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back to article Apple poking at idea of bayonet phone fittings

Apple has been granted a patent for a system which could bring interchangeable camera lenses to its iOS hardware line. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) on Tuesday published patent No. 8,687,299, in which Apple describes a system for "bayonet" mounts on its handheld devices which would allow for the attachment of …

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Anonymous Coward

Doesn't mean Apple will use it

You seem to have the old-fashioned idea that people patent novel features of their products. That's not how the patent system works nowadays.

Apple will have some R&D engineers working on phones. Part of their job will be to come up with patentable ideas. They likely get a bonus for each patent filed (around five hundred quid per patent is the typical ballpark). Whether Apple use the idea or not is irrelevant - they still get their bonus, and it still looks good on their performance review.

The easy way to come up with patents is to take existing tech and apply it to a new field. E.g. it's interchangeable lenses... but on a phone! The "but on a phone" bit lets you get the patent past the patent office. It may be obvious, but if no-one has written down how to do it then the patent office don't consider it "obvious", and they grant the patent. If you get half a dozen smart people together to brainstorm you can sometimes come up with a half a dozen patent ideas in an hour.

Why do big companies want lots of patents they're not using? Very simple: licensing depends on volume of patents. If Apple have 100 decent patents on SmallCo's phone, and SmallCo has no patents on Apple's phones, then SmallCo are toast - one of those patents is likely to stick, so SmallCo have to pay up or get out of the market. If Apple have 100 decent patents on BigCo phones, but BigCo have 100 decent patents on Apple phones, then suing would be suicidal for both companies and they are forced to cross-license. When it gets down to 5 or 10 patents a side, both sides will be tempted to take it to court and see if they can invalidate the other's patents (see: Apple V Samsung).

Source: I worked in R&D for a big company so I am an "inventor" on some patents.

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Re: Doesn't mean Apple will use it

Except that Apple doesn't seem to really care at all if someone uses stuff they've patented so long as they aren't using it themselves. It is only when they've patented something and they think someone else is using it that they're bothered by it.

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FAIL

Re: Doesn't mean Apple will use it

This just goes to show how inherently corrupt the US patent system is. "but on a phone" should never be allowed to qualify for intellectual effort.

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Re: Doesn't mean Apple will use it

Ugh, I meant when they've patented something and someone else is using it and they're using it as well. If they aren't using it their patents gather dust as their lawyers ignore them.

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Re: Doesn't mean Apple will use it

Samsung already make the Galaxy NX - an interchangable-lens camera that runs Android and has 4G connectivity. Or is that a phone that looks like an interchangable-lens camera?

Either way, interchangable lenses on a camera, or camera/phone, is hardly a novel idea.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Doesn't mean Apple will use it

>Either way, interchangable lenses on a camera, or camera/phone, is hardly a novel idea.

That is why patents are granted for the implementation of an idea, not the idea itself.

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Re: Doesn't mean Apple will use it

"Either way, interchangable lenses on a camera, or camera/phone, is hardly a novel idea."

So what?

The implementation can be non-obvious, unique and seminal and therefore patentable.

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Re: Doesn't mean Apple will use it

A connector manufacturer told me some years ago that Apple refused to let them sell my then-employer Firewire(tm) connectors for anything but that use.

A firm got a patent for pi

And let nothing round go on by;

They said "Nothing doing!"

We'll shortly be suing

Whoever won't pay us to try.

http://www.theregister.co.uk/1999/02/17/apple_caves_in_over_firewire/

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Pirate

Thank goodness it's lenses

The idea of a phone with 12 inches of steel sticking out the back is frightening!

"iPhone 6, This time, it's Personal"

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Anonymous Coward

a patent on a bayonet fitting?

it's not April 1st any more, this story is late.

Or if it's not supposed to be an April Fool,

HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA. What bunch of idiots would grant that?

oh .. sh* ....

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Re: a patent on a bayonet fitting?

Yeah, bayonet mount for lenses, like my 30 year old camera at home?

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Re: a patent on a bayonet fitting?

... but on a phone!

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Re: a patent on a bayonet fitting?

>Yeah, bayonet mount for lenses, like my 30 year old camera at home?

Not quite. This patent describes bayonet fittings that 'break off' if the phone is dropped, thus reducing the force applied to the phone casing.

If the phone had even only a 3" lens attachment fitted to it, the bending force on the phone's bayonet fitting would still be considerable. It is better if it breaks away if the phone is knocked or dropped. If read the patent, you will see references to 'elastomeric compliance'. The abstract is cryptically written, but the 'detailed description' section of the patent application is fairly straightforward if you just parse out the mumbo jumbo.

This is akin to bindings on skis - it is better for your boot to become detached from the ski than it is for your knee to bent the wrong way round.

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Re: a patent on a bayonet fitting?

>What bunch of idiots would grant that?

Er, the sort of idiot who would comment on a patent application that they clearly haven't read? Oh, the irony.

Read the patent application (as linked to in the above article) and you will see that they are NOT trying to patent 'the bayonet fitting'. They ARE trying to patent a mechanism, incorporating a bayonet system, that makes use of elastomers to allow lens attachments to 'break off' if subjected to a certain threshold level of force, such as would be cause by dropped the phone and lens assembly. The rationale behind this is to protect the phone casing from large bending moments.

I have seen this sort of concept on sports equipment (clipless pedal systems, ski bindings etc) to protect users knees, but I haven't personally come across it used with a bayonet mechanism. If you have, please do provide a link!

