back to article Apple land-grabs iThingy feature management patent

The world’s change-rooms and fitness clubs might get that little bit more private, if Apple actually implements its latest patent, to enforce a shut-down of a phone’s camera in “a sensitive area”. Of course, it’s just as likely that if this patent ever makes its way to a product, it could also be used by copyright-holders to …

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Alternative Strategy

So, because this is patented technology, if somebody wants to circumvent these restrictions, they need only defect to the Dark Side, such as Android, or, God Help Us, Windows?

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Meh

Thought

Thats what the off button is for?

Great I have an idea... Patent the Off Button!

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Anonymous Coward

That might have stopped those naughty Prince Harry pictures?

Naaaaaah.

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Facepalm

Re: Alternative Strategy

Or buy a camera.

Then you can get really good pictures of everything that the iSheep aren't allowed to photograph.

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Anonymous Coward

This is one patent that Samsung would be glad to avoid in their products. Now if this Apples attempt at forcing a V chip like device on every camera phone on the the planet so they can collect royalties then I hope their stock prices drop to zero.

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E 2

This is not worthy of a patent.

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that hasn't mattered so far.

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Anonymous Coward

Now THAT would take me off Apple's client list

If there is one thing I will not permit, it's some random entity playing God over my life - especially since the reverse will be true as well. Imagine your phone taking pictures without you being in control. Or the phone shutting down comms and you need to call emergency services (which need not be of the 3-digit variety).

Patent all you like, Apple, but avoid using it. So far, I liked your kit, but there are lines you do not cross.

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Go

Re: Now THAT would take me off Apple's client list

Or a phone stopping you from installing an app because it hasn't come from a certain store?

OK, sorry, I couldn't help but be snarky there ;-)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Now THAT would take me off Apple's client list

Or a phone stopping you from copying files to and from it because it doesn't act as a mass storage USB device?

That's how Apple lost phone sales to myself and a number of my acquaintances.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Now THAT would take me off Apple's client list

That's odd, since my non-Apple laptop recognizes my iPhone 4 as a mass storage device and I've pulled video from it without an issue. No different than the Nokia I previously owned. While I don't like certain locked features (30 pin connector being one), this may be a user created problem that you're describing. This wouldn't be allowed in the U.S. anyways. We can't legally (actively) jam cell phone calls from prisons, much less movie theaters and it would affect a minority of cell phone users if it were implemented.

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Linux

You're holding it wrong

And in the wrong place too

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WTF?

The world’s change-rooms and fitness clubs might get that little bit more private,

Once more the puritanical Apple is out to save it's users sensibilities.

The trouble is that what's banned in California, isn't necessarily banned elsewhere. In 1991 toplessness as an indecent act was challenged by Gwen Jacob in Guelph, Ontario, who removed her shirt, and bra, and was charged with indecency.. She prevailed citing as men can do, so can women.

So Apples new feature would be 22 years out of date in the bigger country north of the USA.

This is the biggest reason why I prefer Android over Apple, the freedom to do what I wish, with what I own.

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Headmaster

Re: The world’s change-rooms and fitness clubs might get that little bit more private,

California has the Unruh Act, which is supposed to guarantee equal protections. One of its provisions is that clothing which would constitute Proper Attire on a member of one sex is deemed to constitute Proper Attire on a member of the other sex.

So it must either be legal for a woman to be topless in CA, or illegal for a man to be topless.

Oh, and in Britain, we form compound nouns using gerunds, not infinitives; so that would be "changing rooms". You'll be saying "Girl swim team" and treating them as a singular entity next.

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Re: The world’s change-rooms and fitness clubs might get that little bit more private,

"Oh, and in Britain, we form compound nouns using gerunds, not infinitives; so that would be "changing rooms"."

Interesting, as this was the first time I've seen "change-rooms" on the west side of the pond I had thought the reverse. Nice to know our language isn't that different.

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The sad (or hilarious) part about this patent is that it pretty much makes itself worthless. How? Because Apple only hoards patents rather than licensing them. That means only iPhone can ever implement this "feature", and who's going to bother setting up some kind of privacy zone that only works against one particular brand of phone?

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Of course it makes a nice headline, but companies file for patents all the time they have no intention of using. When you are a big company like Apple, you think if a new idea or solution, you ask yourself if patents are available, if they aren't you apply for the patent. I very much doubt Apple would implement anything from this unilaterally, it's simply not in their interest. This is a company obsessive about user focus, so The Register's suggestion they would use it for regional blackout of video camera use at sporting events is just The Register seeding mischief as they like to do. But if legislation comes along insisting on something technically similar (such as that wireless can be forcefully shut of before take-off on a plane), then Apple have the patent and are in a good position re licensing and leverage. So there is nothing sad about it.

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Unhappy

Or Are Apple Users Perverts?

Perhaps Apple users are so sad that Apple feels that it needs to protect their unfortunate users from their baser actions? I do not know what such ideas are, having never been or wanted to be such a sad 'devoid of a real life' case.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Or Are Apple Users Perverts?

One of the Top Selling Androids apps... Spy camera.....

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Meh

Ah.. but...

Think back a few months when someone slipped into Google UK's new head office armed with a camera phone and took snaps a plenty, even though the signage and contractors' policy clearly stated cameras were forbidden on site

These photos were then leaked to ElReg and published.

I guess it's the commerical and 'secretive' governmental industries that would take advantage of this "feature" if it's ever implemented.

Let's make it a little more real world and perhaps enable it at nursery schools to prevent sickos like Vanessa George taking snaps of toddlers etc..

A technology like this does have its merits if it is justified in a certain environment, but rest assured if it is ever introduced to the real world, other handset manufacturers could also offer this feature too..

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Facepalm

Re: Ah.. but...

Won't somebody think of the children??

