Apple has been granted 60 patents, including technology that would use depth information for enhanced facial recognition.
The patent, detailed here on Patently Apple, would enhance 2D and 3D computer mapping of human faces. The new tech would make it easier for a computer to recognize if a face exists in a frame, and – if so – provided more accurate recognition.
“The human face is a dynamic object and has high degree of variability in its appearance, which makes face detection a difficult problem in computer vision,” the site writes.
So does this mean a user may soon be able to unlock their iPhone or pay for a coffee with Apple Pay just by looking at their phone? Maybe, but that might not be all.
With most patents filed, the most obvious application isn’t necessarily the one it will be used for.
Patently Apple says other applications for the patent could include content-based image retrieval, video coding, video conferencing, crowd surveillance, and intelligent human-computer interfaces. In the expanding world of digital surveillance and security, this patent could prove to have a huge impact.
This week, Panasonic announced its plan to offer 50 patents related to the Internet of Things (IoT) for free.
IoT is a term referring to objects embedded with sensors and connected to servers that collect data through the Internet.
The move is the latest in companies opening up their patent portfolios to the free market. Toyota recently announced their plans to allow access to their patents related to fuel cell vehicle (FCV) technologies free of charge. Last summer, Tesla Motors set the trend, when Elon Musk penned an article opening the floodgates to the company’s IP.
It begs the questions: why give away this information for free? And what companies may be next?
These firms have taken on this approach in attempt not only to glean some public favor – or simply as an altruistic endeavor – but also in an effort to grow their specific markets. Presumably, companies like Panasonic and Tesla have a head start in these respective fields, so as the industry grows and evolves, they’ll be more likely to capitalize with a bigger, more fleshed out development.
As this strategy continues to grow, and potentially proves successful, we can look to expect some similarly big plays in expanding fields – such as security, green technology, etc – to line up to give away their IP to the masses.
Not only will it provide a jolt to the utilization of their technology, but it will open up the inside lane for the bigger players to harness any new developments.
Apple has another patent battle on their hands.
Last week, Ericsson brought suit against the Cupertino giant for reportedly infringing on 41 of its patents that are used in iPhones and iPads.
“Ericsson’s technology and our engineers are behind these patents,” Gustav Brismark, head of the company’s patent strategy, said in an interview. “We’re asking for a fair payment from Apple for using our technology.”
Along with the potential ban on iPad and iPhone imports to the United States, Ericsson said it was also asking for payments for any potential damages caused by Apple’s using its patents without a license.
This isn’t the first time these companies have found themselves in litigation with one another. In January, the two companies sued each other over Apple’s use of a number of Ericsson patents related to wireless technology, so it seems Apple has a new opponent in the never-ending smartphone patent wars.
Ericsson has really gone on the offensive, and their attempt to block US iPhone and iPad imports is a power play. While they may fall short of attaining that goal, they certainly have gotten themselves noticed by both Apple and the market. That right there might be half the battle. Time will tell how this will shake out, but it could have huge ramifications if Ericsson is successful.
Is Uber infringing on a patent? That’s what Sidecar is claiming.
Sidecar is a small rival of Uber, whose founder obtained a patent related to mobile ride hailing way back in 2002. According to Gigaom, the patent, which confers on Sidecar the right to exclude others from using the invention until 2020, includes a drawing that shows a wireless network linking a car and passenger via satellite.
However, some believe Sidecar’s claim does not nearly have enough merit to stop Uber in its tracks.
“This application is really seeking to claim the basic idea of pricing and service, which is a concept Adam Smith discussed 200 years ago. The notion that’s a new idea in this day and age is far-fetched,” said Michael Strapp, a patent lawyer with Goodwin Procter, told Gigaom.
Uber’s earliest patents can be traced back to 2010.
To this point, nothing has been able to derail Uber, but the patent in question could certainly throw a monkey wrench in their business model. Uber’s share of the market is substantial, and they can take similar approaches that social media giant Facebook has in the past (i.e. buying Sidecar and its patent portfolio), or simply go to war in court to gain precedent that their business is infringement-proof. Still, even without a full-fledged taxi war, Uber might need to rely on its hot brand to deflect secondary adopters. It will be interesting to see what path Uber takes.
Arrested in China? Your intellectual property could be a get-out-of-jail-free card.
