Apple started a trial as a defendant on Tuesday, as Multimedia Patent Trust — a subsidiary of Alcatel-Lucent — is suing the company for alleged infringement of three video-compression technology patents. Bloomberg reports that multiple versions of the iPod, iPad, iPhone, and MacBook are targeted in the trial, which stems from a 2010 lawsuit against Apple and LG Electronics. Multimedia Patent Trust won a 2007 case against Microsoft for $1.5 billion, but the jury verdict was later overturned, and the two companies settled in January. U.S. District Judge Marilyn Huff said the trial could take about two weeks.
Apple has also been granted 36 new patents, according to a recent Patently Apple report. Included are patents for the Siri microphone icon, sports equipment writing data to a portable media player — which includes uploading workout data to a computer or website—as well as enhanced echo cancellation, audio status information for a portable media device, and a cavity antenna for an electronic device, among many others.
Apple has reportedly fired Richard Williamson, the employee who oversaw the iOS 6 Maps team, according to a recent report from Bloomberg. The decision was apparently made by Senior Vice President Eddy Cue, who recently took over Maps and Siri services following a major executive shake-up late last month that saw the departure of iOS Senior VP Scott Forstall. Cue is reportedly now looking to install a new leadership team for the Maps group while also seeking advice from mapping experts outside of Apple and urging TomTom NV to fix the mapping data it shares with the company. Notably, Forstall’s fate may also have been at least partially related to the introduction of Apple’s Maps, as he allegedly refused to sign Apple’s apology letter for the application’s maligned launch.
Apple has acquired rights to use the Lightning trademark in Europe in a recent partial transfer from Harley-Davidson, according to recent documents from The Trade Marks and Designs Registration Office of the European Union. The documents can be seen in a report from Patently Apple; the transfer occurred on Nov. 24. While specifics of the partial transfer are not provided, it likely allows both Apple and Harley-Davidson to use certain aspects of the Lightning trademark for their own non-conflicting products.
It appears that a growing number of AT&T users now have access to FaceTime over Cellular, including those who have grandfathered unlimited data plans, according to a MacRumors report. AT&T recently announced that FaceTime over Cellular would be accessible to those with tiered data plans, but no such announcement was made regarding customers with the unlimited plans. Not all users seem to have access yet, so it’s possible that AT&T is rolling the service out gradually. AT&T has made no new official announcement regarding FaceTime over Cellular as of yet.
Apple’s iTunes Match service is suffering from an outage, which appears to have started early on Monday; songs are not loading from the service. This follows a weekend in which iMessage and FaceTime both experienced outages. Apple’s Support website for iCloud noted that some users experienced iMessage and FaceTime outages Sunday, but does not note iTunes in the Cloud or iTunes Match status. [via Apple Insider]
Apple and Google’s Motorola Mobility are discussing using binding arbitration as a possible resolution to their ongoing patent dispute, according to a court filing. Bloomberg reports the two companies have exchanged proposals relating to industry standard patents. It’s possible that a licensing agreement could pave the way to settling all patent disputes between Apple and Google. Apple recently settled its patent dispute with HTC.
Meanwhile, Samsung and Apple aren’t getting any closer to resolving their patent disputes. A recent statement by Samsung mobile chief Jong-Kyun Shin indicated the company won’t look to settle out of court, and U.S. magistrate judge Paul Grewel granted motions Thursday to include the iPhone 5, a number of Galaxy devices, and Google’s Android 4.1 Jelly Bean OS in the ongoing Apple-Samsung lawsuit, CNET reports. The inclusion of Android 4.1 is restricted to use with the Galaxy Nexus smartphone.
Apple recently acquired the rights to 1,024 patents from Rockstar Bidco, a consortium comprised of Apple, Sony, Microsoft, Research in Motion (RIM), and other companies, reports Yonhap News. Apple owns a 58 percent stake in the consortium, which includes 4,000 Nortel patents. Of those 1,024 patents, 695 are currently registered with the US Patent and Trademark Office, while the rest are in the registration process. Business Insider reports that a search of the USPTO database confirms more than 1,350 patents transferred from Rockstar, with many sent to Apple. Though it’s unclear at this time as to how many of the patents are related to telecommunications, securing the rights will likely aid Apple as the company continues its legal battles with rivals outside the consortium.
