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Apple Patents Wireless Charging 253

GabriellaKat writes "Via El Reg: 'Apple is trying to patent wireless charging, claiming its magnetic resonance tech is new and that it can do it better than anyone else. This would be cool if its assertions were true. Apple's application, numbered 20120303980, makes much of its ability to charge a device over the air at a distance of up to a meter, rather than requiring close proximity. The Alliance For Wireless Power, which also touts long-range juicing, will no doubt be comparing Apple's designs to its own blueprints.'"
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Apple Patents Wireless Charging

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  • Worlds Gone Mad (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Big Hairy Ian ( 1155547 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @06:05AM (#42177347)
    Haven't they seen that there are already wireless charging standards???
    • by Leinad177 ( 2708661 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @06:07AM (#42177353)
      "Good Artists Copy, Great Artists Steal"
    • Re:Worlds Gone Mad (Score:4, Informative)

      by Issarlk ( 1429361 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @06:07AM (#42177357)
      Your point being?
    • Re:Worlds Gone Mad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mwvdlee ( 775178 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @06:10AM (#42177369) Homepage

      It really doesn't matter if it's been invented before or whether it's original or in fact even an invention at all. Indeed none of the rules that should apply to patents actually apply to patents.
      All that matters is that the overworked patent-checking drone at the patent office puts hit stamp of approval on it and you're ready to retroactively sue anybody into a settlement deal.

      • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @06:31AM (#42177457)
        Great. With a bit of luck my new pending patent "Wheel" is on the way to be approved.
        • by sFurbo ( 1361249 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @06:35AM (#42177481)
          That could work [], though having a patent as prior art might make it easy enough top find that even a patent clerk can.
          • That's the problem - all the patent clerks are too busy trying to overturn our views of space and time to do any patent clerking...if only Einstein had worked as a lawyer instead...
          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Theaetetus ( 590071 )

            That could work [], though having a patent as prior art might make it easy enough top find that even a patent clerk can.

            FUD. That wasn't a patent as we understand them. Australia implemented a registration-only system a few years back. There's no examination and no presumption of validity or novelty. All you get is a filing date.

        • by dimeglio ( 456244 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @07:03AM (#42177599)

          If it's a better wheel, I'm really excited but I've got a feeling you're being sarcastic.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @07:11AM (#42177627)

          Great. With a bit of luck my new pending patent "Wheel" is on the way to be approved.

          Apple has the patent, it's called the continuous rounded unicorner.

          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Anonymous Coward

            You forgot to include "for mobile devices". That's why their claim is valid.

        • You jest but there was an Australian patent [] granted for a "Circular Transportation Facilitation Device" in 2001.
        • by flappinbooger ( 574405 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @08:17AM (#42177883) Homepage

          Great. With a bit of luck my new pending patent "Wheel" is on the way to be approved.

          call it the iWheel and make it look all hip and trendy and you might have a chance there.

          Just not too hip and trendy or Apple might whine about it and sue you.

        • Re:Worlds Gone Mad (Score:5, Insightful)

          by CastrTroy ( 595695 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @09:58AM (#42178473) Homepage
          I'm sure there are lots of patents on wheels. With a little bit of thought, you could probably come up with a lot of ways to make wheels perform better in certain situations, such as having more strength for less mass. Just a quick search yielded a bicycle wheel [] patented in 2002. But that's OK, with me, because its' a specific way of arranging the spokes, more precisely, with spokes from each side meeting at the same place on the rim. Anybody else is free to use the old method of arranging the spokes. That's also why I'm fine with this Apple wireless charging patent. It describes a specific method of charging devices wirelessly. None of the old methods infringe because they don't use the same method. Anything you, or I can come up with that improves on their method is also not in violation of the patent. Sure Apple has some stupid patents, but this isn't one of them.
          • Anything you, or I can come up with that improves on their method is also not in violation of the patent.

            Well, that's wrong. If I patent removing expired timestamped hash table keys while traversing them during a lookup operation, and you patent the same thing but also after removing the keys you add them to a "free list" then that's the very definition of "infringing" my patent. Improving on someone's method while their patent is valid is an infringement. This means patents stifle innovation. DERP!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        How are they going to sue Nikola Tesla? Cad of a man, inventing the whole damned concept 100 years ago.

        • Re:Worlds Gone Mad (Score:5, Interesting)

          by l3v1 ( 787564 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @09:43AM (#42178357)
          - U.S. Patent 0,685,954 - Method of Utilizing Effects Transmitted through Natural Media - 1899 August 1
          - U.S. Patent 0,685,953 - Apparatus for Utilizing Effects Transmitted from a Distance to a Receiving Device through Natural Media - 1899 June 24
          and so on and so forth (
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Standards are for losers. Winners force proprietary systems into the market to further enhance their dominance.

