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back to article Apple land-grabs fuel cells for mobiles

And the patent land-grab continues unabated, with Apple filing patent applications to forestall anybody else trying to plug smartphones into fuel cells. As far as El Reg can tell, Cupertino hasn’t actually built a fuel-cell-powered-cellphone, so we presume its two patent applications merely indicate directions in its research. …

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Boffin

Very well

I patent ATP-powered neurally implanted communications devices. Your move, Apple.

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Coat

Side-effect

Perhaps they should patent iDiapers for handling the consequent by-product of fuel cells....

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Facepalm

More seriously

Skimming through the patent language, this is so obvious, they might as well patent Kirchoff's Law.

"The fuel cell system of claim 6, wherein while regulating the charging current based on the value of the operational parameter, the controller is configured to: determine whether the value of the operational parameter is greater than or smaller than a set-point value; if the value of the operational parameter is greater than the set-point value, regulate the charging current so that the value of the operational parameter decreases; and if the value of the operational parameter is smaller than the set-point value, regulate the charging current so that the value of the operational parameter increases."

Wow. So the power supply monitors the operational parameter (known to earthlings as voltage) of the electron source, in order to provide a constant current. I mean, in my field of vision, I can only count five devices that do this. But none of 'em are plugged into a fuel cell, it's true.

Obviously, just like when they asked Samsung to build a non-rectangular pointy-edged tablet with a rough off-center screen surrounded by a logo-infested margin, they will helpfully suggest that competitors design their phones to ignore the state of the fuel cell and explode.

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Patently nonsense?

Correct me if I'm wrong but isn't a patent supposed to cover something that's actually workable and demonstrable? Surely just a few bland statements suggesting things that might be doesn't qualify for a patent?

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Anonymous Coward

That may have once been true, but now patents have slipped down so much in what is required to be grated that you could probably patent the action serving a glass of water now ...

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As soon as someone demonstrates it working, Apple will be given the patent.

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It seems that taking an existing common product and writing "mobile phone" in front of line one counts as invention. There are many cell phone patents - I think - that merely duplicate things that have already been done on desktop PCs.

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NOT IF

They file in the USA!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anything with Apple is accepted.

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Devil

Just the new fashion

Before that it was WWW and Internet. Add that to something old and obvious and voila - here you have a large chunk of the IPR portfolio of some of the "tech giants" :) Mobile is just the new Internet (in IPR terms).

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Anonymous Coward

WHAT WOULD THERE BE TO TALK ABOUT....

if apple stopped doing this, go go go Apple!

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I don't think it's restricted to Apple, as long as it is for the good of the US Economy, i.E. wellbeing of US lawyers.

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Pint

Re: Patently nonsense?

Exactly, ideas aren't patentable, inventions are. While you don't actually have to build one you have to show that you can build one. I guess Apple's reasoning is that because they can't package a 1968 Eldorado to fit in your pocket and fuel cells can be made that small makes it more practical but by some distortion of reality doesn't make it more obvious.

Sorry Apple, this doesn't pass the sniff test. Not only is it fairly obvious but it was probably done a long time ago in some combat theater by some quick thinking soldier with half a jeep and a bullet in the battery of his SCR-300... perhaps even my Grandpa. Cheers Gramps.

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FAIL

This patent should be rejected.

It fails on all fronts in that its not innovative and obvious.

Fuel cell to electric generator to electronic device.

Is that not obvious?

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Flame

Re: This patent should be rejected.

While "fuel cell to electric generator to electronic device" may be obvious, "iFuel cell to iElectric generator to iDevice" is clearly not.

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prior art?

quick google revealed this http://www.gizmag.com/go/5325/ - which, while powered by metho, rather than 'hydrogen' is much 'the same' concept. Put fuel in, burn it (break hydrogen bonds and combine with oxygen), power lappie.

Similar stuff from Toshiba at CeBIT in 2007 here http://www.pcworld.com/article/157606/toshibas_fuel_cell_laptop.html including other consumer devices.

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Yeah, but this patent is for powering stuff with rouned corners

Completely novel and innovative. According to the USPTO.