In December, we released a study that found China led the world with over 600,000 patent applications, but raised some questions about the quality of those patents. A new report from Gizmodo says that is partly due to a government that encourages inventors with everything from cash gifts, tenured jobs at universities, and even early release from prison:
“The unusual policy came to light last month when the Beijing Youth Daily published the results of an undercover investigation into an emerging cottage industry of patent application businesses that cater to an unusual market: Prisoners. Specifically, wealthy prisoners can pay these small businesses anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 to have inventors’ ideas patented as their own—everything from cigarette holders to geothermal energy innovations.”
The quality of China’s intellectual property is always a point of contention with its critics, whether it’s the nature of utility model patents or the aggressive government incentivization of patenting activity. This new wrinkle will undoubtedly add fuel to that fire. However, one takeaway from China’s extreme methods of gathering IP is the emphasis the government is placing on patents. There will be more to this story and China’s place in the global innovation landscape continues to evolve, but it’s clear that the country is making good on its promise to draw innovation from all corners.
Watch out, GoPro. Apple may be gearing up to get into wearable tech.
According to the Guardian, shares in GoPro have dropped more than 10% amid speculation Apple could be entering the wearable cameras market after it was granted a new patent.
But the patent may not indicate such a move by the tech company. The patent in question was actually filed by Kodak in 2012, and only came under Apple’s control as part of a slate of patents bought by consortiums led by Apple and Google for $525m.
This one has all the players. Kodak’s old portfolio is emerging to scare off GoPro investors, and it makes sense. Apple has developed their brand and their operating software to a point where consumers are now inherently more comfortable with anything the company produces. But let’s not underestimate GoPro’s share of this market. They have incredible brand recognition and a big head start. If Apple gets into wearables and pairs them with their iOS and Cloud-sharing capabilities, the possibilities are endless. But this could force GoPro to innovate faster and better, too. We could be on the precipice of exciting times in this space.
Apple and wireless technology company Ericsson have ramped up their ongoing fight over royalties and patents.
According to CNET, Apple filed a lawsuit this month in the US District Court for the North District of California which says that although it uses Ericsson’s LTE technology in its products, it does not believe that the patents related to that technology are essential to cellular operation and fetch too much in royalties.
“At issue is fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) patent licensing. Ericsson has secured FRAND status on some of its patents related to LTE wireless technology that Apple uses in its iPhone smartphones. While the companies previously had an agreement in place, Apple has battled with Ericsson over the past two years, saying that the FRAND license extension it was expected to sign is unfair.”
FRAND was a huge component of the war that raged for years between Apple and Samsung, and now Apple is once again fighting this fight, only this time its stateside (Ericsson is headquartered in Sweden). While Ericsson’s licensing model may be prohibitive, Apple may have a problem with precedent. Ericsson says they have reached fair deals with more than 100 companies in the industry, so Apple’s complaint could be seen as posturing by the iPhone maker simply to boost margins. That said, Apple has been very successful in patent litigation as of late, so this could ramp up a battle that Apple intends to take the distance. Time will tell.
Silicon Valley has a new way to fight back non-practicing entities (NPEs): death squads.
Don’t worry, that’s not literal. That’s the nickname for the Patent Trial and Appeals Board, a far more civilized way technology companies are figuratively lining up accused “patent trolls” for execution.
According to the SF Gate, the Board, which was created by Congress in 2011 and is made up of administrative patent judges, has eliminated 78 percent of NPE claims from September 2012 to March 2013.
“It’s not surprising a lot of the big tech companies” are using the board,” Peter Lee, a professor of law at UC Davis, told the Gate. “They are the ones most hurt by bad patents.”
It’s a huge development for tech companies, because it offers a quicker and more cost-effective way to resolve intellectual property disputes than going to court. NPEs can not only act as a drain on financial resources, but have the ability to draw a company’s time and energy away from their primary objection: innovation. The Patent Trial and Appeals Board seems to be working just as intended, and consumers may reap the reward with tech companies more focused than ever on creating more engaging products.
Today, we’ve released the results of our study of the global automobile industry’s recent patent activity, which details a massive commitment from carmakers to new propulsion technology, which jumped from fewer than 2,000 patents filed in 2009 to nearly 12,000 by July 2014.