    • Re:Worlds Gone Mad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @06:56AM (#42177561)

      The fact that there are wireless standards doesn't mean no-one can come up with a new way of doing this, and subsequently patenting it. Also they do not patent "wireless charging" which, in itself, would be hard to patent - they patent a method of wireless charging using some magnetic coupling trick. And they claim they have a new way of doing this, and as such it may very well be innovative and patentable.

      But well, like the summary and your outright uninformed comment the rest of the discussion here will be "patent troll hurr hurr". The first few comments that I see here are already like that, predicably.

      I skimmed through the patent text, can't tell what is new and what is old. That part would require quite some deeper study, and requires understanding of the whole field. Sensationalism like from El Reg and copied by Slashdot is simply stupid. If you have read and understand the patent, and there is nothing in it that was not invented yet at the application date, please come back and let me know exactly why the patent is faulty. Please also send the same comments to the patent office, so this application may be rejected.

      • Re:Worlds Gone Mad (Score:4, Insightful)

        by mrbester ( 200927 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @07:11AM (#42177625) Homepage

        "That part would require quite some deeper study, and requires understanding of the whole field."

        Something the patent office never claims to have, even when presented with it. So this will get approved and the merry-go-round can start again.

        • The patent office of course can not hire experts in every single field. Vetting patents is difficult, and with technology getting more and more advanced it's getting harder to know all the little details. Having them know everything there is to know about everything, that's impossible and not reasonable.

          The way it should work (don't know actual practice) is that if there is a real issue of not being innovative, then third parties may notify the patent office of just that, including relevant references and e

          • The patent office of course can not hire experts in every single field.

            No, the way it should work is that to get your patent approved you must pay for the patent office to hire two independent 3rd party groups who are individuals skilled in the art -- The first group you ask: "Is this obvious and why", the second you ask, "I have this specific problem and I want you to try to solve it", e.g., "Come up with a solution for wireless charging at greater distances". If the first group shows them the patent is obvious then that's it's not patentable. If the second group comes up w

            • Re:Worlds Gone Mad (Score:4, Insightful)

              by Americano ( 920576 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @12:23PM (#42180215)

              The disparity between hundreds of dollars to apply for patents and millions to invalidate patents should tell you the system is designed to fuck over the little guy they claim to help protect.

              And in what way does this fix ("you want a patent? Great, the fee is $5 million, we take cash or bank check, no personal checks please!") not "fuck over the little guy"?

              The "little guy" doesn't have a few million dollars laying around to spend on ramming his patent application through. Your proposed "fix" would simply enshrine the notion that unless you're a big multinational with a billion dollar bankroll, you can't innovate, so don't even bother.

              While I agree that patents are probably too easily granted, your proposed solution doesn't really do much to foster innovation and open the field up to "the little guy." Every little guy without a giant bankroll will automatically be at a disadvantage.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kenorland ( 2691677 )

        There's nothing technically new in Apple's patent. What the patent is about is using a well-known wireless charging technique to charge a wireless powered local computing environment (as opposed to some other kind of device).

        Apple basically missed the boat on wireless power, and now they are trying to grab whatever ridiculous patent they can to have a little bit of leverage.

        Hopefully, the rest of the industry will tell them to go take a hike on making compliant products, and then sue Apple into oblivion for

      • But well, like the summary and your outright uninformed comment the rest of the discussion here will be "patent troll hurr hurr".

        Assuming it was NOT some form of patent trolling would be the uninformed opinion. The context of the patent may matter more than the specifics of the patent.

        Is it a patent covering mobile technology? Yes? Then odds are it's going to be used not to protect innovation that the holder invested in, but rather to punish those people who actually ARE making advances in technology and daring to sell it, or is going to be used to try to stifle competition without actually offering a better product. Or, in oth

    • Re:Worlds Gone Mad (Score:5, Insightful)

      by subreality ( 157447 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @06:56AM (#42177565)

      Sure, but patents are for methods, not ideas. I don't know if this patent is a legitimately a new method for wireless charging, but it doesn't matter if other techniques already exist.

    • Re:Worlds Gone Mad (Score:5, Informative)

      by louic ( 1841824 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @07:03AM (#42177593)
      Resonant wireless energy transfer was published in Science in 2007 []
    • I have not looked at the patent application, but based on the description, it appears to me that Apple is trying to patent something similar to what WiTricity [] is doing, rather than what Tesla has demonstrated. From the WiTricity wiki:

      Unlike the far field wireless power transmission systems based on traveling electro-magnetic waves, WiTricity employs near field resonant inductive coupling through magnetic fields similar to those found in transformers except that the primary coil and secondary winding are physically separated, and tuned to resonate to increase their magnetic coupling. These tuned magnetic fields generated by the primary coil can be arranged to interact vigorously with matched secondary windings in distant equipment but far more weakly with any surrounding objects or materials such as radio signals or biological tissue.

