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Input Devices Patents Apple Hardware

Apple Files Patent For New Proprietary Port 282

Posted by Soulskill
from the any-old-port-in-the-storm dept.
rwise2112 writes "Apple proposes a solution to multiple port requirements within limited space: the two in one port. The port is described as a 'Combined Input Port,' where two different interfaces could be in one port. The input port includes an outer wall defining a receiving aperture, a substrate positioned within the receiving aperture. One set of contacts is configured to communicate with a first connector and the second set of contacts is configured to communicate with a second connector. Looks like another addition to the special Apple cable lineup."
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Apple Files Patent For New Proprietary Port

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  • Prior art (Score:5, Informative)

    by AmiMoJo (196126) * <{ten.3dlrow} {ta} {ojom}> on Friday June 28, 2013 @12:01PM (#44134179) Homepage

    Samsung and HTC, and doubtless others, invented this first. My Galaxy S3 has a combined USB, HDMI and audio port. My ancient HTC Hero had a combined USB and audio port. Different connectors used different pins.

    It seems like anything is new and worthy of patenting if it's on a computer, on the internet or on an Apple :-(

    • Re:Prior art (Score:5, Informative)

      by Freshly Exhumed (105597) on Friday June 28, 2013 @12:05PM (#44134259) Homepage

      Combined USB2.0 & eSata port on recent Lenovo notebooks too. Apple's patent diagram resembles it.

      • by uofitorn (804157)
        It's not just Lenovo. My MSI laptop has the same port.
        • My Shuttle case has 1 too.
          • by Tuidjy (321055)

            Young whisper snappers. Twenty years ago, there used to be scanners which could plug into the keyboard, or the serial port, and which needed power on top of that.

            Different vendors used to come up with all sort of crazy ports. I remember one adapter that had on one side, the standard DB9 male with the outer shell split in two and carrying power, and on the other side two separate ports for power and for a keyboard (the pre-ps2, 6 din mini-din, no less)

            The manual made a big deal how the cable could be used

      • All of our Dell laptops at work have the USB/eSATA combo ports

        • by gander666 (723553) *
          Does yours work? Mine (Dell Latitude, 2010 vintage) and now HP Elitebook has this port, and while it will mount up a esata drive, it very quickly stops working. I have to fall back to USB which blows.
      • My Latitude has this one, too.
      • Re:Prior art (Score:5, Informative)

        by TeknoHog (164938) on Friday June 28, 2013 @12:37PM (#44134717) Homepage Journal
        It's called eSATAp [wikipedia.org]. Oddly enough, my current Thinkpad (T410) only has plain eSATA, but I remember a Fujitsu laptop from my 2008 workplace that had the powered one.
      • by Lumpy (12016)

        Recent? I have had Dell laptops with that for 3 years now.

    • I'm not familiar with the S3 or Apple's patent, but a difference might be that they can have one cable that actually plugs in 2 devices (so that both interfaces are in use at the same time), rather than a port that can be used for multiple things, but only one thing at a time.

      • So it's like the three-cinch cable for stereo sound + composite video that I plug into the TV *and* the stereo set?
      • You mean like those eSATA / USB splitters you can find on eBay that allow you to use an eSATAp port for both an externally-powered eSATA drive and a USB device at the same time, that I've been using with my laptop for well over a year? How ingenious...

    • USB 3.0 cables are a marriage of two different connectors.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Hadlock (143607)

      A strong case for this would be the "docking station port" found on the bottom of many business class laptops today from Lenovo, Dell and HP. It's also found on the bottom of the SNES, N64 and Gamecube. The one on the gamecube in particular is used to connect GBAs to the Gamecube as a gamepad.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by gnasher719 (869701)

      Samsung and HTC, and doubtless others, invented this first. My Galaxy S3 has a combined USB, HDMI and audio port. My ancient HTC Hero had a combined USB and audio port. Different connectors used different pins.

      And how is any of these prior art for a combined USB and SD card reader? You don't (or shouldn't) get patents for an idea, you should get patents for a working implementation.