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The Lords of the Rounded Corner

Thanks made me chuckle!

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Re: The Lords of the Rounded Corner

Also known as the Bendy-Angled Ones. Which no one seems to be using, so I hereby patent it...

Having said that, the reference seems to be not as widely understood as I'd expect: it seems in fact that gigantic demonic "Many-Angled Ones" only appear in comics called "Zenith" and "The Thanos Imperative", respectively about characters named Zenith and Thanos. On the other hand, that probably includes a lot of readers here, and indeed the editorial staff - hi! Cén fáth nach bhfuil tú post a fháil! (Google Translate thinks that means "Why don't you get Jobs" in "Irish". I thinwk it sounds kind of Lovecraft-ish, or looks it anyway. How it sounds, I have no idea.)

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Looking to the future

I can't see any user benefit to this, so I doubt that Apple expect to be applying this technology yet.

Looking at the way the wind is blowing across the world, it is easy to see a future where the presence of such technology is mandated by various governments, and I expect Apple see profit there - either because their phones will be the only allowable ones or, more likely, they will profit from licensing the technologies to all the other maufacturers.

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enterprise devices

For all those who can't see a use for this, I think it's more aimed at enterprises who want to be able to restrict certain features of their staff devices in certain areas of the business.

Only thing is I thought you could do this already based on wifi connections. I'm sure I've seen the option on some device management software.

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WTF?

There's a patent??

Not so much obvious as so bloody simple even a monkey could have thought of this one!

Who amongst us in the years that mobiles have been available has not been in a cinema (or other location) and thought that there must be a way to turn phones off or mute them during the feature?

Well I for one won't be buying a phone with this tech in it.

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Re: There's a patent??

We've all had the same idea but the patent is about how to do it.

Ideas are not patentable but methodology is (in my world anyway).

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Re: Ideas are not patentable but methodology is.

Until a device is actually built, all the methodology in the world is only an idea, surely?

I've certainly thought about how it could be done (automatically silencing 'phones while not affecting emergency calls or SMS), many times over many years, as idiots use their mobiles in the cinema and restaurant annoying me no end. Turning off cameras etc. is just an obvious extension. It's not rocket science, and certainly IMHO not worth a patent...

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Strikes me...

That for many applications of this, GPS will be a poor choice for determining the sensitive location, seeing as how many of the obvious candidates for "sensitive location" are indoors. Well, unless they've done something to make GPS work better indoors...

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Already been done?

There are Android apps that can do something similar ... doesn't Tasker allow a user to set profiles affecting virtually all hardware settings, based on the current location?

Ah... I see the difference... Tasker allows users to decide what to do when and where... in the walled garden, Apple are in charge of your phone.

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Re: Already been done?

I use Llama, cos it's free. It's based on phone masts, rather than Wifi, but works a treat, putting my phone on silent when i get to work, disabling wifi when i'm not in range of a known hotspot, etc.

Shame the Apple patent was filed back to 2008 - it probably means that Llama (and Tasker) are now in violation and will get sued off the market. The patent, though, seems only to refer to WLAN, GPS and bluetooth as location methods - surely most people disable these to conserve power anyway, which would make the whole idea a bit unworkable?

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Anonymous Coward

Prior art?

Some of this sort of functionality is already present in Android apps that use GPS location, base station or wifi id's to decide where you are and control what features on a phone are enabled ... intention was to enable you to define places where you had wifi access so that wifi was turned off to save battery when you were elsewhere or to define areas where you wanted to phone to automatically mute itself etc.

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Anonymous Coward

So....

Is required to use GPS, Cell towers, or WIFI to ID location to detect private areas.

What about flight mode ?

Or would they have a seperate detector for this function. or turn off cameras and similar in flight mode. ?

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Anonymous Coward

Chapeau!

I normally find that the cute little nicknames bandied about on the reg reek of tabloid laddishness, stale beer, and sniggering at tits, but I have to say that "The Lords of the Rounded Corner" is really rather good :)

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Anonymous Coward

and for the next iteration...

"Get your kids the Apple Jonny-phone®! Jonny can't msg his mate after 9pm, 'cos that's when Apple have decided it's Jonny's bed-time"

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Anonymous Coward

Apple-Jonny-Phone? Surely that would be the safe sex incarnation...

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Area of patent

As mush as I dislike this idea and think it is far too obvious* to patent the examples of prior art do not cover what I interpret the main thrust of the patent. Where this differs is the application of policies enforced onto a device by 'whoever' is deemed to be an authority. There idea of triggering events causing consequences when a device matches some state, e.g. being in a physical location is nothing new but not come across anything that pushes those onto a phone, at least as phone features are concerned. Pretty sure cameras in Japan must have a photo snap noise made when a photo is taken but that is obviously explicitly done in software/hardware.

Not got time to read the details so can't comment on all possible issue with this, however referring to a previous comment, there are also legal considerations that would still have to be complied with, e.g. I doubt anyone would be able to prevent emergency phone calls.

* I think its obvious as given the need to implement this, this appears to be the solution that would immediately jump to most peoples find.

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Let Apple patent it...

...so no one else can do it, only iPhones.

I don't want a device that blocks me from doing something in a particular area.

What if a gunman walks into a cinema with no masks, no one can take his picture. OK, poor example as most would be hiding behind seats/fat people and running for an exit, but you understand the principal. Besides a nice covert camera hidden in a lapel wont be connected to a smart phone.

I do understand the need for people to turn their bloody phone off in the cinema, but surely having someone up the back ready to throw out persistent offenders is a better way.

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If a gunman walked into my local cinema without a mask

he would be recorded on the anti-piracy video that monitors the audience.

I would be on the floor.

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iControl

This is one feature that will cost Apple a lot of customers.... maybe they decided it is time to kill the iphone?

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