    • I guess actual products like the Palm Touchstone were just figments of my imagination.

    • Re:Worlds Gone Mad (Score:4, Insightful)

      by jythie ( 914043 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @10:32AM (#42178775)
      They are not trying to patent wireless charging, they are trying to patent a particular technology for doing so.

      This isn't even a software patent.. if it is legit then this is more in line with patents historically covered, physical implementable technological advancements.
  • Crystal Radio (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Wow. In the first claim, they actually claimed a patent on a Crystal Radio. OK - they added the bit about detuning the receiver to identify it to the transmitter, but that technique has been used in just about every RFID product in existence.

    Does the USPTO actually employ anyone with an IQ above 50?

    • by TFAFalcon ( 1839122 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @06:29AM (#42177445)

      Yes, he's the guy collecting the patent fees.

      • by Dunbal ( 464142 ) *
        The guy spending the fees you mean. The collector doesn't need to be smart. In fact it's best if he's not, otherwise he can start to get creative - one for me, one for you, one for me....
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by wvmarle ( 1070040 )

      Are there any AC's with an IQ above 50? This is probably the stupidest comment that I have seen here. If you have no clue whatsoever on how patents work, refrain from making these comments. Not all claims have to be unique and innovative, they just describe the complete working and outline of a device.

      • Re:Crystal Radio (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @07:59AM (#42177833)

        Have you ever filed a patent? Each individual claim MUST be novel (unique) and not be obvious.

        In this case, they slapped two aspects together in one claim, which I suppose does make that claim unique (combination of tuned energy coupling, and reverse comms channel by RF load). But is it non-obvious? Marconi himself observed that variations in the receiver could be observed at the transmitter, To any person versed in the field, this would qualify the combination of the two as 'obvious' and hence invalid.

        And yes, I have filed patents (but only in semiconductor physics), and I have built RF powered bidirectional comms devices. And I also 'discovered' that tuning the coils improved energy transfer. And I also detuned the receiver to communicate back to the transmitter. But did I file a patent on it? NO. Why not? Because there was nothing novel in what I did. (And believe me - the university's IP people would have definitely required that I file, if even one person at the department thought it was in any way patentable.

        • But did I file a patent on it? NO. Why not? Because there was nothing novel in what I did.

          Yep, I do the same thing. The idea of patents is inherently flawed deeply in many aspects; One of which is that the examiners are expected to funnel the entire world of innovation through their tiny minds in a tiny window of time. Sadly, they can't even effectively search their own patent databases despite the fact that the technology to do so exist... To say nothing of the world wide web -- THAT is our "unpatentable prior art database" and should be where they search for prior art, but they don't.

          If y

    • Does the USPTO actually employ anyone with an IQ above 50?

      The following patent US51612443 for employing people with IQ above 50 is actually owned by Apple.

      A method and system for selecting any new candidate through coded intelligence quotient points by repeating steps E & F until displaying logically progressively trying more candidates having the said quotient above limit prescribed in step A.

  • Patent Troll (Score:2, Insightful)

    by fufufang ( 2603203 )

    Is any of Apple's current product capable of wireless charging? Did they develop any of the technology, as in doing the research?

    • These days patents are only used for stopping others from doing something.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by KillaBeave ( 1037250 )

      Is any of Apple's current product capable of wireless charging? Did they develop any of the technology, as in doing the research?

      Nah. The new Lumia and Nexus 4 can do wireless charging. Those happen to be Microsoft and Google's flagship phones. Apple's phones don't do it yet, so they want to sue this competitive disadvantage out of existence. I guess they are unable to compete otherwise ...

      If you own AAPL ... it may be time to start selling it off and taking your gains.

  • Let me fire up my somewhat used Tesla coil.
  • by ipquickly ( 1562169 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @06:57AM (#42177569) Homepage

    My money is on:
    Apple 'Reality Distortion Field'.

    • by asylumx ( 881307 )

      My money is on: Apple 'Reality Distortion Field'.

      I think Fox News may have them beat with prior art...

  • by PolygamousRanchKid ( 1290638 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @07:24AM (#42177673)

    You know, just pop them in the microwave @1000 Watts for five minutes, and they are then fully charged. You have to remember to turn off the device first.

    We already have microwavable popcorn, and microwave ovens can also be used to warm small pets, and almost every household has one already. US military specs probably already require microwave proof equipment, so those components could be used. All you need to do is to make a battery that can be charged by microwaves. Well, it sure will get hot in the oven, so maybe the heat will help somehow. Batteries always get hot when charging, so it's the heat that charges.


    But please don't tell Apple! They will patent the idea! And then we will all have to buy iWaveOvens to charge our devices!

