patent

Next Windows Phone 8 device or just the Lumia 719?

We’ve already seen one Nokia patent application for a design of a new Windows Phone that looked a lot like the alleged ‘Phi’. Now a second design has come forward dated for August 21st, also revealing what maybe the next low to mid-range Lumia phone. Or is it just an old one?

Not much can be garnered from the images though it does look a bit like the leaked ALPS images for a recent screen bezel/digitizer. The phone to our eyes looks like a cross between the Lumia 610 and 710. (Update: Actually, it's a dead ringer for the Lumia 719).

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We're already aware of the result for the Apple versus Samsung US patent battle, which left Samsung with a $1 billion bill. It really couldn't have gone worse for the smartphone manufacturer who has interest in both Android and Windows Phone (the penalty phase returns on September 20th though). Google remained fairly quiet on the front, but has released a statement that details an expected stance on the court results.

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The Nokia Phi as seen by the USPTO

Adding to the earlier news about the new Nokia phone, codename ‘Phi’ coming to AT&T, the site Liveside have managed to uncover a new patent filing that appears to reveal the new device in submitted drawings.

At first brush, the device looks a lot like the Lumia 800 and 900 but upon closer inspection, it matches nearly to the ‘t’ the previous images of the Phi that were leaked out earlier this month.

One immediate item that we noticed is the screen is not curved. Although the Verge this morning mentioned this as a feature, from the images and bezel leak that we’ve seen, curved glass does not appear to be a feature and these drawings confirm that notion.

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In the ongoing saga between Samsung and Apple, documents came out late last night from the court case that detailed a proposal by Apple to charge Samsung for royalties on their smartphones.

It’s interesting for a few reasons. For one, Apple almost never enters into cross-platform patent royalty deals with other companies, specifically if it is tied to any of their “product differentiating” technologies. Back in 2010 though, Apple was willing to make an exception to this with Samsung because they are a major parts supplier for Cupertino and they wanted to preserve that relationship. Apple was also “shocked” at just how much Samsung was willing to allegedly copy the iPhone.

In the documents, Apple spells out some license terms it was willing to offer Samsung back in October 2010—just a few weeks before Windows Phone 7 became available.  Although Android was offered a $24-per-device royalty fee, which yes, is extremely high, Apple evidently also wanted $9 per ‘Windows Mobile 7’ device as well.

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Our audience is smart enough to know that no electronic system of communication is impervious to eavesdropping and there’s very little out there that’s near 100% secure. So it should come as no surprise that Skype is getting some publicity of its internal network restructuring that started occurring once Microsoft acquired the company last year.

The charge: Microsoft is reconfiguring the Skype network so that it Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA) can have access to intercept calls over the network to aid in investigations.

The reality is of course convoluted with no concrete evidence but it’s worth mentioning what exactly is going on here. So head past the break to get the scoop.

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The human race enjoys shoving plastic and metal into (or around) the ear, but a new patent shows just what Microsoft had in mind to make this more enjoyable for those who listen to music while on the go. Think headphones, think Zune, now think of both of those connected as one, slapped on top of your skull.

As one can see in the above image, the headphones enable the user to connect a Zune music player to the side, while the opposite connector is free for rechargeable battery packs, storage extensions, WiFi adapters, and more. The Zune device looks to be a fairly minute music player, presumably along the dimensions of the Apple iPod Nano.

According to the documentation, the headphones could also house controls to operate peripherals, not to mention an optional microphone and even USB ports. It's an interesting concept that allows the consumer to personalise the headphones to suit the individual needs.

The only downside is this patent was filled back in 2008 and we know that Zune hardware is no longer with us. Who knows, perhaps Microsoft also planned to include voice control - "Beam me up Ballmer!"

Source: Engadget, via: Being Manan

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Motorola has been granted an injunction on Microsoft products being sold in Germany. The Xbox 360, Windows OS, Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player will all fall under the ban, should it be put into place. The injunction follows a ruling claiming the software giant had infringed two Motorola patents required to support H.264 video coding and playback.

