back to article Apple tries to patent facial recognition

Apple has asked the US Patent and Trademark Office to grant it the rights to produce facial-recognition features for iOS devices. Apple’s patent application, filed in 2014 and published Thursday, describes a system for selecting contacts via facial recognition and then tagging their faces in photos. This, Apple argues, will …

  1. JakeMS

    Really?

    Are they really trying to claim they invented facial recognition?

    Facial recognition has been around for years, heck early working prototypes of it were probable being tested/worked on before apple even released the first iOS.

    If they get this patent successfully, then its simply more proof of a failed patent system.

    Who's got bets they want this so they can sue Bookface and other currently working facial recognition software for royalties?

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Really?

      No, they really aren't. They are patenting a particular way of using it, which doesn't claim they invented all the math behind how to do it. I didn't read the patent so I don't know how unique it is (probably not very, like 99% of tech patents) but the patent only covers what the claims in the patent say it does.

      Whether or not this patent describes a novel way of utilizing facial recognition, when Google or Facebook has a facial recognition patent the Reg's yellow journalists don't hype it up with a misleading headline to make it sound like they are "patenting facial recognition".

      1. SuccessCase

        Re: Really?

        Oh DougS, you truth teller. You don't expect to get points around here for simply stating facts. No, no, no. You have to be a bit more like Harry Enfield's Frank down the pub.

        "If Tim Cook comes round my gaff, with his gold Apple watch, an 'is oversized handjobbie, an then start's photographing my 'ouse, without my permission, and then that iCloud thing starts slurping up his picture of my 'ouse, with my kids at the windows, who might be getting ready for bed, the dirty git. And then he sends a little email, to one of his minions,..

        "Yer, is minions Frank, don't trust them minions, there all like bigheaded and think they're cleverer than us"

        "And then tells his minion, to submit a design patent, ON MY HOUSE, THAT I DESIGNED MYSELF, AND BUILT WITH MY BARE 'ANDS, I'D SAY OI, TIM, NOOOOO!. You might be able to do that when your living in your spaceship, but not ere, NOT IN FRONT OF MY KIDS AND MY WIFE. NOW TAKE YOUR OVERPRICED BIT OF TAT AND GET OFF ME LAWN AND GO AND DESIGN YOUR OWN HOUSE, YOU OVERRATED OVEREDUCATED YANKY-SPANK."

        1. Little Mouse
          Headmaster

          Re: Really?

          "If Tim Cook comes round my gaff..."

          +1 for that. But I still feel obliged to point out that Frank Doberman only ever referred to people by their surname.

          1. SuccessCase

            Re: Really?

            Ah yes cheers, I remember that now. Damn, to late to change it..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really?

      Actually it's a patent for making sex contacts. I'm pretty sure that's a blowjob figure 510E is giving to figure 410E.

    3. Handy Plough

      Re: Really?

      No. They are patenting their method for doing so.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Really?

      Are they really trying to claim they invented facial recognition?

      I claim 2 million years of prior art

      We can look at a crowd and immediately recognise people in our contacts list

      Been that way since developing eyes (i-Eyes??)

      1. Law

        Re: Really?

        "I claim 2 million years of prior art"

        Surely you mean 4000 years?

      2. Shady
        Black Helicopters

        Re: Really?

        I bet the NSA cares even less for your prior art than Apple does....

    5. Whitter

      Re: Really?

      Novel is not enough.

      Clever is not enough.

      A patent must be "Inventive" according to the rules (and useful to boot).

      Very few are IMHO.

    6. Imthemobileguru

      Re: Really?

      Actually reading the submission should a pre-requisite to protest and indignation.

  2. Mike Flugennock
    Coffee/keyboard

    Never mind the facial-recognition patent issue...

    How come their patent-application art plagiarizes XKCD?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Never mind the facial-recognition patent issue...

      You'll be fine so long as your circle consists of Aurignacian period cave dwellers

    2. Number6

      Re: Never mind the facial-recognition patent issue...

      Who knows? Perhaps they paid Randall Munroe to draw their sketches for the application (unlikely, I agree).

  3. Dan Paul

    Facial Recognition?

    The entire security camera & security software business has been involved in Facial Recognition for many years. All those companies have been vigorously protecting their intellectual property. Since there are so many involved it seems very unlikely that there is no prior art of how to recognize faces with cameras and software.

    Unless the USPTO still thinks you can patent anything by tacking the words "on a mobile phone" onto the prior work.

    1. Mike Flugennock
      Coat

      Re: Facial Recognition?

      Unless the USPTO still thinks you can patent anything by tacking the words "on a mobile phone" onto the prior work...

      Yep, you pretty much nailed it. Kinda reminds me of that silly game you play with the fortunes in fortune cookies, where you read the fortune with the words "in bed" after it.

      Next week, I'm filing a patent for software which allows me to fry bacon -- on a mobile phone.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Facial Recognition?

        Bacon okay, but can the battery stand the strain?

        1. Grikath Silver badge

          Re: Facial Recognition?

          "Bacon okay, but can the battery stand the strain?"

          The slow-burning EE packs do a good job for you there. Any left-over heat can be used to brew a cuppa.

      2. Sven Coenye
        Coat

        Re: Facial Recognition?

        Good. Because there is prior art for "on a gun barrel".

        I'll now have my coat as well...

      3. MrBanana

        Re: Facial Recognition?

        "Next week, I'm filing a patent for software which allows me to fry bacon -- on a mobile phone"... "In bed".

        Sounds messy, and I'd definitely stick to electric rather than gas, if only for safety reasons. But happy to bring along a couple of slices of bread and the HP sauce.

  4. Craig 2

    "automatically find a person's contacts in an image and share the photos with those contacts."