With the clock ticking towards Model Year 2025 – where U.S. automakers’ fleets will be required by law to boast an average fuel efficiency of 54.5 miles per gallon – it seems the industry is working diligently to comply. The 2012 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) mandate has set the agenda for the next decade of car manufacturing, and it’s all about fuel efficiency.
Following are among the key findings in the report:
- Propulsion Patents Explode: According to analysis of patent data from 2009 through July 2014, activity in propulsion technology grew from fewer than 2,000 patents to nearly 12,000: more than any other technology area in the automotive industry. It was also the only area of patents to reflect a year-over-year growth in the five-year span.
- Toyota, Japan Lead the Way: With over 7,000 patent assignments to the company during the period covered, Toyota is the auto world’s top innovator from a patent perspective. The company is one of five Japanese carmakers (Honda, Denso, Seiko Epson, Mitsubishi) in the top ten, the most of any country. In contrast, the United States has one representative in the top 10 assignees, General Motors, is seventh on the list, with short of 3,000 patents.
- Hyundai Sets Blistering Pace: The one Korean automaker in the top ten, Hyundai, has burst onto the patenting scene. The company has earned the distinction as the fastest growing patentee, climbing from a low point of under 500 in 2010. Since then it is on a remarkable sprint toward the top, resulting in nearly 1,200 patent filings in 2013, enough to rank them third on the most-assigned list.
- ‘Connected’ Vehicle Technology Gains Momentum: After stealing the stage at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, the field of telematics, which enables Wi-Fi-style communications in vehicles and powers the sensors that enable self-driving vehicles, has made a prominent showing in the Thomson Reuters Automotive Industry report. Companies as diverse as General Motors, LG and United Parcel Service are actively patenting in the field.
- Safety Patents Grow Modestly: Patent activity in the four remaining auto categories (navigation, handling, safety and security, and entertainment) stayed flat or dipped, with safety and security being the lone exception. Less than 1,000 patents were filed in 2009 in the safety and security classification, a number that grew to roughly 2,500 in 2013.
To read the full report, visit: http://go.thomsonreuters.com/autoreport
What has long been predicted has now become a reality: China is leading the world in innovation. Today, we released our report, Chinese Corporate Trends and Globalization for IP. It finds that China’s recent run of superlatives do not stop at their economic growth. The country’s patent filings have dwarfed the rest of the world, and are sending them full steam ahead into the future.
Our research identifies not only where China’s patent output has grown, but where it will go next, identifying burgeoning areas of innovation the Chinese plan to capitalize on as they attempt to grown their filings to 2 million annually.
Key points outlined in the paper include:
- China Becomes the Undisputed Patent Leader: China continues to overshadow other countries in published patent applications, publishing 629,612 patents in 2013, over 200,000 more than the U.S. This push is driven by a five-year plan in which the country has set out to reach two million applications for patents for inventions, utility models and designs by 2015.
- Pharma Driving Patenting Boom, But Quality of IP is Suspect: China has nearly 80 percent of world share in patents for alkaloid/plant extracts, and around 60 percent of global share of pharmaceutical activity, general patents. However, these filings are held by thousands of individual inventors with a handful of patents each, rather than portfolios maintained by universities or corporate entities that would be seen stateside. As a result, the quality of the IP is likely to be unstable.
- Domestic Innovation on the Rise, Foreign Filing Fails to Keep Up: Overall, 80 percent of China’s patents were filed domestically in 2013, leaving China’s foreign growth flat. The number of inventions filed abroad from China have grown from 13,005 in 2008 to 33,222 in 2013, however overall patenting has grown from 239,663 in 2008 to 629,612 in 2013, therefore the proportion has remained the same a 5.3%.
- Burgeoning Chinese Multinationals: While China as a whole is doing substantially less international patent filing than other regions of the world, a few leaders have emerged in the global patent landscape, including Huawei, ZTE Corp, Shenzhen Huaxing Optoelectronic, Alibaba Group, BOE Technology Group, Lenovo, Tencent, BYD, SMIC and Sany.
- Planning the Next Five Years: The Chinese National Patent Development Strategy highlights the country’s plans through 2020, highlighting seven strategic industries positioned for growth: biotechnology, alternative energy, clean energy vehicles, energy conservation, high-end equipment manufacturing, broadband infrastructure, and high-end semiconductors.
To read the full report, click here.