An official statement from Motorola reads the following:

"We are pleased that the Mannheim Court found that Microsoft products infringe Motorola Mobility's intellectual property. As a path forward, we remain open to resolving this matter. Fair compensation is all that we have been seeking for our intellectual property."

According to reports, this is just one of several cases involving around 50 properties owned by the smartphone manufacturer. Microsoft has stated that should the software giant meet the demands of Motorola an annual bill would be in the region of $4bn (£2.5bn). The manufacturer has denied this claim.

A statement from Microsoft has been published, which highlights how the company will look to appeal the decision.

"This is one step in a long process, and we are confident that Motorola will eventually be held to its promise to make its standard essential patents available on fair and reasonable terms for the benefit of consumers who enjoy video on the web. Motorola is prohibited from acting on today's decision, and our business in Germany will continue as usual while we appeal this decision and pursue the fundamental issue of Motorola's broken promise."

Motorola cannot enforce the ruling made by the German courts until a Seattle-based judge lifts a restraining order. This restriction was put in place by Microsoft after it claimed Motorola was actively abusing its Frand-committments (pact to license innovations required for widely used technologies under "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" terms). A hearing is to be held on May 7th.

Source: BBC

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This morning, Microsoft announced a new partnership with Barnes & Noble for their eReader business having settled the previous litigation on claimed patent infringement.

The new subsidiary of Barnes & Noble called Newco (not the real name, just a placeholder to be determined later) will focus on the digital and college business of the company. Microsoft is investing $300 million into the venture and will maintain a 17.6% equity stake in the new company.

Of course it should come as no surprise that a NOOK eReader will be one of the first priorities of the nw partnership with a client for Windows 8 in the works. Barnes & Noble commented on the newly announced deal noting:

“The formation of Newco and our relationship with Microsoft are important parts of our strategy to capitalize on the rapid growth of the NOOK business, and to solidify our position as a leader in the exploding market for digital content in the consumer and education segments,” said William Lynch, CEO of Barnes & Noble. “Microsoft’s investment in Newco, and our exciting collaboration to bring world-class digital reading technologies and content to the Windows platform and its hundreds of millions of users, will allow us to significantly expand the business.”

Although lots of pundits like to criticize Microsoft for "patent trolling" others would claim that the company is looking out for their shareholder's interest by defending what they see as their intellectual property. Despite this, some saw in B&N as standing up to Microsoft, fighting them publicly in the matter. Instead, B&N made a deal with the devil perhaps even angering Google along the way (Android powers the new Nook eReader).

Either way, Microsoft's strategy seems to be paying off for although B&N does not have to admit any guilt for the claimed violations, they clearly were forced to the table for what looks to be an exciting deal for both companies. In fact, this could be the lifeline the fading book retailer needs in its life and death struggle with adversary Amazon.com.

No mention of a Windows Phone client has been announced which has been missing since Windows Mobile and the HTC HD2. However, rumors suggest that Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 are based on the same kernel and have large amounts of overlapping code. As a result the announcement of a Windows 8 client may in fact be a dual one for Windows Phone.

Regardless, you can imagine B&N will be getting some favorable treatment from Microsoft in the future. Something that Apple and Google will have trouble in matching. For this, we' very excited by this deal (even if we're Kindle fans here).

Full press release after the break...

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Nokia was reacently granted a patent (D655,698) with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in early March for a new smartphone "ornamental" design . What makes the filing interesting though is that it seemingly matches what appears to be prototypes from a supposed Nokia promotional video leaked last August (see stills below).

At the time, that video and phones shown within, were thought to be fake but alas, they happen to look exactly like those now revealed in the granted patent. You want more? As pointed out by LiveSide.net, the day that promo video hit the internet, August 10th, was the same day that the patent was filed.

That certainly makes things a bit interesting.

No doubt Nokia has more deigns in the works for their new Windows Phone line up. The USPTO images clearly show the typical Windows Phone buttons on the right hand side: Volume, Power and camera, matching that of their Lumia 610, 800 and 900 devices (the 710 has power on the top). What remains to be seen, however, is whether this is low-end, mid-range or high-end device, assuming it ever gets made.