      Even if Apple applied for a patent for a combined USB, HDMI and audio port, as long as it works different from the Samsung implementation, there is no reason why it shouldn't be patented. And there must be another way to implement it, because if there was only one possible way, then Samsung wouldn't have got a patent.

      • Re:Prior art (Score:5, Interesting)

        by QuantumLeaper (607189) on Friday June 28, 2013 @01:33PM (#44135541) Journal
        So patents given to company who move around wires at the end now?
        • by Nyder (754090)

          So patents given to company who move around wires at the end now?

          Apple hasn't be given a patent, they are submitting one.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by jedidiah (1196)

        > as long as it works different from the Samsung implementation, there is no reason why it shouldn't be patented.

        It's trivial and non-novel. Those a both very good reasons to reject it.

        It's the proverbial "mahogany mouse trap".

        Your corporate toady-ism has some very bad side effects.

      • And how is any of these prior art for a combined USB and SD card reader?

        I think it'd be obvious given eSATAp, another combined USB and storage connector.

    • Re:Prior art (Score:5, Informative)

      by Kurast (1662819) on Friday June 28, 2013 @12:37PM (#44134709)

      The patent is only for a specific type of joint connector (not for all of them), and for this type, there is no prior art. The patent, if granted, secures only the schematics/diagrams mentioned in it.

      Even the title being generic, this does not mean they are patenting the abstract idea of combined ports. You have to read the patent to see what it mentions.

      • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Friday June 28, 2013 @12:47PM (#44134887) Homepage
        You're absolutely factually correct, but since this is a story about Apple, patents, and law, we Slashdotters will spend the rest of this discussion raging about prior art, litigation, and monopolies.
        • Re:Prior art (Score:4, Interesting)

          by jedidiah (1196) on Friday June 28, 2013 @02:46PM (#44136379) Homepage

          I trash Tivo for this kind of nonsense all the time and I was an early adopter. The fact that I like their stuff or appreciate that they are an innovator doesn't mean I will cut them any slack for abusive nonsense.

          Beyond that... When you aren't proud of being a moron, you're more likely to realize how unoriginal some stuff is. When you acknowledge more than your single pet brand, you have a broader perspective on things.

      • by wagnerrp (1305589)
        Once someone first came up with the idea of combining two different types of data interfaces into a single hybrid port, wouldn't every single other instance of this be an "obvious" invention, and thus not patentable?
        • nope, otherwise there would only exist 5 patents, wheel, fire, rock, paper, scissors.

          You can't patent vague as much as people try. You can't get a patent where you claim "merge two things into one". The patent office wants to know what the "things" are. Even if you listed every port/card/slot combination, it still would be too vague and refused.

          Also its not about being obvious. Rounded rectangles are obvious yet they were awarded anyways, unfortunately.

          Anybody can extend an idea in a new patent. If the

          • by Culture20 (968837)

            nope, otherwise there would only exist 5 patents, wheel, fire, rock, paper, scissors.

            6 patents: wheel, fire, lever, rock, paper, scissors.
            Erm, 7 patents: wheel, fire, lever, screw, rock, paper, scissors.
            Okay, 9, no Amongst our patents are: wheel, fire, lever, screw, rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock.
            I'll come in again.

      • The patent, if granted, secures only the schematics/diagrams mentioned in it.

        That is incorrect. The patent, if granted, secures whatever is described in the claims. If a claim does not include any mention of the specific type of joint connector, then that specific type is not required to infringe or anticipate the patent. Whatever is described in the figures of the patent is not necessarily part of the claims.

    • by zarmanto (884704)

      ... My Galaxy S3 has a combined USB, HDMI and audio port. My ancient HTC Hero had a combined USB and audio port. ...