Two patent applications recently filed by Apple involve a technology that could automatically scale visual content on a display based on its proximity to a user’s face, and a way to reduce vibration noise from a device. The scaling technology would be able to change the size of visual content on the fly, eliminating the need for using touch gestures to zoom by using sensors to detect the proximity of the user’s face. Two functions are outlined in the patent application: Comfort mode, which would increase the size of visual content when a user’s face is further from the screen, and zoom mode, which would increase the size of content when the user’s face gets closer to the screen.
The other patent application aims to reduce the vibration noise from a device in certain circumstances, such as when the device is on a hard surface, as pictured above in an illustration from the application. Sensors would be able to determine if a device’s vibration is too loud, or if the device is vibrating on a hard surface. Mitigation routines would then be enacted to reduce the vibration and subsequent noise. Both applications were filed in May 2011. [via Apple Insider]
Apple’s iOS 6 Maps now feature turn-by-turn voice navigation for Australia, a feature that recently went live after being promised for October. Former Apple iOS chief Scott Forstall previously said the data needed to be “exceptional and qualified” before voice navigation went live, and Apple’s CEO Tim Cook has reaffirmed the company’s commitment to rolling out properly vetted additions to the service. [via 9to5Mac]
Though Apple and HTC have settled their patent dispute, Samsung claims that it will not do the same. Yonhap News Agency reports Samsung has no intentions on reaching an out-of-court settlement with Apple over its patent issues with the company. “It may be true that HTC may have agreed to pay 300 billion won ($276 million) to Apple, but we don’t intend to (negotiate) at all,” said Samsung mobile chief Jong-Kyun Shin. The two companies have been battling in various patent suits since April 2011.
Apple has been ordered to pay Samsung’s legal fees on an indemnity basis, after being ordered to remove a “false and misleading” notice of judgment it had previously posted on the Apple U.K. website. The legal decision was rendered due to Apple’s initial website notice in which the company made reference to its “cool” and “far more popular” iPad in comparison to the Galaxy tablet and pointed to other courts’ decisions in Apple’s favor in similar cases. As noted in the judgment, fees awarded on an indemnity basis are “higher than the normal, ‘standard’ basis” and were awarded “as a mark of the court’s disapproval of a party’s conduct, particularly in relation to its respect for an order of the court. Apple’s conduct warranted such an order.” Further analysis of the removed website notice is included in this most recent decision, stemming from Apple’s appeal loss to Samsung over tablet design infringement.
Apple has seeded developers with a second beta version of iOS 6.1. As with prior iOS beta updates, beta 2 is available as an over-the-air software update or as a direct download from the iOS Dev Center, and is accompanied by a new beta version of the Apple TV software, as well as an updated version of Xcode and the iOS 6.1 SDK. The new version is listed as build 10B5105c; it is unclear what changes may be contained in the release. iOS 6.1 beta 2 is available now to registered iOS developers.
Apple has announced that it has settled its long-running patent dispute with HTC, bringing an end to a legal battle between the two companies dating back to March 2010.
The dispute began with Apple filing a patent infringement suit against HTC alleging infringement of 20 Apple patents related to the iPhone. HTC subsequently filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) outlining five of its own patents that it believed Apple was infringing upon and Apple countered by filing two similar complaints with the ITC. Following a ruling in Apple’s favour in July 2011, HTC indicated that it was open to negotiations with Apple, but later filed a patent infringement suit against Apple in August 2011. This was followed by another ruling in Apple’s favour by ITC resulting in an import ban on some HTC products and the more recent possibility that HTC could be seeking similar bans on the iPhone and iPad.
While the specific terms are confidential, the global settlement includes the dismissal of all current lawsuits between the two companies and a ten-year license agreement that extends to all current and future patents held by both parties.
Apple has started to air two new TV commercials for the iPad mini. Following in the theme of the company’s first iPad mini ad, Piano, the two new spots eschew narration in favour of simply highlighting features of the iPad mini alongside the full-size iPad. Photos shows off iPhoto for iOS being used on both devices to browse through a photo library to the theme of the classic Bobby Darin and Johnny Mercer song “Two of a Kind.” The second spot, Books compares the iPad and iPad mini by showing a number of classic books being opened in iBooks on the two devices, ending by focusing in on the iPad mini and showing the iBooks reading experience. Both ads are available for viewing now on Apple’s website.