Watch the pulled Nokia promo video after the break...

Source: USPTO; via MyNokiaBlog, LiveSide.net, Nokiaport.de

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Compal, a Taiwanese manufacturer, has signed a patent deal with Microsoft that will see the company pay the software giant licensing fees on sold Android and Chrome products. Compal now joins Samsung, HTC, Acer and Viewsonic in Microsoft's patent portfolio licensing handbook.

Microsoft continues to work with manufacturers directly with regards to IP licensing, which could further increase the likelihood of them looking at Windows Phone more seriously. With the platform turning one year old, more revenue from patent licensing can possibly mean increased investment in development.

Source: CNET

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Apple is continuing the patent war with a new updated entry of the "In-App Purchasing" application they filed back in April of 2010. This update appears to cover most functionality of present app stores that allow the user to purchase additional content within an app. What's more is the patent also covers variations on the process, including the use of HTML 5 web apps.

Let's not forget that the previous Apple trademark injunction against Amazon for "App Store" was declined due to being too broad of a term. Is in-app purchasing really something that Apple patent? What do you guys think?

Source: The Inquisitor

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Apple denied Multitouch trademark

In an interesting ruling just handed down last week from the USPTO, Apple has been denied the usage of the term "Multi-Touch" as a trademark, at least in the United States (they're still arguing for it in other countries).

In short, the reason for the denial is that the term has become to generic and is merely descriptive of a feature but does not meet the criteria of "acquired distinctiveness", which is determined by such things as sales success, length and exclusivity of use, and advertising expenditures. Evidently, the ruling board did not think Apple met the requirements, which is an interesting if not surprising decision. For everyone else in the smartphone business, they can now breathe a little lighter knowing "Multi-Touch" as a term is not Apple owned.

Note: For clarification, Apple still has a patent on Multitouch, but not the trademark.

Source: MacRumors

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Good news for Microsoft as their patent for the Metro UI, filed under "Visual motion for user interface feedback", has been approved by the USPTO. The patent was originally filed in early 2010 but finally approved on August 18th. We're still waiting on the official patent number to appear, which we're told usually takes a few days to be generated and listed--for now we have the issue date within the application itself. From the application abstract comes a very abstract description of the UI:

"Aspects of a user interface that provides visual feedback in response to user input. For example, boundary effects are presented to provide visual cues to a user to indicate that a boundary in a movable user interface element (e.g., the end of a scrollable list) has been reached. As another example, parallax effects are presented in which multiple parallel or substantially parallel layers in a multi-layer user interface move at different rates, in response to user input. As another example, simulated inertia motion of UI elements is used to provide a more natural feel for touch input. Various combinations of features are described. For example, simulated inertia motion can be used in combination with parallax effects, boundary effects, or other types of visual feedback. "

This is of course a welcomed approval as Microsoft gets to use Metro on the Xbox, Windows 8 and Windows Phone without fear that someone can come along and just lift it. This extra protection is especially important in this case since one could argue 'Metro' is the new look and feel of Microsoft and with it being so successful for them, it stands that they would want it protected. All we know is we're glad we don't have to write up patent applications. Eghads that's boring.

Source: USPTO (patent application) via Tweakers.net; Thanks, Sander G., for the tip!

Update: We did a little more digging on this based on your comments.  The patent process is about as confusing as the way the some of the applications are written.  The August 18, 2011 date could have meant two things, approval or publication.  A delay between approval and assigning a patent number is not uncommon and it appeared as if the date was an approval date.

In discussing this with a patent agent, we have confirmed that the date is the publication date.  The application has now been docketed for examination and prosecution.  The USPTO will review the sixteen claims from Microsoft and basically rule whether or not Microsoft has a legitimate claim on these inventions.  There is no time frame on the examination and prosecution but it is usually lengthy and solely at the discretion of the USPTO as to how fast things roll.

So, for now, Microsoft hasn't been awarded the patent on Metro UI but is one step closer on what could be a very lengthy journey.