      Personally, I doubt that Apple is going to successfully navigate the treacherous waters of "prior art" with this patent application... however, the specific examples of the Galaxy S3 and the HTC Hero do not constitute prior art, because they both use proprietary connectors with break-out cables/adapters to accommodate multiple interfaces. (That's pretty easy to see on Google images of the two devices.) As noted by others in this thread, Apple proposes combining two or more standard ports into the physical

      • Apple proposes combining two or more standard ports into the physical space of a single port, allowing any one (but only one at a time) of the corresponding standard cables to be inserted into that combined port.

        Yeah, just like ESATAp [wikipedia.org]

    • Samsung and HTC, and doubtless others, invented this first. My Galaxy S3 has a combined USB, HDMI and audio port. My ancient HTC Hero had a combined USB and audio port. Different connectors used different pins.

      It seems like anything is new and worthy of patenting if it's on a computer, on the internet or on an Apple :-(

      Technically, the Nook tablets did as well. Although you can plug a stock micro-usb cable into them, the speciality cable that came with the unit penetrated further into the socket and had something like 12 connectors instead of the standard 4. The extra connections lit up the multi-color charge status LED in the cable, but they also informed circuitry within the Nook. A stock micro USB registers as "Not Charging" even when it actually is charging.

  • by fyngyrz (762201) on Friday June 28, 2013 @12:02PM (#44134187) Homepage Journal

    Oh, fuck.

    bad enough every video cable is an adaptor, now what, more? [groans]

  • by Tavor (845700) on Friday June 28, 2013 @12:02PM (#44134189)
    From TFA:

    Apple illustrated the idea with discussion of a USB port and SD card reader, showing how the card reader and USB port could be integrated, but the port could house other interconnects.

    The summary is misleading in so many ways. This is just adding USB to a multi-card reader.

  • Not a new cable. (Score:5, Informative)

    by FellowConspirator (882908) on Friday June 28, 2013 @12:05PM (#44134249)

    Specifically, this port allows either an SD card or USB3 cable to be plugged into the same physical opening. Either will fit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 28, 2013 @12:07PM (#44134293)

    While the submitted made their hatred of all things Apple very clear, they also made clear that their rage obscures their ability to read.
    The patent is clearly for one port that you can plug multiple standard cables into -- so there is no call for the "looks like another addition to the special Apple cable lineup" snark.

    • by Guspaz (556486)

      Right, but the patent was filed in 2011, when the obvious prior art (eSATAp, which combines eSATA and USB ports in a seemingly identical fashion to that described in the patent) has been around since 2008.

      There's nothing wrong with what Apple wants to do with ports. In fact, I think it's a great way to expand connectivity on laptops with minimal space for ports. I've got a Macbook Air that would benefit greatly from this. But there's no justification for trying to patent an idea that has been shipping in la

    • That also fails the prior art test since a lot of audio equipment is equipped with SPDIF ports that have an electrical coax connector shell and a fiberoptic core. So you can plug in either a coax SPDIF digital audio cable or a fiberoptic one. Two well documented standard cables and one port.

  • by arifyn (711614) on Friday June 28, 2013 @12:10PM (#44134347)
    This is just cramming two ports into one space (in the example, SD and USB) so you can add more functionality to the sort of thin & light products that Apple is obsessed with. No need for a "special Apple cable", since the whole point is that it can accept several standard interfaces.
    • And hopefully an indicator that the next iPhone/ iPad will not only allow SD cards but also use a non-proprietary USB3 cable.

      Well, I can dream, can't I?

  • Audio Jack? (Score:2, Informative)

    by wagnerrp (1305589)
    They're describing a plug where you have different contacts at different depths. Push one cable in one depth, and you hit one set of contacts. Push another cable in deeper, and you hit different contacts. How is this any different than a standard audio jack, where you have two or three rings and a center pin? The only difference here is that they're individual contacts, rather than a whole ring.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by TheSpoom (715771)

      The difference is that you have to pay Apple $5 for a license.

      • The difference is that you have to tithe Apple $5 for a license.

        FTFY; the word 'pay' just doesn't seem sanctimonious enough.

        • The difference is that you have to tithe Apple $5 for a license.

          FTFY; the word 'pay' just doesn't seem sanctimonious enough.