Customers who pre-ordered the iPad mini Wi-Fi + Cellular model have begun receiving notifications that their device is expected to ship within the next five business days, corresponding to the mid-November availability date that has been listed on Apple’s website. Four new iOS 6.0.1 firmware downloads have also now appeared for the Cellular versions of the iPad mini and fourth-generation iPad in the form of a GSM and CDMA version for each device. Currently, both Wi-Fi and Cellular iPad mini models are listed on Apple’s U.S. Store with a shipping estimate of two weeks. [via Apple Insider]
AT&T has announced that it will begin allowing FaceTime over Cellular at no additional charge for customers with an LTE device on any tiered data plan. Apple added the ability to use FaceTime over a cellular data connection in iOS 6, however AT&T originally announced that only customers on Mobile Share plans would have access to the new feature on the AT&T network, a move that sparked a complaint to the FCC. Notably, AT&T is the only iPhone carrier that required users to be on specific data plans to use the FaceTime over Cellular feature.
AT&T now expects to roll out this additional functionality during the next eight to ten weeks. In a post on the company’s website titled “A Few Thoughts on FaceTime”, AT&T’s Jim Cicconi wrote that AT&T initially took a “cautious” approach — limiting FaceTime over Cellular to specific shared data plans — because the company’s engineers couldn’t effectively assess network impact. Several recent billing plans also allow deaf and hard of hearing customers to use FaceTime. Cicconi anticipates AT&T will “expand the availability of FaceTime to our customers on other billing plans in the near future.” Note that this policy change applies only to tiered plans; FaceTime over Cellular will remain unavailable for customers still on unlimited data plans.
A report from TUAW regarding Apple’s MFi manufacturers’ conference in Shenzhen, China indicates that the company may be planning to require third-party accessory makers to comply with its supplier code of conduct, as a condition of licensing under the MFi program. The Apple Supplier Code of Conduct — which requires safe and healthy working conditions, fair hiring practices, and other standards — currently only applies to supply chain partners and component vendors for Apple’s own products; a requirement for third-party manufacturers to also comply with the code would be another strong push by Apple to exercise further control over the outer reaches of its accessory ecosystem.
Apple has updated its Apple Store iPhone and iPod touch app adding Siri integration for compatible devices and rolled out its EasyPay feature to five additional countries. With the latest version, users can now make requests to Siri such as “I want to buy an iPad mini” or “Find prices on MacBook Pro” directly opening the Apple Store app to the appropriate page. Users in Canada, France, Italy, Switzerland and Germany can also now take advantage of EasyPay, a feature that allows purchases to be made in an Apple Retail Store with an iPhone 4/4S/5 by scanning the barcode with the camera and completing the transaction directly within the app. Apple Store 2.4 requires iOS 5.0 or later and is available from the App Store as a free download.
Three newly published Apple patent applications filed Thursday show some possibilities for future Apple devices. The first application examines a cooling system for mobile devices which could presumably provide options for cooling future iPhones, iPods and iPads. Configured to drive both a fan and alert device, the patent describes a shared motor and clutch that would save space by powering both the fan and the device’s vibrating function. The description notes that faster, more powerful processors could produce more heat within mobile devices and an internal fan within the device would alleviate that problem; air could be pulled into the device through an input port, whether it be a new, dedicated port, or an existing component such as a headphone jack.
In a second application, Apple presented a new dual-mode headphone design which could also be used as a speaker system. The headphones would be able to detect if they were being used near a user’s ears to determine if they should be in “headphone mode” or “speaker mode”, with the audio signal passing through an amplifier in the latter case that would be bypassed in headphone mode.
The third application involves a new design for multi-use packaging that would allow packaging such as plastic iPod touch cases to be re-used to store or display an item. Various configurations coudl be employed including an integrated hinge to support a lid which could be used to prop up an item for display. All three applications were originally filed on May 2, 2011. As with all Apple patents, these applications do not necessarily represent any future product release from Apple, but offer evidence of the company’s research and interest in various areas. [via Patently Apple]
Former Apple engineering manager Dan Crow believes the company’s best days are behind it, he opines in a column for The Guardian. As Crow writes, “…I think Apple has peaked and the story of the next few years will be one of slow but real decline.” Crow cites “a number of signs” showing that Apple is on a downhill slide, including the recent missteps with iOS 6 Maps and the executive reshuffle that jettisoned Scott Forstall and John Browett — with Browett’s decisions during his brief retail reign being an example of “Apple putting its corporate needs ahead of its customers.” He also refers to the fourth-generation iPad as an “insipid update.”
Crow says that after the death of Steve Jobs, Apple has had issues with balancing hype and product. He concludes that Apple has yet to find its way in the post-Jobs era and the company has “serious structural faults.”