 

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We're almost over this whole Google/Microsoft catfight that's been happening. Almost. While good theater, it's not really solving any problems nor addressing them and it makes both companies look bad. Of course we'll start the blame with Google, who's original missive was more PR than anything and most agree, poorly planned.

Last night, Microsoft seemingly pulled the rug from underneath Google by noting they offered the search company a role in the Novell patent purchase. Google turned them down and didn't bother revealing any of this info in the original post, which was deceptive at best.

We'll save the rest for the break...

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Earlier this evening we wrote in an acerbic tone how Google was complaining about being bullied by other companies over patents. Specifically, they pointed to the 6,000 Nortel patents that were up for bid and ended up going to a consortium of buyers, including Apple and Microsoft for $4.5 billion. Google was the only one left out of the consortium, they cried foul and now are excited about the Department of Justice getting involved.

In comments, we noted that Google should expect some people to hit back. After all, that post by Google's Chief Law Officer did not advocate patent reform, propose any new legislation or offer any solutions--it just complained that they were being targeted and that these software patents were "bogus" (this from the company that is entirely built on software patents).

Now Microsoft's General Counsel, Brad Smith, chimed in with an interesting comment on Twitter:

"Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no."

That sounds a bit different than how Google portrayed themselves in their blog post. One could suggest that Smith is not being entirely truthful here, but it seems odd that he would put himself out there with something that could easily be proved false in court.

So what's the deal Google? Are you serious about patent reform or are you seeking opportunism?

Update: Here's a copy of the email to Brad Smith of MSFT from Kent Walker, Google's General Counsel. In short, it supposedly shows Google denying an offer to participate in the consortium. 

Source: Twitter; via Electronista; Thanks, Rene Ritchie

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A few weeks ago, Google was involved in bidding for 6,000 patents being offered by Nortel, which many thought if Google should win, would beef up their defense against patent litigation. Instead, they lost to a consortium of Apple, Microsoft, RIM, Sony, EMC and Ericsson for $4.5 billion. Basically everyone won except Google. At the time this story was spun two ways:

  1. Nortel's patent were old, outdated and not worth the money for Google
  2. Google wasn't taking it seriously, with Reuters calling their behavior "mystifying" because their bids reflected famous mathematical constants (Brun's, Meissel-Mertens and Pi). Yes, Google actually bid Pi ($3.14159 billion). So in an attempt to be cute and witty, they lost.

After all the gnashing of teeth by tech analysts, who kept pounding Google on their lack of patent strategy, Google has come out with some name calling and accusations of their own:

"But Android’s success has yielded something else: a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents.

They’re doing this by banding together to acquire Novell’s old patents (the “CPTN” group including Microsoft and Apple) and Nortel’s old patents (the “Rockstar” group including Microsoft and Apple), to make sure Google didn’t get them; seeking $15 licensing fees for every Android device; attempting to make it more expensive for phone manufacturers to license Android (which we provide free of charge) than Windows Mobile; and even suing Barnes & Noble, HTC, Motorola, and Samsung. Patents were meant to encourage innovation, but lately they are being used as a weapon to stop it."

That's David Drummond, Senior VP and CLO of Google, who can't even get that's its called Windows Phone, not Mobile. Further, he notes the reported Justice Department's probe into whether or not that Nortel consortium was fair. Of course, such a probe is a far way off from meaning those companies are guilty of anything. In fact, nothing has been settled in regards to whether or not Android violates patents, uses lifted code, etc.

In the case of Microsoft, who's leaned on HTC and now Samsung for patent fees, both companies are willing to play ball either because they feel those patent claims are indefensible or, more likely, that's it's cheaper to license to Microsoft than defend in court. But hey, it's not like Google/YouTube don't screw with Microsoft either.

In the end, we don't have anything new here except that Google is really starting to feel the pain from other companies, hence the 'boo hoo, tech is hard!' post from Drummond. Is Microsoft's, Apple's and others behavior legal, moral and right? That's for the courts to decide, not missives from company blogs.