    After actually reading the article it sounds like the patent is more about "automagically" sharing a photo with the subjects, if they are in the photographer's contacts. I've no idea if that's been done before?

    Don't let that get in the way of a good Apple / USPTO rant though :P

    1. Eddy Ito Silver badge

      So you're saying they are taking Faceborg's automatic tag recommendation feature and applying magic Applesauce to make it new and palatable patentable?

  5. MathsFail

    bollocks

    I fancy a guess that the software is built with an OpenCV library in there somewhere.

    Sounds like they're just trying to stop other people from doing something useful. But they wouldn't be the first: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_software_patents

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: bollocks

      I'll ask you the same question I always ask similar trolls: Name one instance where Apple ever sued someone over violating an Apple patent which Apple didn't use in their own products. So far no one has ever been able to come up with a single example.

      Apple doesn't patent stuff to "stop other people from doing something useful", and never has. Like all companies, they patent a lot of stuff they don't end up using, but Apple never bothers to defend such patents, because they don't care about you doing something they decided against doing.

      1. Panicnow

        Re: bollocks

        You've got to be a new reader of the Register if you think Apple never sues. They even sued ?Samsung? for round corners on a mobile phone

  6. VinceH Silver badge

    "Google has also been tied to the development of facial-recognition tools, an issue that was brought to light by privacy-conscious users when the Chocolate Factory began dabbling in augmented reality back in 2013."

    Really? Nobody noticed Picassa's facial recognition feature before then?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Apple launched their own facial recognition system in iPhoto just 3 months after Picasa started doing it.

      It appeared with iLife '09 in January 2009, Google added it to Picasa in September 2008.

      As the company that created Picasa's facial recognition have patents on their system it's not likely that (after seven and a half years) Apple is patenting the same thing.

      It appears to be about linking recognised faces to other recognised faces. Why? Who needs it?

      (Unless Apple is starting a secret automated dating service.)

  7. John Crisp

    Thinks....

    Going to have to wear a mask whenever I go out.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Nope... too individualized. Get a set of those glasses with the nose and moustache attached. If we all do it, every mobe and cctv will ID all of us as Groucho Marx.

      1. Haku
        Coat

        You've just given me a business idea, re-package those joke glasses with a new label:

        "ANTI SURVEILLANCE TECH"

  8. john devoy

    It doesn't matter that facial recognition has been around for ages, all Apple has to do is file in US patent office and prepare a Californian judge to back it up.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Californian Judge

      Ah, you mean those same judges that the likes of Google, Facebook, Oracle and every other tech company based in CA will want to use?????

      Nah, skip off to East Texas(1) and file your case. Sit back and Profit $$$$$$

      (1) Ancestral home for Patent Troll cases

  9. JaitcH
    FAIL

    A baseball cap with a few ...

    IR LEDs fitted to the peak or a baseball cap are usually enough to render facial recognition useless - at night. (1 watt IR LEDs fitted around a number plate will 'blind' Plod's national number plate tracking facility - even during the daylight hours.)

    For daytime use, heavy black eye glass frames do the trick for faces.

    They are also using 'gait style' identification, where a computer identifies a person by their walking style. I guess this means we will have to learn John Clease' Ministry of Silly Walks - see: < https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ministry_of_Silly_Walks#/media/File:Silly_Walk_Gait.jpg >.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A baseball cap with a few ...

      IR LEDs fitted to the peak or a baseball cap are usually enough to render facial recognition useless - at night.

      Won't work on iPhones, they have had an IR filter since iPhone 4 or 4s.

      1 watt IR LEDs fitted around a number plate will 'blind' Plod's national number plate tracking facility - even during the daylight hours.

      That either is not going to work, either due to decent IR filters or because any mobile ANPR system will flag to the officers in the car it has a problem. As the officers can see its actual feed it will be fairly clear that something dodgy is happening and you'll be stopped, and probably fined (AFAIK there are laws against attempts to interfere with reading your plate).

  10. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    One trusts it will at least be limited only to contacts

    but somehow, I can't see it stopping there.

    "Call the witness!"

    "Ah, my lord, the witness is unable to be in court today."

    "And why is that?"

    "Well, my lord, it seems that in photographing the crime, the facial recognition software on his phone recognised one Basher Sluggs and automatically sent a copy of the image to him. Mr Sluggs has since been in contact with the witness, who is currently undergoing facial repair surgery..."

  11. Zola

    Umm... pretty sure my Nokia N9/N950

    did this in 2011 - it would analyse pictures in the gallery and recognise the faces of your contacts.

  12. Bota

    Imagine the pop ups

    Siri " Brenda it looks like we found some photos of you which you may of forgotten about, and Brenda it seems you could be a little thinner and lighter if you stopped using me for dominoes pizza"

  13. electricowl001
    Facepalm

    Yet again Apple wants to patent innovation and avoid invention

    Kodak were working on facial recognition back in the eighties so there is nothing new about facial recognition patents per se.

    However it appears that, yet again, Apple is attempting to patent an innovation - not an invention - and basically try to pwn the whole area of linking images to other images via facial recognition. Of course there's nothing new in that as Picasa, amongst others, will group photos by facial recognition.

    Maybe Apple should pay some inventors instead of paying lawyers and designers.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Yet again Apple wants to patent innovation and avoid invention

      "Maybe Apple should pay some inventors instead of paying lawyers and designers."

      Why? Their existing MO seems to be working well for them.

  14. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
    Coat

    Has Apple got a patent on "bottom activation" on devices?

    Mr Ray used his bottom to activate Siri, which called emergency services.

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-33942098

    1. Naselus

      Re: Has Apple got a patent on "bottom activation" on devices?

      "Mr Ray used his bottom to activate Siri, which called emergency services."

      There's definitely a facial-recognition-of-average-apple-fanboi joke buried in there somewhere.

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