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Was the patent granted?

It just said that it was filed.

Big difference.

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Flame

This demonstrates the problem perfectly.

"As far as El Reg can tell, Cupertino hasn’t actually built a fuel-cell-powered-cellphone, so we presume its two patent applications merely indicate directions in its research."

You are in a position to patent a device in your imagination. No, this is preposterous and should not be granted. Working prototype where we are talking hardware patent application or no patent granted. This has nothing to do with innovation, this is quite simply yet another land grab by a patent troll seeking to poison the market to their own advantage.

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Exactly...

The idea of a patent was to protect the inventor so he could recoup the costs incurred whilst developing the product.

The US patent system allows the likes of Apple to patent an idea and do sod all about developing it. If an engineer is unlucky enough to spend time and money actually inventing such a device, he will be lucky to see a penny when he comes to patent the working idea and find Apple own it.

The US patent system is killing invention, not assisting it.

At this rate it won't be long before the rest of the planet develops some bigger cojones and just ignores US patents (aka join China).

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Thumb Up

Shift the burden of proof perhaps, in addition to tightening the law?

In other words tighten up on what can be patented *and* shift the burden of proof onto the applicant. The USPO's default position should that the patent is *not* granted unless the *applicant* can show that it is novel. The current situation where the patent office is drowning in a flood of micky mouse applications where *they* have to show due cause to reject the patent is the source of all the shite we are seeing today.

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Devil

Agree - enough is enough

The USPO's default position should that the patent is *not* granted unless the *applicant* can show that it is novel

Correction your honour

IT should be:

The USPO's default position should that the patent is *not* granted unless the *applicant* can show that it is _WORKING_. No working prototype - no patent. No more "patent style numbered graph diagrams". Picture or it did not happen.

By the way, the usual "garage inventor" argument is invalid here, because garage inventors _ALWAYS_ try to build their stuff. It is "researchers" in large companies which invent mental concepts and patent them before they are built. As far as parity between big and small anyone who has had to deal with POC budgets in a big corp knows that it is often easier to build your prototype with your own money buying bits of eBay than to get the muppet in charge to allocate you budget and sign your requisitions.

This will solve it once and for all/

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I suppose the idea is as follows:

Boffin comes up with fantastic new invention in garden shed

He goes and gets a patent on it

He can now go to venture capitalists to get funding to develop the idea and bring it to market without worrying about them stealing the idea - they can't because he has the patent.

That's how it is supposed to work, but of course it doesn't work like that. Explaining this in lawyerspeak in a way that they can't find loopholes isn't that easy.

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Happy

To "Voland's right hand". I agree with you.

You said:

"The USPO's default position should that the patent is *not* granted unless the *applicant* can show that it is _WORKING_. No working prototype - no patent"

I said, about 3 - 4 postings earlier:

"Working prototype where we are talking hardware patent application or no patent granted."

AF.

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his demonstrates the problem perfectly.

I agree with Arcitic,

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Mushroom

Can't wait to see this headline

"iDevice implicated in destruction of American city"

The fuel cell in an iPhone went nuclear today destroying the city of Cupertino, CA.....

And let the hatred commence.

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Anonymous Coward

Not a chance

The story would be of a poorly-manufactured Chinese fuel cell going nuclear and destroying an American city, with Apple announcing that it was being mishandled at the time and was none of their fault, nosireebob.

The courts will then find in favour of Apple with the stipulation that they have to use another fuel cell supplier.

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IF FILED WITHIN THE USA

It will of course be granted.

Next patent application by apple 'beam me up Scotty'. Particle transportation between two iphone 69s that allow the transportation of the human body for communication purposes.

Filed in the USA it will of course be granted.

But what about a phone the can heat a hotdog?,

Yes Apple was granted that one and the patent on hotdogs..... Where?

In the USA of course where all the legislators have brand new...... Wait for it..... Iphones and ipads.

Long live the American Empire.

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Megaphone

Boycott The US Market

With the economic rise of China, India, South America and parts of Africa, who needs the hassle of dealing with the US Patent Office; F**k em and dont sell your new products in the US.