Edit: Recommended reading: FossPatent's "Google's new anti-patent stance has four credibility issues -- but not the one many people think"

Source: The Official Google Blog

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An initial ruling against HTC by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) is evidently starting to have ripple effects. The case was brought by Apple, who is accusing HTC of infringing upon 10 patents of which the ITC found HTC to be violating two. Two caveats: the ITC's ruling is preliminary and not final but, Apple just needs to win on one patent infringement claim to potentially halt imports by HTC into the U.S. [Read Nilay Patel's excellent piece at ThisIsMyNext]

The patents in question seem specifically tied to the Android OS and other firms seem to be taking notice. According to 21st Century Business Herald, based in China:

"Some of these vendors worry about the risk of becoming embroiled in patent infringement due to adoption of Android, and have drawn up three strategies to cope with potential impact. The three strategies are enhancement of support to Microsoft Mango operating system, promotion of smartphone customization by mobile telecom carriers for protection through binding common interest (especially carriers partnering with Apple and Microsoft), self-development of own operating systems, the source pointed out. China-based smartphone vendors Huawei Device and ZTE have planned to adopt Mango, the source indicated."

That's a very interesting paragraph. For one, Huawei is not yet a key partner of Microsoft for Windows Phone--so that's potentially new (even though it will matter more for Eastern markets). Second, we're evidently starting to see OEMs start to make contingency plans if these lawsuits continue to go forward. The reason why is because Google does not offer any protection against claims of patent infringement, contra Microsoft who will defend the OS in court to the chagrin of the OEMs. Combined with those continued licensing fees for Android and the speculation of further legal threats, Windows Phone is starting to look ike a good choice right about now.

Source: Digitimes/21st Century Business Herald; via Electronista

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Yet more royalty charges from Microsoft (remember the report of HTC paying Microsoft $5 per device?), this time it's for Samsung, the largest Android OEM. The software behemoth is requesting a royalty fee of $15 per Android device sold by the handset manufacturer. This would prove to be a monster of a revenue stream with analysts forecasting Samsung selling around 19 million units between April and June alone this year.

The Maeil Business Newspaper quoted unnamed industry officials saying that Samsung would likely attempt to negotiate the fee and lower it to $10 in exchange for presumably more Windows Phone 7 devices and a 'deeper alliance' with Microsoft.

Via: AndroidCentral, Reuters

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One thing that deserves being pointed out, repeatedly, about Windows Phone 7 is how the UI is pretty much unlike anything out on the market today. Whether it's iOS (who lifted their layout from Palm's Garnet), Android (same) or even WebOS (more unique than the first wo), the Windows Phone 7 "style" is  certainly eye catching.

So much, in fact, that Microsoft has filed an application for a trademark on it--guess they're fearing the rise of the clones, at some point, eh? Of course just because you file doesn't mean it will be granted, but it's probably always smart to get these things in writing, in case lawsuits start flying again later on. Also, lets just say they're very specific on the filing:

The literal element of the mark consists of PHONE PEOPLE MESSAGING OUTLOOK. The mark consists of eight boxes; the upper left-hand box containing the word "PHONE" along with a telephone receiver; the upper right-hand box containing the word "PEOPLE"; the lower left-hand box containing the word "MESSAGING" along with a character face; the lower right-hand box containing the word "OUTLOOK" along with the letter "O", an envelope and a check mark; the lower four boxes are empty.

Source: US Patent & Trademark Office; via Mobile Crunch

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On Monday, Microsoft filed a motion for summary judgment with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in an attempt to get Apple's trademark of the term "App Store" denied.  They argue that the term is too generic to be awarded to just one company, as it is made up of two everyday, commonly used words.  As evidence of its generality, MS also shrewdly submitted an interview with Apple CEO Steve Jobs, where he is quoted as saying, "Amazon, Verizon and Vodafone have all announced that they are creating their own app stores for Android."

Apple's application for the trademark dates back to 2008, so it seems a bit odd that MS would just think to do this now.  Obviously, the launch of WP7 and it's Marketplace prompted the move, but one would hope that the world's software leader wouldn't be so myopic.  No decisions have been made as of yet.  The status page  for the trademark merely reads: "An opposition is now pending at the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board."

We will be sure to keep you posted.

Source: PCWorld; via: AppleInsider

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