back to article Want a touch-friendly solar-powered laptop? Apple just patented it

Apple has been awarded a patent for an "Electronic device display module" that replaces a traditional laptop casing with a touch-sensitive transparent unit that can be augmented with solar cells. Glass Apple laptop Note the space for the logo Cupertino's doodad on the patent dug up by AppleInsider, looks like a standard …

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Transparent aluminum

Apple's sapphire investments could make this happen. The problem I see is sunbathing laptops getting stolen. Energy efficient lighting and window coatings produces indoor light without the broad spectrum of energy needed to get usable power from solar cells. The visible spectrum is a tiny sliver of what solar cells absorb. Charging would only work outdoors, though it would still look cool indoors.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Transparent aluminum

So that's what the next best thing will be.....

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Unhappy

Re: Transparent aluminum

... but Apple can't release it quite yet, because Samsung has not finished the necessary hardware development to it ... bugger ...

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Didn't Nokia buy into a startup that was developing something similar (though no doubt less magical)?

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Thumb Down

Sure smells like apple innovation in here

Yet another patent granted with no working product in sight, no new ideas, no restriction to a working implementation.

Just telling the world "I own the stuff you haven't even made yet".

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sure smells like apple innovation in here

Judging by your bluster, you don't really get patents, do you?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sure smells like apple innovation in here

You don't understand technology companies work do you?

People working at tech companies get rewards for the amount of patents they get approved. It's part of their *job*.

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Silver badge

Re: Sure smells like apple innovation in here

Let me do this one again, extreme yes, but it gets the point across to the less educated.

Scenario:

I'm at home and accidental, or through hard work, discover a way to make a home cold fusion reactor for £100, paving the way for cheap energy for everyone.

The prototype will cost £10 million to make, for some reason the bank won't let me lend that much money.

So I send my idea off to robdogbastards & co who think it's a great idea, say thank you very much and go ahead not only make the prototype, but make billions of pounds when it goes into production. However I'm left penniless and suicidal.

Now if I had patented it (this is the point you need to grasp), robdogbastards & co have a choice, they can offer to buy the patents for a hefty sum, or they can go into production, and I sue the living daylights out of them. So in theory, I get my my money.

That's what Patents were invented for.

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Unhappy

Re: Sure smells like apple innovation in here

The trouble with your ideal lone-inventor situation is that it is now almost impossible to get a patent that will stand up by doing it yourself. If you can't afford tens of thousands of pounds for the work of patent lawyers etc there's almost no point applying for a patent.

I have/had what seems to be a patentable and profitable idea, but soon realized that I just cannot raise the the capital to bring it to fruition - and if I could raise it, I probably couldn't risk it.

The lone worker is much better off creating a work of art, at which point they can receive the full protection of the law by simply writing Copyright *Year* *Full Name* on it. Most patents are now little more than yet more gambling chips for big corporations, their investors and their lawyers.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Sure smells like apple innovation in here

Good luck with suing the crap out of robdogbastards & co. That company with the billions of pounds from the production of fusion gear. You without any of it. 15 years later and terminally suicidal as another huge file of complaints from their lawyers turn up as the case hits it's seventeenth appeal.

Some theory.

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Re: Sure smells like apple innovation in here

Most of the stuff is already being made.

They just sent advance notice that all your sales belong to US.

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Re: Sure smells like apple innovation in here

I LOLed, I cried, but mostly cried.

1. A portable computer, comprising:

upper and lower housings, wherein the upper housing has a front side and a rear side;

a hinge connecting the upper and lower housings;

a display mounted in the front side of the upper housing, wherein the display has four edges;

a peripheral housing member that surrounds the four edges of the display; and

a rectangular plate that is mounted within the peripheral housing member on the rear side of the upper housing.

...

15. The portable computer defined in claim 1 wherein the rectangular plate has at least one curved corner.

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Boffin

@AC13:34

That is why you sell it to a patent troll. They have the money to fight it and you get something for your idea instead of just being screwed over.

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The part about making the glass opaque or transparent on command is interesting but I don't see anything patient worthy here. I've seen other products including laptops and phones with the same features (except the glass switch) before.

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Anonymous Coward

At last!

Finally! A patent lawyer, solar energy expert and computer engineering on the thread to point out the futility of this patent. What are the chances. /s

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Def
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Joke

Re: At last!

Patent lawyer?

All that talk about patients led me to conclude he's probably a doctor.

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Re: At last!