          I don't believe you have the correct definition of what "tithe" means.

          • The difference is that you have to tithe Apple $5 for a license.

            FTFY; the word 'pay' just doesn't seem sanctimonious enough.

            I don't believe you have the correct definition of what "tithe" means.

            By golly, you're right - forgot that a tithe is only 1/10th (which, as we all know, is the part Apple doesn't feel entitled to).

            Thanks for the correction!

    • by gstoddart (321705)

      Push one in one depth, and you hit one set of contacts. Push another in deeper, and you hit different contacts.

      So many jokes, so little time ...

  • Dongles (Score:3, Funny)

    by simonbp (412489) on Friday June 28, 2013 @12:15PM (#44134423) Homepage

    What is it with Apple engineers and 1000 different connectors? Do they have a dongle fetish?

    • by Minwee (522556)
      No, but they would sure fork that guy's repo, if you know what I mean.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by gstoddart (321705)

      What is it with Apple engineers and 1000 different connectors? Do they have a dongle fetish?

      No, they have a near-Teutonic obsession with small, neat, and orderly in their designs.

      In the process, they tend to decide that the big honking cables evolved for desktops aren't so useful on small devices and build their own.

      The dongles are just a side effect -- and I'm sure in no small measure a desire to lock into proprietary stuff.

      But I think Apple has always moved forward with new connection technologies -- I th

      • What's smaller than wireless?

        Get rid of the ports and use BT / W-USB / W-HDMI. Use induction charging if you're feeling ambitious.

        Dongles = lock-in + $$, and there's no other way around it.

        • by jedidiah (1196)

          > What's smaller than wireless?

          Wireless sucks. It's SLOW, insecure, and unreliable.

      • The MacBook Air got so thin that it couldn't take the MagSafe charger cable from the rest of the portable line. It now has a slightly thinner version called MagSafe2, and yes you can get an adapter for your older power bricks - it's $10.

        In their defense, Apple is doing what the market tells them to. Every time they take a current design and make it smaller/thinner/lighter, people line up to buy it.

      • I think they were among the first to support USB in an era where PC makers were slavishly doing nothing new because nobody else had done it yet.

        Apple fought USB with their own proprietary connector called Firewire. Firewire was significantly faster than USB, especially at sustained transfers, but it was more expensive to implement because of a combination of the technologies involved and Apple's license fees. Apple ended up abandoning that technology for newer versions of USB and eventually Thunderbolt,

        • by gstoddart (321705)

          Apple fought USB with their own proprietary connector called Firewire.

          I am quite certain the original iMac [wikipedia.org] was pretty much USB only before there was Firewire.

          A few years later when they were introducing Firewire, they definitely shifted over to that.

          But, initially, they introduced machines which had USB in them when it was an add-on and quite uncommon for everything else.

    • Do they have a dongle fetish?

      Hey, that stereotype about Apple customers isn't true!

  • by Above (100351) on Friday June 28, 2013 @12:16PM (#44134433)

    Normally I'm not a fan of the jump on the poster bandwagon, but this title and description could not be more misleading. The patent is on the idea of making one port take two standard connectors. The example used is a USB-or-SD Card physical form factor.

    The design does not use "proprietary port"(s), rather it builds on existing standard port designs.

    The design does not require a "special Apple cable", indeed the entire point is that standards compliant devices (not just cables, but things like SD cards) will just work.

    As to the merits, it seems to me like there is probably prior art, and it may also fail the obviousness test. I'm not sure this is an idea that deserves patent protection. As devices get smaller, thinner, and lighter, I do think this is a great idea to reduce the physical space needed to provide all the ports a user might want.

    • by Guspaz (556486)

      The idea might have deserved patent protection; I don't think you can say it's "obvious" to figure out how to cram multiple connectors into a single port and make them work. There's some neat engineering that goes into making that happen. The problem is that somebody else did it first; eSATAp, which combines eSATA and USB in a single port (and can be used as either an eSATA port, a USB port, or with a special connector that combines the two) predates the patent filing by several years, if nothing else.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by phayes (202222)

        You'd actually have a point if you could plug SD cards into eSATAp ports. The difference in function & design is what renders this patent valid.

