassin (639396) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @07:42PM (#42372157) Homepage

    There's a patent for that...

    Seems its worth while for Samsung to hire people and screen for any prior art on "Apple" patent then request reexamination with the evidence too boot.

    • Re:Apple (Score:5, Informative)

      by icebike (68054) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @08:07PM (#42372269)

      We have only this anonymous poster's allegation that Samsung was involved.

      An anonymous filer, most likely Samsung,

      There are any number of possible sources for this challenge, since the technique is used in almost all smartphones in and computer
      operating systems. Windows Vista and Windows 7 relied heavily on this technique for Aero.

      So many of Apple's patents are common software techniques long in use in other fields but with an appended phrase "On a Smartphone".
      I expect more of them will be reexamined.

      • If I get a tablet or a flip screen laptop and attached a cell antenna/radio to it, is that considered a smartphone or does it have to be certain size? What if I invent a "Smart Media Player" with the ability to make cell phone calls.

        • by icebike (68054)

          My buddy had a (second hand) Lincoln Town car with a built in car phone. Does that make it a mobile device? He crashed it one night when he was watching translucent and overlapped images. Alcohol may have been involved.

        • by siddesu (698447)
          The size doesn't matter, as long as its corners are not round.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        I think the rest of the world should organize crowd-sourced reexamination requests and get at them. Apple first, then others.

        "A request for a reexamination can be filed by anyone at anytime during the period of enforceability of a patent. To request a reexamination, one must submit a “request for reexamination,” pay a substantial fee, and provide an explanation of the new reasons why the patent is invalid based on prior art. "

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

        Granted it depends on how bi

      • you must admit samsung has the biggest reason for doing this, i don't see anyone else getting hardware banned in patent disputes with apple.
        • i don't see anyone else getting hardware banned in patent disputes with apple.

          Other than HTC, you mean? And Motorola was another significant target of lawsuits from Apple, though I don't think Apple has managed to win any injunctions yet.

    • Be nice to see Google doing the same thing for the BS patents on Android.
  • by ilsaloving (1534307) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @07:43PM (#42372163)

    It's about time all this bullshit has finally started to get sorted out. Apple's stupid patents. Samsung's abuse of patents. Now only 50 billion moar patents to go...

  • umm... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 22, 2012 @07:50PM (#42372181)

    Porter, Thomas; Tom Duff (1984). "Compositing Digital Images". Computer Graphics 18 (3): 253–259. doi:10.1145/800031.808606. ISBN 0-89791-138-5.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The patent in question describes a particular way to perform compositing in front-to-back order to save cycles. Once the alpha of a given pixel reaches 1, there's no need to render anything behind it. Porter and Duff's approach is to draw everything back to front.

      • by Molt (116343)
        Thanks for posting this, I was interested to know what was special in this patent over-and-above normal alpha blending and your description makes sense. The patent still seems reasonably obvious but nowhere near as ridiculous as it did beforehand.
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Obvious once someone shows you how? ;-)

          We had almost two decades between the original compositing work at Lucas and later at Pixar, and the invention of the front-to-back algorithm in the patent. Adobe didn't think of it when they added porter-duff compositing to Display Postscript, Apple didn't think of it when they first implemented Quartz 2D.

          The fact remains that nobody realized how much more efficient it would be to reverse the order of evaluation until a Core Graphics engineer at Apple (a friend of mi

