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Apple fined $264k in Italy for warranty violations

Apple has been fined €200,000—roughly $264,000—by the Italian antitrust authority, Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato (AGCM), for failing to make changes to its AppleCare warranty policies from March 28 to November 10. The Italian regulator originally fined Apple €900,000 (approximately $1.2 million) last year for selling two-year AppleCare warranty coverage while failing to inform customers that Italian law already offered two years of coverage. Apple made changes on November 10th that now present consumer rights as “clear and unambiguous,” according to the AGCM, but the company still faces the additional fine for not complying with the AGCM regulations sooner. Notably, Apple has also discontinued the sale of physical AppleCare packages in Apple Stores; Italian customers can now only purchase AppleCare online. [via The Next Web]

Apple denies Lightning licensing approval to Kickstarter charger

Apple has denied approval to POP, a popular Kickstarter portable charger that aimed to power multiple devices, including the iPhone 5. According to an update from project creator James Siminoff of Edison Junior Design Laboratory, Apple is “no longer willing to approve a product that uses the Lightning charger alongside any other charger (including their own 30-pin – seriously).” More than $139,000 has been pledged to the project, which started with a funding goal of $50,000, and Siminoff has promised to provide full refunds to all backers. He notes that Edison Junior will be required to absorb more than $11,000 in credit card and Kickstarter fees, however.

Though not entirely surprising, this denial reveals a heretofore unknown rule regarding the Lightning connector being used alongside any other charging connectors, and shows Apple drawing a clear line in the sand regarding Lightning licensing. Companies require Apple approval to license the Lightning connector, allowing the company to apply its tightened rules to reject projects such as POP.

Updated: Apple now says it will allow its Lightning cable to co-exist with the Dock Connector within the same accessory. “We support accessories that integrate USB and Lightning connectors, but there were technical issues that prevented accessories from integrating 30-pin and Lightning connectors so our guidelines did not allow this,” Apple spokesman Tom Neumayr said. [via CNET]

Apple in talks to acquire home automation startup R2 Studios

Apple may be among several companies looking into acquiring home automation startup id8 Group R2 Studios Inc., according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal. Microsoft and Google are also said to be in acquisition talks with the company, which holds patents for controlling electronic devices and interfaces, and has also released an Android app for heating and lighting systems control. R2 Studios was created in May 2011 by Blake Krikorian, founder of Slingbox maker Sling Media Inc. The report notes, however, that “a deal may not happen and some talks may be preliminary.”

Updated Jan. 3: Microsoft has acquired id8 Group R2 Studios Inc. to “beef up its Xbox unit,” the WSJ reports.

FTC expands child online privacy, App Store not liable

Following a review initiated in 2010, the Federal Trade Commission has amended its rules regarding the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), strengthening privacy protections for children under 13. COPPA was passed by the U.S. Congress in 1998, requiring online services for children under 13 to obtain parental consent before collecting personal information.

Starting July 1, 2013, parents will need to consent to the gathering of their kids’ photos, videos, and/or location information, and the consent process has been streamlined, among other changes. Notably, COPPA now explicitly covers services such as apps, plug-ins, and advertising networks, however, Apple’s App Store and competitors will not have to police apps for violations. The FTC’s action comes on the heels of a recent report criticizing the privacy practices of kids’ apps found in the App Store and Google’s Android Market. [via The Wall Street Journal]

USPTO tentatively nixes key Apple pinch patent

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has tentatively ruled all claims of an Apple ‘pinch to zoom’ patent invalid, possibly affecting the $1.05 billion in damages Apple won from Samsung. Apple’s patent was rejected in a first Office action, meaning the patent could later become invalidated. Samsung brought the tentative rejection to the court’s attention, as Claim 8 of the patent was declared most valuable by Apple in the court case that ended in August. An upcoming judgment on the awarded damages is expected to be made in the near future. [via Foss Patents]

Report: No Apple TV set in 2013, 46- to 55-inch screens?