Prior art invalidates a patient. With the exception of opaque or transparent glass on command, I have seen every feature outlined in this patient in other products. I do wonder why you'd want to effectively turn your solar panel off but that's another question.

BTW, my response was in part to the tag line of the article which implies that Apple have patiented attaching solar panels to laptops. If they try to enforce this, a lot of companies are going to face never ending lawsuits:

http://inhabitat.com/samsungs-solar-powered-laptop-to-go-on-sale-in-us-in-july/

http://solaptop.com/en/

http://techcrunch.com/2011/06/04/first-solar-powered-laptop/

And then I got bored of trying to remember all the places I've seen this done before.

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Re: At last!

That's what I get for lettering autocorrect do my speeling for me.

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Re: At last!

"That's what I get for lettering autocorrect do my speeling for me."

Always beewere of spieling chequers

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Re: At last!

You can already get electrically switchable transparent/opaque glass - it's been in Grand Designs, for a start. I think you can get it in one of two flavours - either "unpowered = transparent, powered = opaque", or the other way round. Thus there is a default setting that does not use power at all.

A lot of this patent looks like "take a bunch of existing stuff and glue it together", which is not patentable. The devil is in the detail, however, and some claims may well be valid patentable ideas - even if the assignee is Apple Inc

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Has anyone done the energy budget calculations?

I can't see this as being useful for anything more than battery trickle charge: on the back of a laptop - say 0.2 * 0.3 metres, is a maximum incident insolation of around 60W... pointing directly at the sun, at noon, near the equator. Solar cell efficiency is what, 30%?

If you actually want to open the laptop and *use* it, that's going to reduce rather severely, I feel.

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Re: Has anyone done the energy budget calculations?

60W outdoors, with luck. More like 0.1W indoors. I've tried several 22% efficient solar cells indoors and the power that you get from LED and CCFLs lamps can barely overcome the few micro-watts of internal leakage. They run at maybe 5% on direct sunlight coming through windows with energy efficient coatings. The amount of power collected by a laptop covered with solar cells indoors might not even overcome self-discharge of the battery and internal leakage in the solar cells.

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I will stick

... to powergorilla + solargorilla, thank you. This way I can continue to use my laptop (with the tilted cover pointing downwards) while the powergorilla's battery is being charged.

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Incompatible Goals

How is leaving your laptop in the sun compatible with Apple's own battery care advice to keep "your Mac as near room temperature as possible (22°C)"?

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US patents

The USA has 2 types of patents.

This is a design one (like rounded corners) whch in the rest of the world is a "Trade Dress" or registered design.

As others have said, almost all of this has been done before. The patent is for Apple's unique version of this layout.

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FAIL

So....

It needs a password on the back touchpanel to release the lock to open the screen to get to the keyboard to press the key to make the panel transparent to charge the batteries.

Err.. What if the batteries are too discharged to turn it on to do all that?

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How is tacking on "maybe also solar" a viable patent?

If it is, they should put that on every patent. Maybe also "one day 3d-printable" as well.

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Patent avoidance

I have a problem really understanding patents, but couldn't this one be be avoided entirely by not having a great goofy logo in the middle of the cover?

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Re: Patent avoidance

I thought the idea with patents was that you had to add something new to existing ideas rather than take something away. Oh, wait a mo...

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Joke

Re: Patent avoidance

Slapping a logo bang in the middle of solar battery is certainly innovative, so I guess if a similar design but without logo was to appear, the patent won't be violated ...

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Hmm...

...methinks Apple are starting to stuff in as many ideas as possible into each patent, thereby getting them more likely to get passed as their own, and thus continue locking anyone else out of thinking up and producing any device that has even the slightest resemblance to even one part of this patent.

Want to have a logo in that position? Pay Apple.

Want to have solar cells in your laptop? Pay Apple.

etc.

I wonder if I could stuff about 30 ideas/products into one patent and then just sue everyone who ever made anything.

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Anonymous Coward

What exactly is the point of the on-demand opaque glass with solar cells beneath? Why would you want to hide or show the solar panels, solar panels that are meant to trickle charge your laptop, using a liquid crystal window that uses power itself to make it work?

Isn't that a bit like powering a dynamo using an electric motor powered by the same battery you are trying to charge...?

My version. Virtually the same but use manually operated shutters that use no power. Quick, need to patent it...

Alternatively, just leave the solar cells under a clear protective cover to trickle charge constantly and forget about the pointless, battery wasting liquid crystal shutter...

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News

Next week's News.

Samsung introduce solar-powered laptop made of glass-like plastic stuff found on a skip.

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