        • by Guspaz (556486)

          The patent purports to cover any such combination (see paragraph 54 of the patent), not just USB/SD.

      • by Above (100351)

        I want to point out, the patent goes to some lengths to try and patent the generic concept. The USB-or-SD card example in the patent comes with this disclaimer:

        The foregoing description has broad application. For example, while examples disclosed herein may focus on an input port for receiving a USB plug and a SD card, it should be appreciated that the concepts disclosed herein may equally apply to connectors and plugs. Similarly, although the input port may be discussed with respect to a computer, the devices and techniques disclosed herein are equally applicable to any type of device including an external connector for transferring data and/or power.

        I'm not a patent lawyer to know if in the rest of the description they have narrowed it in some way, but I suspect if they really want to make it that broad there are a few examples of prior art out there to be found. As for obviousness, I can think of a ton of things it would physically trivial to construct. How about a power socket with an RJ11

        • by Guspaz (556486)

          I agree with you that the patent is being intentionally broad (and as such is going to hit prior art), but your examples seem a bit different. Gluing multiple connectors together (the RJ11/power example) or using a single connector with pins in different locations (ethernet/CF) is not quite the same as a port that can accept multiple physically different and otherwise unrelated connectors in the same socket.

          DisplayPort, for example, can act as a single-link DVI port. With a passive adapter, the DP host send

          • by Above (100351)

            Actually, I think the ethernet/CF idea is spot on Apple's diagram in this patent. You'll notice they use two sets of contacts, one for SD, one for USB. In Apple's case they are at different depths, the SD card slides in further by the physical shape of the connector, hitting the deeper contacts.

            Display Port is a bad example because it's one physical port that does two things electrically. Those headphone / AV out jacks on things like camcorders would would be another example. Those concepts are based on

    • As to the merits, it seems to me like there is probably prior art, and it may also fail the obviousness test. I'm not sure this is an idea that deserves patent protection.

      I think it is a very, very obvious idea that you would want a port where you can plug in either a USB connector or an SD card. What I don't know is how difficult it is to make this very obvious idea work. Consider this: It is a very, very obvious idea that it would nice if my car could fly. Does it fly? No. Because it's hard to implement.

      That's actually something that makes it more patent worthy: If there is an obvious need for it, and similar things have already been developed and well accepted, but thi

      • by chromas (1085949)

        you would want a port where you can plug in either a USB connector or an SD card.

        As long as it's a second SD slot so I don't have to contract storage space every time it needs a-chargin'.

        If there is an obvious need for it, and similar things have already been developed and well accepted, but this particular combination isn't available yet, then what's the point?

      • Except patents do not need to be for working hardware. That hasn't been the case for decades (if ever). How else would we have patents on software? There are plenty of patents for flying cars as well. In fact, there are so many that there are enough of them out there that someone did an article about the top 5 recent flying car patents: http://info.articleonepartners.com/top-5-recent-flying-car-patents/ [articleonepartners.com]

        The issue in this case is that it may also be too broad. I havn't read the patent, as I may be in a situ
  • I was rummaging through my cable collection (it fills an entire cabinet because of all the adaptors) and found a bunch of old S-video cables and I remembered that ADB cables were the same as S-video, and how I saved PILES of money by getting standard boring old S video cable instead of the apple branded ADB for the same functionality.

    Can't really do that anymore.

    I wonder if this will combine USB / Thunderbolt / firewire. Please dear god...

  • I think Cisco/Linksys may have some contrary prior art.

    Some Linksys WiFi routers would seen to meet that description. There's a "hidden serial console port" on the WTR-610N WiFi routers for the serial access port. It's on the opposite side of the LAN1 port. You wire a special ethernet connector up with a 4 wire cable on top (tap side) of the ethernet plug and it mates with circuit board contacts giving you a TTL level serial for reprogramming and a controlling console.