A new report out of Taiwan suggests the long-rumored Apple TV set won’t be seen until at least 2014. Though the report is of questionable veracity, it includes some interesting claims from an anonymous source at Apple manufacturing partner Hon Hai/Foxconn. According to this source, initial testing of the TV design has begun, with Apple considering 46- to 55-inch flat panel screens. As these sizes are commonly available, Hon Hai would not need to rely exclusively upon Sharp—which reportedly is focusing production on 60-inch panels—as an exclusive provider for the screens. The report suggests that some products relating to the Apple TV set could appear at CES in January, though there is little to no chance that this will happen at the 2013 show. [via Focus Taiwan News Channel]

Apple granted patent for original iPhone

Apple was awarded a design patent for its original iPhone on Tuesday. The patent is described simply as “The ornamental design of an electronic device, as shown and described.” Steve Jobs and Jony Ive are among those credited as inventors. As previously noted, Apple was also granted a key multi touch patent and a patent for reducing the size of system-on-chip architectures in its devices.

Kodak sells patents for $525M, Apple one of 12 licensees

Kodak has announced the sale of its digital imaging patent portfolio for $525 million to a consortium organized by Intellectual Ventures and RPX Corporation, and Apple is one of the 12 licensees involved in the deal. The other licensees are Google, Microsoft, Samsung, HTC, Facebook, RIM, Adobe, Fujifilm, Huawei, Amazon, and Shutterfly. Each licensee will receive rights to the portfolio and to “certain other Kodak patents.” A recent report noted that Apple and Google made a joint $500M bid for the patents. [via The Next Web]

Apple wins ITC patent ruling against Motorola Mobility

Apple didn’t violate a patent owned by Google’s Motorola Mobility division, U.S. International Trade Commission judge Thomas Pender has ruled, a finding that is subject to review by the full ITC. The patent in question is for a sensor that prevents hanging up accidentally. Pender found Motorola’s patent invalid, the second time he’s ruled Apple did not violate this particular patent. [via Bloomberg]

Brazilian company plans ‘IPHONE’ brand smartphones

Brazilian electronics makers IGB Eletronica SA announced it will sell smartphones in Brazil under the brand name “IPHONE,” to which it has exclusive local rights. The company registered the name in 2000, and secured rights to the name in 2008. The first smartphone from the company will be called “Neo One.”

It remains to be seen how Apple will address the issue, but this isn’t new territory for the company: a recent Mexican court ruling allows Apple to use the “iPhone” name in Mexico, despite a Mexican company iFone’s ability to use its name for its own products. In 2009, Apple settled a trademark dispute over the iPad name in China, paying Proview $60 million for the naming rights. [via Reuters]

Apple granted system-on-chip shrinking patent

Apple has been granted a new patent for reducing the size of system-on-chip architectures found in Apple devices. U.S. Patent 8,334,704 notes that a computer system’s vital components — such as a processor and memory — can be fabricated onto a single microchip, shrinking what would otherwise be a large printed circuit board full of components down to a tinier size. The patent appears to be focused on coupling processors with flash memory, while providing testing options for both, and was likely filed to protect Apple’s A-series mobile processors. [via Apple Insider]

Samsung: U.S. ban dodged, retrial denied, Euro truce?

Apple has been denied a bid to ban 26 Samsung products from sale in the U.S, stemming from an August ruling in which Samsung was found to violate Apple patents. Judge Lucy Koh ruled that a sales ban would be too broad. “The phones at issue in this case contain a broad range of features, only a small fraction of which are covered by Apple’s patents,” Koh wrote. “Though Apple does have some interest in retaining certain features as exclusive to Apple, it does not follow that entire products must be forever banned from the market because they incorporate, among their myriad features, a few narrow protected functions.” Koh also noted that many of the devices targeted by Apple for the ban are no longer on sale.

Samsung, however, has been denied its request for dismissal and a new trial based on jury misconduct allegations. While Samsung alleged the Apple trial was tainted due to the juror misconduct related to jury foreman Velvin Hogan’s involvement with Seagate — Samsung acquired Seagate’s HDD division late last year — Koh disagreed. Koh determined Samsung could have resolved its concerns and issues prior to trial by exercising “reasonable diligence” in questioning Hogan.

