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Scary Smartphone Motion Control Patent Granted 163

An anonymous reader writes "On March 16th, the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued a very broad patent on motion control in computing devices, one that seems to cover any smartphone that uses a built-in accelerometer. It was filed in July 2006 and preceded by a nearly identical patent granted in 2004 after a 2001 application. So it predates many of today's popular smartphones — the iPhone, the DROID, the Nexus One, etc. What will happen if the company that owns the patent asserts it?"
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Scary Smartphone Motion Control Patent Granted

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  • To hack a patent... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by alain94040 ( 785132 ) * on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @11:36AM (#31598364) Homepage

    Here's how you hack a patent. From claim 1:

    wherein the initial motion meets or exceeds an initial motion threshold; sensing a complementary motion of said computer device in a reverse direction to the initial direction

    As long as the iPhone or Android do not use one threshold and are more generic than detecting reverse direction, they do not infringe on that patent. Whoever wrote that claim made it way too specific, and easy to work around it.

    co-founders wanted [].

  • Patents (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @11:46AM (#31598562)
    Patents are invalidated by proof of prior art. I work in R&D, and every so often, will publish in a totally obscure journal just to get something into the public domain - if it stays under the radar, I can still patent, and the prior art doesn't matter because I'm not going to sue myself over it. If nothing becomes of the technology in-house, another party may well patent it later, in which case I have lost the exclusive revenue, but I can pull out the journal article and invalidate the other patent, essentially leveling the playing field if there is indeed money to be made.
  • by ircmaxell ( 1117387 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @11:49AM (#31598612) Homepage
    Inertial navigation systems use accelerometers as input to a computer for controlling its output (Navigation readings, autopilots, etc), and have been used in (civilian and military) aviation for decades. Doesn't that negate this patent as prior art? Or can you now patent the application of an idea to a market? Or am I misunderstanding how vague this patent is?
  • by nkh ( 750837 ) <> on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @11:52AM (#31598660) Journal

    Oh noes, they only claimed their invention...whatever shall they do???

    You call it an invention, I call it an algorithm.

  • by Myrv ( 305480 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @11:54AM (#31598702)

    I had a pedometer in the 90s that used motion to record events, each motion event would trigger an update on the display, it was hand held when reading the display, and it was a computing device that would calculate distance traveled (not to mention history). Sounds like it covers just about every aspect of that patent.

  • Re:motion detection? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ShadowRangerRIT ( 1301549 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @12:11PM (#31599024)

    I'm curious how this is legitimately patentable. I can understand patenting an accelerometer, and even understand patenting the software techniques for motion sensing (even if I disagree with software patents), but how exactly do you take two technologies that already exist, tie them together in an ever so slightly different way, and call it patentable? The only difference between this and something like the WiiMote is that the input from the WiiMote's accelerometer is transmitted wirelessly to the console base station. How does putting the CPU in the WiiMote itself, connecting the accelerometers with a wire instead of a signal, and allowing it to make phone calls somehow make it original enough to warrant patent protection?

    It's like would be like patenting sticking a compass in a car and connecting the needle to the GPS system so the car can determine orientation. When no one had done it, it was new, but it wasn't exactly novel; no one had done it because there was no GPS to connect to. Similarly, motion sensing has existed for quite a while, but no one connected it to a smartphone because:

    • Smartphones didn't exist in any usable form until the last decade
    • Consumer friendly smartphones that might use the technology are roughly five years old
    • Power and space requirements precluded unnecessary add-ons until relatively recently

    Patenting the techniques used to miniaturize it and make it battery efficient would make sense, but patenting the mere combination of technologies seems ludicrous.

  • by drerwk ( 695572 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @12:42PM (#31599502) Homepage
    iPhone uses 'shake' as an undo. I can imagine that the undo might be done similar to the claim. Might have to re-write it.
  • by taskiss ( 94652 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @12:48PM (#31599586)

    From the patent application:
    First: Note the question mark in the subject of this post. Then read the following;

    Inventors: Uhlik; Christopher R. (Danville, CA), Orchard; John T. (Palo Alto, CA)
    Appl. No.: 11/497,567
    Filed: July 31, 2006
    Dr. Chris Uhlik
    7/2002 to present, Engineering Director -- Google, Inc. Mountain View, CA
    John Orchard, Dir Engineering, Vyyo Inc.

  • by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @01:25PM (#31600202)
    What if someone patents a solution to a particular mathematical or computational problem that is provably optimal and no better can ever be found? Is such a patent supposed to stimulate "innovation" (whatever that means), when everybody knows that it can't be improved upon and if the other companies (e.g.) want to stay in business, they will have to use suboptimal algorithms or move somewhere else?
  • by WrongSizeGlass ( 838941 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @01:52PM (#31600634)

    What does copyright have to do with patents?

    a) Nothing, but they are often unintentionally used in an interchangeable fashion.
    b) Both are often abused by those who hold them with what can be reasonably described as nefarious or deceitful intent.
    c) Both a & b.
    d) All of the above.

  • by LeadSongDog ( 1120683 ) on Wednesday March 24, 2010 @02:41PM (#31601436)
    At,%20LLC [] we find that all twelve of Durham Logistics' patent assignments were from smart antenna maker ArrayComm (remember Martin Cooper)? Further, they were all assigned on the same day. I haven't checked them all yet, but one of the assignment applications was on August 31, 2006. Wonder what was happening around then? Oh yeah, ArrayComm was teaming with KT for a Korean WiBro network.;jsessionid=PVVYX1VQ5EXXGQSNDLPCKH0CJUNN2JVN?printableArticle=true [] Think those patents might be under Samsung's control now? Anyhow, they were clearly intended for applications in signalling, not user interface.

Computer programmers do it byte by byte.