back to article Shock: Apple patents the phone book

Apple has been granted a patent that suggests its future MacBooks will come with built-in phone hardware, giving the notebooks mobile broadband connectivity. The patent, granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office, describes a method for embedding high-speed LTE hardware into the shell of a notebook computer, using the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ammunition

    Ah yes, what a wonderful patent system we have in place. Patent obvious crap just so you have some patents in your holster when someone else who patented obvious crap sues you.

    We are the innovators! We are the dreamers of Dreams!

    1. DougS Silver badge
      Mushroom

      How is this obvious?

      This isn't a patent for 'putting antenna in a laptop', it is a patent for doing it in a very specific way - placing cavity antennas around the hinges and openings between upper & lower portion of the casing, and having sensors that adjust the antenna depending on the angle the case is open.

      While I can't say for sure there's no prior art, I can state with absolutely certainty that it wasn't obvious to YOU to do that.

      1. PNGuinn
        Go

        Re: How is this obvious?

        So - when it doesn't work properly - what will the users be doing wrong?

        Enquiring minds etc...

        1. Pat Att

          Re: How is this obvious?

          "So - when it doesn't work properly - what will the users be doing wrong?"

          They'll be folding it wrong.

      2. Charlie Clark Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: How is this obvious?

        While I can't say for sure there's no prior art, I can state with absolutely certainty that it wasn't obvious to YOU to do that.

        Yes, it fucking is. As if Apple was the first company to try and put high frequency antennas inside metallic casings with variable geometry. What else are you going to do?

        This is another massive fail of the American patent system.

      3. Bill Gray

        Re: How is this obvious?

        > While I can't say for sure there's no prior art, I can state with absolutely certainty that it wasn't obvious to YOU to do that.

        Some years back, I was in my car, annoyed by the fact that the radio station I was trying to listen to was getting interference from a station next to it on the dial. Having read a bit about phased-array radar (sometime in the mid-1980s; it's an old idea), the thought occurred to me: "I need three antennas at different parts of the car; then with delay lines of the sort used in phased-array radar and suitable circuitry, the radio could be directional enough to pick out the station I want and mostly ignore the one I don't." (Recognizing that FM radio has a wavelength about the size of a car, so it wouldn't be very impressively directional -- I don't think you'd use it as a radio compass -- but it's probably good enough to sort out one station from another.)

        This is quite a bit outside my area of expertise. If I could re-invent this idea, I'm sure it's blindingly obvious to someone who actually knows what they're doing.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How is this obvious?

          "... getting interference from a station next to it ..."

          Mind you, that can be fun - in a weird sort of way. In certain parts of the South Coast you can pick up French radio, so your choice of local radio will suddenly start broadcasting some very strange music and then back to whatever it was playing before.

      4. just_me
        WTF?

        Re: How is this obvious?

        The Dell M6800 that I am typing on does something similar - already. This is not the newest model either, and it is capable of having a cell phone module installed in a slot - connecting to an antenna array.

        http://www.dell.com/support/manuals/us/en/19/precision-m6800-workstation/precm6800om/Installing-the-Wireless-Wide-Area-Network-%28WWAN%29-Card-%28Optional%29?guid=GUID-11103601-574C-40CF-864E-DF215A506133&lang=en-us

        The USPTO has gone off the rails.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Ammunition

      Its even worse than that ... 10-15 years ago I was working on a project where one of the features we wanted to include had been patented by a competitor who appeared to be quite litigious in applying it (as preventing people using it allowed them to control their IP) even though it there seemed to be clear prior art that could be used to counter the patent. We discussed this with our patent lawyers when we had a meeting to see what we could patent ... their solution was they we should file a new patent that was an extension to the exisitng patent by finding some slighlt difference on basis that Patent Office were very likely to approve it which then meant we could defend ourselves against any patent suit by pointing out that we clearly weren't invalidating the existing patent as the Patent Office had decided we'd doine something new - i.e. competitor would have to get our patent invalidated before they could attack us for infringement. So that's what we did.. A few years later I was pleased to read that eventually someone had gone to the effort to challenge the original patent and it had been invalidated so, as far as I can see, I've now got a patent filed in my name (but assigned to my then employer) which expliclty states it extends another patent ... which has now been invalidated .... oh, and I now work for the orignal "competitor"!

      1. Deltics

        Re: Ammunition

        Who would have thought that patent lawyers would recommend filing a new patent. If I read your post correctly you paid those lawyers for their advice and presumably their time in putting together and filing your patent extension. Other lawyers were then paid to challenge the patent yours extended.

        The net result was that the original patent and - by extension [sic] - yours became worthless.

        But the lawyers still got paid, amiright ?

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Shadow Systems Silver badge

    Wait, what?

    They claim to have trouble fitting a cellular antenna in a laptop, but they can fit one in an itty bitty SmartPhone or barely larger tablet? How does that make ANY sense at all? If you can fit that antenna in a 6" SmartPhone or a 7" tablet, then finding room in a 13", 14", 15", or 17" laptop should be as easy as finding some free space not currently taken up by a port (you know, those things you keep ripping out because you want to charge more for the dongle to replace it? Yeah, one of those. Ahem), shielding it from any RFI from nearby bits, & making the case over that point the same "RF transparent" material/methods as in your other devices.