Meanwhile, Samsung has announced it will drop injunction requests against Apple for standard essential patent infringement in Germany, France, Italy, the U.K., and the Netherlands. It’s unclear at this point if Samsung has reached some kind of truce with Apple — at least in Europe — or if this will lead to less litigation down the line. [via CNET, The Verge]

Apple granted key multi-touch patent

Apple has received a patent from the US Patent Office regarding multi-touch contact. The patent, which covers apparatus and methods for tracking finger and palm contact “across a proximity-sensing, multi-touch surface,” was vital to the iPhone. It was initially filed on Nov. 14, 2006, before the iPhone’s release in 2007. Apple gained the patent upon acquiring gesture recognition company Fingerworks in 2005. [via Patently Apple]

Apple talking with Foursquare about map data

Apple is discussing integrating local data from Foursquare into its Maps application, The Wall Street Journal reports. According to the report, Apple has talked to “a number of companies that collect local data” as the company works to improve Maps; iOS 6 Maps already includes local data from Yelp, but has been criticized for both errors and omissions in the point of interest data. Apple Senior VP Eddy Cue is said to be involved in the discussions.

Apple releases software update 1.0.2 for 7th-gen iPod nano

Apple has released a new software update for the seventh-generation iPod nano. Version 1.0.2 of the iPod nano (7th generation) software reportedly addresses issues with EQ and microphone support with the Apple In-Ear Headphones and makes Bluetooth improvements, tweaks that are obscure enough to be non-obvious in initial testing. The update is available by connecting the iPod nano to iTunes via a USB connection and selecting the Check for Updates option in the iPod summary screen.

Google Maps gets 10M downloads in first two days

Google has announced that Google Maps for iOS was downloaded more than 10 million times less than 48 hours after its release last Thursday. As became obvious from the App Store’s top downloads list, Google Maps became the top free app on iPhone only hours after its release, and continues to occupy the top spot as of this writing. Apple executives are said to be “seething,” as noted last week by Daring Fireball, due to both the immediate success of the well-reviewed mapping application and the troubled launch of iOS 6’s new Apple-developed Maps application, which reportedly led to the dismissals of two of the company’s software chiefs.

Apple releases iOS 6.1 beta 4 to developers

Apple has seeded developers with iOS 6.1 beta 4. The update is available to registered iOS developers as an over-the-air software update, for those with iOS 6.1 beta already installed. It is unclear what changes may be contained in the release. A new Apple TV beta and a new preview of Xcode 4.6 have also been seeded to developers. [via 9to5Mac]

China’s “first weekend” of iPhone 5 sales top 2M

In an extremely rare foreign country-specific press release, Apple announced sales of more than two million iPhone 5s in China during its first launch weekend. The phone was officially launched in the Chinese mainland on Dec. 14, having been available for sale in Hong Kong since September. “Customer response to iPhone 5 in China has been incredible, setting a new record with the best first weekend sales ever in China,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in a statement. “China is a very important market for us and customers there cannot wait to get their hands on Apple products.” iPhone 5 will be available in more than 100 countries by the end of the year; speculation regarding weak or slow mainland Chinese sales may have spurred the company to disclose early figures.

Jury finds no Apple infringement on Alcatel-Lucent patents

In the latest of many patent trials, a jury has ruled that Apple didn’t infringe on three video-compression technology patents of Multimedia Patent Trust, an Alcatel-Lucent subsidiary, Bloomberg reports. Alcatel-Lucent sought $172.3 million in royalty damages from Apple, and $9.1 million from LG Electronics. The trial started recently, in late November. This is better patent trial news for Apple then Thursday’s other ruling, which found the iPhone infringes on three patents from MobileMedia Ideas.

Apple releases iTunes 11.0.1, adds duplicate display

Apple has released iTunes 11.0.1, which restores the ability to display duplicate items within a user’s iTunes library. The update also fixes an issue where new purchases in iCloud may not appear in a user’s library if iTunes Match is turned on, makes searching a large library more responsive, and fixes a problem where the AirPlay button may not appear. Other stability and performance improvements are also included in the update.

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