Eventually the US consumers will have a paddy because they cannot have the same shiny new toys as their neighbours in Canada and force the US government to sort our the patent mess.

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Anonymous Coward

There are already several companies that do this.

They do quite well in places like Europe and Latin America.

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Anonymous Coward

If you've ever lived in both the USA and Europe and used a US dish-washer you'll already know what a protective market the USA is... My American friends could not believe my Bosch dishwasher would take dirty plates without any need for me to hand pre-rinse them before putting them into the machine. Whilst I can't believe anyone could call a machine which insists on such treatment "a dish washer".

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Dish washers

In independent testing, eg by Consumers Union, most dish washers sold in the US do a fine job on dishes that have not been pre-rinsed. In fact CU considers that appropriate procedure and does not recommend any model that doesn't successfully clean their test dishes without pre-rinsing.

And the effectiveness of a dish washer is far more sensitive to how dishes are arranged, the quality of the water, and the type of detergent used.

One advantage of US models is that all or almost all come with drain grinders. Models sold in some other countries (Canada, for example) often do not, and so require periodic cleaning of the drain inlet to remove what's commonly known as "dishwasher cheese".

With the Bosch you do get to overpay extravagantly, though, so you still have that.

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FAIL

can it really be this simple?

bolting 2 pre existing things together is patentable? what's next? recipies?

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This very publication should nullify it

I haven't looked back, but I'm certain I remember reading *years* ago on El Reg some article about fuel cells and how people want to use them to replace batteries in things like mobiles. (Probably several such articles, TBH.)

Whoever wants prior art, throw El Reg into the Wayback Machine.

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Prior art predates the register

Older readers will remember when video was stored on mag tape. There was a TV program called Tommorrow's World that covered the pocket calculator, mobile phones, jam covered CD's and fuel cells. All of this predates the standardisation of TCP/IP.

Fuel cells where expected to power mobile devices because the devices used much more power than modern toys and the batteries were not as good either. It proved challenging because the catalysts were expensive (modern manufacturing techniques allow massive reductions in the required amount of platinum), also storing hydrogen was difficult (still is), other fuels poisoned the catalyst, oxygen supplies are inconvenient and air poisoned the catalyst.

Fuel cells were used on the space shuttles. (The space shuttles were re-usable manned space vehicles - honest - you can see 3.5 of them in museums). Space shuttles had liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen for their rocket engines. The price of the catalyst was only astronomical, and the waste product of the reaction - water - was handy to prevent the astronauts from dying of thirst. I am not old enough to have watched the first man set boot on the moon. If the patent system continues as it is now, then I did watch the last.

If things go as I expect, we will get some standardised battery sizes which Apple will not use. If fuel cells ever become cost effective, they will come in standard battery sizes and be fitted as an after market upgrade for phones that are not welded shut. Apple can defend their fuel cell patents the way Edison's Motion Picture Patents Company defended theirs.

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Re: "I am not old enough to have watched the first man set boot on the moon."

I am, and yes they had fuel cells for that.

As for the patent - this is shabby in the extreme. Many USA drug patents have had long lists of compounds which were only synthesised on paper but generally not reputable companies.

Even if I'd not seen examples of other mobile devices powered by fuel cells such as laptops ( and 12v supplies for motorhomes plus the Apollo capsule example this would be obvious in the patent sense anyway.

If Apple care to patent a specific design with some demonstrable advantage then that is patentable. But to just claim fuel cell power for mobile devices..........

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Want to buy a big one now ?

http://www.efoy.com/en/fuel-cells-products.html

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Anonymous Coward

Me too

I know that fuel cells were used on board the Apollo spacecraft and lander to power -- ahem -- a RADIO TELEPHONE ... I'd call that prior art.

This has simply got to stop.

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Anonymous Coward

Throw it out

Didn't Toshiba have a working prototype of this a few yeas ago on a laptop?

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Go

I actually think they had a turbine.

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Anonymous Coward

They may well have had a turbine but at CEBIT in 2007 they demo'd a methanol fuel cell laptop.