          • If I were given a task to draw some translucent images I may or may not come up with doing it this way. If I did, it would be because I thought of it (or read it in some academic paper) not that I looked through patents to find it. And if I did think of it and it seemed like an insightful way of doing things I might write it into a paper, but I would never even dream of making a patent on it. Then later is somebody going to go looking through my code to see if I happened to do something they have patente
          • This is done in ray-tracing since at least the 70s where you stop recursively tracing rays once the light contribution from the resulting spawned rays is considered not to provide any meaningful contribution to the final output. Like other people have said it could have simply been that no one considered it to be patenteable material and it was done behind the scenes in many pieces of software already. It is certainly not non-obvious.
          • by Eskarel (565631)
            Result. say it was mostly not done because for the most part it didn't matter at the time. Rendering efficiency want a huge deal till we started rendering things in real time. If you asked pretty much any subject matter expert at the time "how do we make this more efficient, this kind of thing would be the likely result. Novelty can be a problem no one thought to solve, but it probably shouldn't include things that are fairly obvious if you ask the right question.
        • Oh it's still fucking ridiculous to me because I remember the mid 70s and 80s [wikipedia.org] when 3D graphics were using Z-Buffers to avoid the needless computation of pixels. It's even better than "if alpha is 1.0" bullshit, because instead of 1.0 you had a flexible per pixel limiting value which you could use for masking, color blending (FOG), and a host of other effects.

          Look, limiting the z-buffer to using it for an OS's windowing system doesn't make patenting the 1970's era technique any less bogus. That would b

    • Re:umm... (Score:5, Funny)

      by citizenr (871508) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @09:02PM (#42372523) Homepage

      Porter, Thomas; Tom Duff (1984). "Compositing Digital Images". Computer Graphics 18 (3): 253–259. doi:10.1145/800031.808606. ISBN 0-89791-138-5.

      yes yes, but was it _on a mobile device_?

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I think all of these companies knew that their patents were glass houses... Except Apple who probably knew but threw stones anyway.

    Now Samsung is going *after* their patents. Afterall, why fight the enemy when you can take away all of their weapons. I expect that with the resources Samsung has, they can probably invalidate most every single apple patent has. After all, Apple did seem to have a history of claiming that they invented stuff other people made first.

    That's a pretty interesting tactic too, becaus

  • Amazing it takes but moments for an inept examiner to frak over millions of consumers and monts or years to fix the screwups. The market droids from the 90's called they want their tramslucensy gradiants and asinine slidin window frames back, they serve no useful purpose..
  • wow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by RedHackTea (2779623) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @08:46PM (#42372453)
    I didn't believe it until I read it myself:

    Source [uspto.gov]

    "A method and apparatus is described for producing a translucent image over a base image created on the display screen of a computer system by a selected first application program, and conducting image operations either on the base image created by the selected application program with reference to the translucent image produced, or conducting image operations on the translucent image with reference to the base image of the first application program. The first application program runs on a central processing unit (CPU) of a computer system to produce a base image, and another application program referred to as the overlay program is run to produce the translucent image such that portions of the base image which are overlapped by the overlay image are at least partially visible through the translucent image. There is also a mechanism for blending the first video data and the second video data to produce a blended image on the screen assembly."

    "The efficient use of the available display screen space for observation of images and windows containing images, while particularly pronounced for pen computer systems, is common to all computer systems which display information or images to the user. No matter how large a particular display may be, a particular user will be tempted to attempt to display more information on the screen than can effectively be handled.

    Images or information presented on a display screen are typically presented as opaque images, i.e., images "behind" a displayed image are obscured. This is the case with display windows which are layered on a particular screen, with the uppermost window image partially or completely blocking the view of the lower windows. For two windows to be capable of interaction, it is preferable that the user be able to observe both images at the same time, or at close to the same time."

    And that's if you can manage getting through the ridiculous descriptions of "pen-like" devices... Does the lawyer that wrote this have any respect for himself?

    Even if it is some type of "new" transparency, I feel like it would be hard to come up with a new method that hasn't already been done in OpenGL [opengl.org].
    • by ganjadude (952775)
      time to retire the rounded corners argument for most absurd apple patent!
    • Re:wow (Score:5, Insightful)

      by peragrin (659227) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @09:25PM (#42372605)

      That is the point. with so many absurd patents out there that slashdot and the tech community have been calling for a while now all it took was for a Non troll(apple produces products) to start shooting their patent missiles only to realize that they are not only firing duds but ones that might explode on lift off doing more damage to yourself than the enemy.

      For a while patents were defensive no one wanted to be stupid enough to use them in mass attacks.