    ISTR other laptops having cellular capability, as well as various tablets. Hell, even Amazon has made tablets with a cellular subsystem in them so they can grab data off either WiFi or cell signals. So if folks can (& have) fit such a subsystem in something as tiny as a SmartPhone or tablet, then why was Apple granted a patent on doing it in a significantly larger laptop?

    Bah. Not that it matters, I won't be buying an Apple product any time soon. Like a user here on ElReg has as their user name, GotNoIshitWantNoIshit (or is it the other way around?)...

    *Shakes a palsied fist*

    Dang you young WhipperSnappers! Get off'n my laaaaaawn!

    *Old coot cackle*

    1. DougS Silver badge

      Re: Wait, what?

      Read the article, it quotes the exact reasons why they're doing this. When you make a laptop with a metal case, it will affect the performance of the antenna. I guess they don't think adding "antenna lines" to the Macbook would be a good look.

      On the other hand, it is just a patent. Apple may not end up doing this, they were just thinking of alternatives, and patent lawyers will always make engineers patent solutions they come up with whether they ultimately use them or not. At least Apple will not sue someone using one of their patents if they aren't using the patent themselves; they don't pile up patents that they never used to sue people like trolls do.

      1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

        Re: Wait, what?

        When you make a laptop with a metal case, it will affect the performance of the antenna.

        Worse than that: it's almost bound to cut the antenna off from the outside world entirely. So, you can't do this unless you have ways to mitigate the Faraday cage that is the casing. You have two choices: stick the antenna on the outside or create a cavity antenna. There is just so much prior art here that a new patent cannot be granted. At least in a world where the job of the patent office is not simply to provide "litigation fodder".

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Wait, what?

        Very true. I've never yet managed to make a call on this all metal phone I have.

  4. 404 Silver badge

    CF-53 Toughbook....

    ... the one right here in my lap, has a cellular connection built in (Sierra Wireless Broadband module), works nice.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: CF-53 Toughbook....

      Have one of those here too… without the cellular option.

      There are a couple of Thinkpads that embed cellular capabilities too that are about 4 years old now. So the idea has been around a while.

      Not sure if the "novel" aspect of Apple's filing is the ability to make phone calls or if it's going to be just purely for data, in which case I think there's reasonable grounds for patent invalidation due to prior art.

      1. 404 Silver badge

        Re: CF-53 Toughbook....

        I'm thinking adding voice calls is just software - antennas thread through the hinges, right up either side of the touchscreen, so you're correct about the novelty.

      2. David Beck

        Re: CF-53 Toughbook....

        At least 10 years of mobile data in ThinkPads.

        My X60 built in 2006 has a Sierra 3G card but it has an external plastic bump on the lid which I suspect contains the 3G antenna. The X220 I use daily has 3G but the lid has a plastic edge at the top of the screen. I never buy new, I always buy ThinkPads and for the past five years always with 3G support.

  5. Ru'

    Surely they should have patented a method to detect user hand position, and then adjust antenna performance to compensate?

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge
      Joke

      The mind boggles

      at the thought of the antenna adjusting itself to the users rapid up/down hand movements when viewing PRON.

      Gives new meaning to the words 'Simple Harmonic Motion'

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      I think the patent for hands is to extract all the water out of them so that signals are unaffected. This will be in the Apple MacBook Ultimate (Bloodsucker edition).

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "using the casing to house the antenna and, ideally, improve broadband data connections."

    Well I hope they've learnt from history and will put instructions on how to hold it right in the manual.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can you file a patent on filing patents for things that already exist?

    Surely that would solve a lot of problems.

    1. Def Silver badge
      Coat

      Prior art much?

  8. paulf Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    "Device size can also affect performance."

    See title. I'm sure Paris is an expert in these matters.

  9. Whitter
    Boffin

    Requirements for a patent

    Not obvious: Which often boils down to "not done before" (which isn't the same but there you go)

    Inventive : A requirement so rarely met, is it really a requirement anymore?

    Utility: Must be useful (in its own right, not as a legal tool for bashing the competition!)

    Embodiment: Somebody skilled-in-the-art must be able to read the patent and use it to build a device that does the useful thing.

    The patent referred to has lots of "may this", "might that", "one could try this" and so on but doesn't seem to say "do this to achieve the useful thing in a manner a skilled-in-prior-art person would not have thought of" and so the requirements look a tad sketchy IMHO.

  10. Douchus McBagg

    so, they patented the fix for "holding it wrong"?

  11. lotus49

    What's the point?

    Why would anyone want several data plans?

    My phone (and presumably just about every recent Apple or Android phone) works very well as a wireless hotspot. Out of curiosity, I just got my phone out of my pocket and turned on the hotspot. It took me the grand total of 4 seconds. Why would I want dedicated hardware in my laptop?

    I just returned from a family holiday in the UK where everyone used my phone for data while we were staying in the cottage and driving about. We got through > 20GB without a word of complaint from anyone and believe me, my children complain within approximately 1.5 seconds if there is any wifilessness.

    This looks like a solution to a problem that we no longer have.

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