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Re: a patent on a bayonet fitting?

We're commenting on the story, not the patent application. We shouldn't have to read the comments section (let alone the patent itself) to find out what the supposed novel feature is.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: a patent on a bayonet fitting?

>We're commenting on the story, not the patent application

The bit about the idiots granting something was clearly a comment about the patent application, not the Reg's coverage of it.

>We shouldn't have to read the comments section (let alone the patent itself) to find out what the supposed novel feature is.

Agreed, you shouldn't have to, but since it is a Reg story about an Apple patent application I am afraid you usually *do* need to read the patent to know what the novel feature is.

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Bayonet lens mounts?

Wow! What a brilliant idea! No-one's ever thought of that before - no prior art there. Definitely a well-deserved patent.

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Re: Bayonet lens mounts?

@Big-nosed Pengie

It is not a patent for a generic bayonet fitting, it is a patent for a novel type of bayonet fitting. It describes a system that, unlike light bulbs and SLR lenses, allows the attachment to 'break off' if a threshold level of force is applied, (e.g by dropping the phone), so that less damage is caused to the phone casing. It is the method for implementing this 'break off' mechanism that this patent describes.

An analogy is found on the back of mountain bikes. Rather than attach the rear derailleur mechanism directly to a protrusion on the main frame, the derailleur is attached to a 'break-away' hanger boss. In the event that the rider smashes the derailleur against a rock, the break-away boss snaps. The break-away boss is far cheaper to replace than the entire frame is.

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Third-party vendors

> "... either from Apple or third-party vendors, on a device."

Third party accessories on an Apple device and flying pigs - guess what do they have in common?

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jjk

Re: Third-party vendors

"With sufficient thrust, pigs fly just fine." - RFC 1925 (One day late, sigh.)

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/04/01/thatll_turn_things_around_blackberry_wins_block_on_typo/

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Samsung need to counter this by patenting the idea of mounting a mobile phone on a tripod.

It doesn't matter if it's silly, or something that really, really shouldn't be patented.

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Apple would then patent a tripod on a mobile phone that changes colors if wet and with a glass back that shatters when dropped.

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Not the point of the patent

Bayonet fittings are yawn-worthy, though the original Leitz bayonet mount was patented.

A review of the Apple patent shows that the novel feature is that, because the bayonet is so small, dropping a phone + lens is likely to break the phone due to stress concentration at the mounting point. The Apple patent describes a bayonet fitting that disconnects safely on impact. It actually is quite novel. But it exists to overcome a basic problem, which is the fragility of the iPhone.

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Re: Not the point of the patent

>But it exists to overcome a basic problem, which is the fragility of the iPhone.

Er, if you have enough leverage, *anything* is fragile. That's just physics. "Give me a long enough crowbar, and I'll crush a Sherman tank" - to paraphrase some ancient Greek geezer.

In this case the problem is not so much the case material of the phone, but the small diameter of the bayonet mount around the lens (compared to that on an SLR, which in any case tend to be used more carefully and with straps, so less likely to be dropped)... again, just physics.

Okay, torque, or 'bending force' is directly proportional to the distance of the force to the fulcrum, hence the SI unit of Nm. Force X Distance. Adding an 80mm long protrusion to a phone and then dropping it will result in orders of magnitude more stress on one part of the phone than would have been the case without the protrusion. 'Beefing up' phone case wouldn't be practical solution - it would add weight and bulk.

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Re: Not the point of the patent

So my f1.8, 1000mm lens will likely not be supported by this mount. Probably I shouldn't expect a Nikon to Apple adaptor, either.

Sigh. My dreams are shattered (even if my iPhone won't be).

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Then next year they will make a slight change to the fitting so you will need to buy all the lenses etc. yet again.

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Anonymous Coward

3rd party lens manufacturers have, since forever, provided ring fittings for different mounting solutions on different makes of camera. So, you can buy a Tamron lens with an Olympus mounting ring.

While your cynical point might make some sense, since the electrical connector on the iPhone was changed after 10 years, it is reasonably likely that a bayonet connector on Apple's phone will remain forward compatible for a very long time as the mechanical implementation internally can be altered (strengthened or whatever) without compromising the interface mechanics or dimensions.

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Lacking bayonets

I'm sure I'm not the only one who was momentarily excited about being able to mount a bayonet on an iPod, and then sadly crushed like an iPhone 5C under the cruel rifle butt of reality.

Screw it, there's an iPod Touch in my pocket and a knife in my office desk. Gonna break out the rubber bands and make a combination that's "highly unstealable" and "cause for arrest." BRB

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Pirate

Broken bayonets

A patent for breakable bayonet mountings? OK sounds reasonable. So.....you pop on a lens, drop your phone and the bayonet on the lens breaks, the lens is now useless but at least the phone is not broken, yay :) However, the tiny plastic/metal bayonet mounting pieces are still stuck in the phone. I'm betting a trip to a 'genius' will result in needing a replacement phone to free up the bayonet mounting!

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Wait a Moment...

This looks VERY similar to the "Moment" lenses (and adhesive bayonet fitting) that was recently successfully funded on Kickstarter.

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Prior Art?

Looks like the ring adapter for external lens mounts that Canon uses on the PowerShot series...

And don't give me crap about "Break Away" features. That is Apple's fancy way of saying that at some point the plastic will break, just like anything else in the world...

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