      Of course stupidity rises to the top and so all it takes is one dumb CEO and an itchy trigger finger.

      It happened to be Apple. I love my mac hardware but damn the company deserves this.

      • by gutnor (872759)
        Very little has happened to reform the patent system though. It takes one company to go crazy against another big player, but the only effect is that its patent get invalidated one by one. That's bad for Apple, good for Samsung, but overall for the rest of the market it changes nothing. Shitty patents can still be used aggressively by trolls or used to pad patent portfolio in cross-licensing agreement to lock startup out of new markets.
        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          Very little has happened to reform the patent system though

          The most important thing is public interest. While your non-nerd friends might tire of it, you should point out why Apple is evil every single time they say something nice about them. They have been converted into unknowing apple salesdroids and they need your help. They are not just the symptom, but actually the disease. This all happens because of citizen apathy.

    • Re:wow (Score:4, Interesting)

      by VortexCortex (1117377) <`VortexCortex' ` ... -retrograde.com'> on Saturday December 22, 2012 @11:52PM (#42373101) Homepage

      And that's if you can manage getting through the ridiculous descriptions of "pen-like" devices... Does the lawyer that wrote this have any respect for himself?

      That's because if they'd said Accumulating Z-Buffer, or Stencil Buffer, the examiners would have easily found the 1970's era patents. The goal of a patent lawyer is to word the patent in such a way that none of the phrases they search for match any of the already existing patents.... Which also answers your question: No, they have absolutely no respect for themselves, but neither do examiners which let this shit get to this state in the first place. Lawyers and attorneys hate simple laws and rules and language -- They can't milk the society for money or have job security if that happened.

      • by Guignol (159087)
        Maybe examiners realized that the patents system is too complex and by virtue of being able to make self references, there will always be Gödel attack vectors against it, therefore making the effort to validate any patent as worthwhile ultimately vain ?
        ...
        Nah... there must be a simpler explanation :)
    • Patents have a section for the description and setting. This is quoting the description. Patents do not cover everything that's in the description.

      Only Claims are what have legal force, and they always are written as long conditionals from broad to narrow. Claims can be limited by the PTO to apply to situations which are a AND b AND c AND d etc.

    • You are quoting from the "description" section, which is usually fluff.

      The "Claims" section sets out the true patent rights.

      Now, the claims in this patent may also be insanely overbroad. I don't know. I haven't read them.

      I'm just saying that if you want to point out how insanely overbroad a patent is, be sure to quote from the "claims."
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Saturday December 22, 2012 @10:58PM (#42372917)

    This is a really great result, these re-examinations seem to be doing a way better job than I would have expected of actually finding prior art. The loss for Apple, one of the richest companies on earth, of some of these major patents makes me have hope that even without major changes the patent system might work after all.

    Furthermore Apple losing a number of key patents would put a real damper on anyone using them in lawsuits except for the most dire circumstances. That could really take a lot fear out of the overhang where in programming you use really obvious stuff that may run afoul of patents.

    • Just to be clear, there has been no "result" of any kind. Nothing has been won or lost by anyone. This is a front page story about an anonymous request that an Apple patent be reexamined. The summary clearly states that the USPTO won't even make a decision regarding whether to reexamine until next year. This is the definition if a non-story.

  • The patents already invalidated were challenged anonymously too. Why challenge anonymously? I don't see any particular benefit.

    • Re:Why anonymous? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Zontar The Mindless (9002) <plasticfish.info ... m ['gma' in gap]> on Sunday December 23, 2012 @04:18AM (#42373891)

      The patents already invalidated were challenged anonymously too. Why challenge anonymously? I don't see any particular benefit.

      Pretty simple, really. It's so that:

      (a) Apple can't claim on appeal that the USPTO are in cahoots with $apple_competitor, because

      (b) the USPTO can state truthfully that they don't know who filed the challenge to Apple's patent, and thus USPTO will conduct the re-examination based on the merits, and not on the players.

  • Without Steve, Apple will die a slow and messy death. That makes me sad, but it is true.

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