    • by Xacid ( 560407 )

      While I know this is in jest...there's some strange appeal to this concept.

    • You're not far off the mark. You can easily send 1000W of power via microwaves with 0 new technology. The last time I saw it one of the space elevator university teams was using a microwave oven with a hole in the door and a rectifying antenna to get more then enough power to run their machine up a rope.

  • I know for sure that there have been body-implantable MEMS devices described in scientific articles dating back to the early '90s. I cannot believe Apple can get a patent on something so old and, at this pint, so obvious.

    I am starting to suspect that the USPTO is biased pro-Apple

  • by queazocotal ( 915608 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @07:57AM (#42177819)

    This would require a fairly large 'transmit' antenna.
    The problems with near field charging are well known.
    The field cannot be focussed effectively, due to the nature of the magnetic field.
    the field production efficiency is limited by the size and weight of the transmitter.
    Every metal object in the field (which may extend behind/underneath the charger) will 'short out' the field, and take some energy.
    Resonance is not magic in any way at all.

    For every arrangement of coils, and random debris (keys, ...) in the way, there will be an optimum frequency that results in smallest loss.

    As an analogy - you're trying to power a device by jumping up and down on a trampoline, and having a reciever of that motion somewhere on the trampoline.

    Other large masses will disrupt the bouncing, and reduce the fraction of power going into your device.

  • by Grayhand ( 2610049 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @07:57AM (#42177821)
    Without thoroughly reading their patent application it's impossible to know if there's an actual innovation involved. Although he wasn't charging batteries Tesla was using this process to power devices and over a greater distance than Apple. There's no proof his power transmission tower was ever operational but he was powering a type of florescent light in his workshop using a wireless power source very close to what they just patented. My concern is the process was well known for over a hundred years. I know there were plans to build a length of roadway with embedded coils in LA to power electric cars a couple of decades ago. Multiple car companies have discussed charging cars in garages using this process. Doesn't common knowledge fall under prior art? The equipment may be patentable but the process itself should not be given how established the concept has been for a very long time. It's a little like patenting a process for extracting electricity using photons to split off electrons when photovoltaic cells date back to the 1800s. Long established concepts and processes should not be patentable.
  • I am going to patent 'obnoxious patenting' and sue Apple for all its worth. Gonna buy me a shiny new jury foreman too. Oh the world is not enough!
  • All posts will have the words "patent" and "Apple".

    ... Well except for the crudely disguised ads.

  • Can we please stop giving apple patents to things that have long since existed?
    Whoever is working the patent offices that keeps giving Apple the OK needs to be fired. Now.
  • by Kergan ( 780543 ) on Tuesday December 04, 2012 @10:45AM (#42178915)

    It seems to me that the actual claims [] and subsequent description are on (1) a method to wirelessly charge devices, with one device serving as secondary power source source for another device if needed, and with devices up to a meter away from the primary and secondary power sources; (2) a method that improves the efficiency of charging high capacity batteries as a bonus from the circuit needed to do (1); and (3) using (1) and (2) to charge a mouse and keyboard (explicit in the claims). Evidently, (1) and (2) could also be used to charge phones and tablets in an office environment too.

    At any rate, I merely scanned the patent, but contrary to what TFS and TFA suggest, Apple didn't patent wireless charging, or even long range wireless charging. What Apple patented is cooperative and efficient wireless charging of a network of devices; in particular of peripherals located on a desk. I presume that plenty of researchers are working on the same kind of stuff, but assuming it hadn't been done yet, nobody can argue with a straight face that this patent is without merits.

    • The innovative part of the claim is actually to have the computer send power to a one device then have that device in turn send some of that power to one or more other devices.

      The main benefit is that you can support multiple wireless devices and only one of them needs to be within range of the main charger.

  • I didn't have time to read the full patent since I'm at work, but in the Background section of the patent, Apple cites a scientific publication from 2008 that describes the technique for this wireless charging system. The rest of the patent appears to describe using this technology "in a computing environment". So basically, Apple is describing the process of slapping someone else's technology into a computer and preventing anyone else, including the original discoverers of this technology, from doing thi
  • It's been more than 10 years that some of us have tried very hard to give the /.-community a basic education in patent law. And yet, for the umpteenth time, confusion reigns above good sense.
    1. It is an application [only / yet]
    2. What matters legally are only the claims.

    "A battery charging circuit, comprising: a first node arranged to receive wirelessly provided power; a short term charge storage device having a first charge capacity; and a long term storage device having a second charge capacity, wherein t

  • Apple once again, re-invents someone elses ideas, sells it to hipsters, makes fortune, then uses than money on PR to write themselves in the history books as this great creating force.

    History repeats itself?

The shortest distance between two points is under construction. -- Noelie Alito