They also demonstrated a methanol fuel cell powered cell phone prototype in 2009.

The Military have been using fuel cells for communication devices (radios, sat phones etc.) for a few years at least now.

All the above demonstrate prior art as I find it inconceivable that no other fuel cell user/manufacturer monitor current and voltage to determine cell state.

Perhaps Apple are different in that theirs has to be fed Lattes?

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Facepalm

...'forced' our government to maintain...

Next: Indefinite Military Detention and Torture a sign that people do not buy enough iPhone goodness, which mellows the mind of the modern warrior.

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Anonymous Coward

Fuel Cells are indeed pretty old hat

but, with any technology improvements are made in their use, design, control and safety. Any innovations in these areas can be patented. If you take the trouble to read a patent application, there are lists of references, many of the other patents and scientific papers.

If the application of the technology builds upon the work referenced then the USPTO is duty bound to grant the application unless that application is blindingly obvious.

So, if Apple have solved any of the plethora of issues around using Fuel Cells in laptops then they might be onto a winner. Don't forget that others can now come along and build upon the work that Apple has done. As long as that work is referenced in the patent application then they are 'good to go' and (in this case) Apple just have to sit back and let them go ahead as long as the difference to their work is sufficient. That is (sadly) a problem that the USPTO regularly mess up on a daily basis.

The overlapping of patents is a big problem.

One thing that many ranters (sorry posters) in forums like this forget is that the Patent process makes public the research(or not) being done by the company applying for the patent. Others can now dissect it and yes look for prior art (suggesting an idea in a story is not good enough unless there was a working prototype made...) or look for improvments and new applications of that tech outside the scope of the existing patent.

Just trying to bring a bit of balance to the debate.

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FAIL

So, What's The Patentable Innovation ?

Please specify for non-Americans.

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Vic
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> the Patent process makes public the research

What, "plug a powered device into a power source"?

That hardly qualifies as "research"...

> suggesting an idea in a story is not good enough unless there was a working prototype made...)

Actually - yes it is. Science Fiction counts as prior art if it covers the "invention".

Vic.

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Anonymous Coward

Nail in the coffin

Nonsense like this just shows the rest of the world how corrupt the American system is, and will accelerate the end of the American hegemony of Big Business, assisted by their well-paid puppets in Congress.

Anonymous: we are legion.

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FAIL

Moan, moan, whinge, whinge, whine, whine...

And yet again the implication is that [COMPANY X] is "evil" for doing what the law and present business practices FORCE them to do. This shit has been going on for years—especially in the US, which has some very broken IP legislation.

So what's the IT industry's reaction? Complain about these practices on forums! Yeah! That'll work!

Don't like the law? CHANGE it! Stop whining about it in forums like this, as if it's even remotely constructive. Have you *read* some of the laws that have been enacted in recent years? Do you REALLY want these people in charge of anything that might have an impact on your ability to earn a living? If you want your nation's laws to change to better serve YOUR interests, the onus is on YOU to "do something" about it.

Because no bugger else will.

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FAIL

Discussion Surely Is the First Step

And the second steps could be A) boycotting Apple, B) Writing to Apple Executives and C) talking to lawmakers. I guess A) is most powerful.

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Mushroom

" If you want your nation's laws to change to better serve YOUR interests, the onus is on YOU to "do something" about it."

The problem is that our increasingly corrupt democracies are "owned" by the very big businesses that create the problem.

Until governments return to representing the people... until political parties are stopped from whoring themselves to big business in a way that places citizens below the interests of big business...... things wont change.

All we can do is rant here - and maybe boycott some brands Unlikely given the inability of much of society today to do without something on a point of principle.. but legislative action? in your dreams. Everyone involved knows the system is broken and corrupt, but thats the way those with the real power like it.

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g e
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Boycott Apple?

They make nothing I want.

Plus I so don't want to appear part of the Apple-buying demographic I avoid them like the plague, anyway.

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Stop

I've got the solution

These companies should be fined for frivolous patenting. If they continue, their CEO could be jailed.

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