    That router has been around for quit

    • by jo_ham (604554) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .999mahoj.> on Friday June 28, 2013 @12:44PM (#44134835)

      That's not what they are doing here. Those sort of "one port, many protocols" thing has been around for a while. What this is, is a design for a port that can accept a standard USB cable or a standard SD card (not both at the same time) into one port, depending which one you needed to use at the time.

      The apple bashing "lolz need a special connector" snark in the summary is nonsense, as usual, but apple bashers typically have their reading comprehension obscured by the fog of hatred. It's funny, because they're often pretty decent with technology and basic reading ability otherwise.

  • Wireless portable devices should be totally wireless. No holes, no connectors, and waterproof. Today's smartphones have radios for GSM, WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS. Some have near-field communications and wireless charging. There's no need for wires.

    I'm amazed that Apple hasn't done this, with their fetish for clean industrial design.

    (Also, the three competing wireless charging standards need to be reduced to one. Then we'll see more public wireless charging pads and tray tables.)

    • Some have near-field communications and wireless charging. There's no need for wires.

      My personal opinion is wireless charging works but isn't great. It does add complexity and cost to a device but at reduced performance. 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac is everywhere: why do servers need Ethernet anyways?

    • Personally I *like* having wired connections for charging, plugging in video out, plugging in headphones, etc.

      There are basically no high-quality bluetooth headphones for listening to music, and can you imagine how long it'll take before every single monitor/tv out there can accept wireless video signals? Also, if you have inductive charging as your only option it immediately makes all of the aftermarket usb chargers useless.

      Now I *would* appreciate ports with waterproof covers/plugs.

  • See the input ports on DVI-D-capable monitors, with contacts for both analog and digital signals. It should also be obvious, contacts can be used for anything so once you have contacts in a connector for one thing it's a simple and straightforward idea to add a few more contacts for another thing. And you have USB charging cables which separate the +5/GND power pins from the D+/D- data pins, hooking power up to provide for charging but ignoring data since it's irrelevant. So yeah, this patent ought to be sm

  • Exactly how is this different from USB 3.0? Or even the Nook Color and Nook Tablet's 12-pin 1.9 amp micro-USB connector that optionally charges at 1.9 amps with the appropriate connector, but regular USB with a 5-pin connector?

    There's lots of prior art.

  • ...right below the main port. The shaft leads directly to the reactor system.
  • A man who was line-camping for the new iPhone is first into the first store stocking the item. He's there even before the employees.

    The Apple Genius shows up looking rushed with a large white suitcase and says "Sorry to disappoint you, but we only have one iPhone to sell today due to the number of them that were pre-ordered online. So you there, first in the line, come with me." He opens the store and gets behind the counter, the man in the line walks up to the counter ready to receive his new phone.

    The Genius pulls a small, sleek black box from behind the counter and hands it to the man. The man runs towards the door and is almost out when he notices the Genius running after him dragging the big suitcase he came in with, yelling:

    Wait! You forgot the cables! [angelo.edu]

  • 1. Everyone knows that it's not really invented unless Apple invents it. When Apple does it, it's a "Coolvention."
    2. All these "pre-existing" devices should expect letters from Apple's lawyers in a short while.

    Okay, with my attempt a mild humor failing so badly, I have to wonder why they are bothering with wires at all. Seems to me, with all this inductive charging and what-not, seems to me various signals could be crammed into a single point of inductive charging. Headphones should be bluetooth. Everyt

  • I'd be shocked if there isn't clear prior art for the patent as written.

    Slightly different, but I think dating even back to the PowerBook days, many Apple laptops have a combined headphone jack (3.5mm) / toslink port. Plug in headphones, they work fine. Plug in an optical audio cable, it works fine.

  • What would be really useful is a single port that combined:

    USB (all flavors)
    SDCard
    iPod30PinConnector
    Thunderbolt

    This would provide excellent backward compatibility. It's a shame each time they upgrade the connector to have to throw away your external devices (e.g., BMW car).

    Apple could do a LOT better at legacy support.

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