coverage of apple’s digital camera patent
Yesterday was not a banner day for technology information. The discussion around Apple, GoPro and US 8,934,045 seemed to spiral downward as the day progressed.
The first round of coverage I saw came from Patently Apple. There were some wonky bits, but It was the second and third rounds that were, shall we say, of a less than desirable standard. By the end of the day the same misinformation was being quoted and re-quoted until it seemed to be assumed true. Pretty much all of the major names in the financial press published something, and I did not see one that hit the mark. One can look here and here for examples. A version of the latter was picked up by Canada’s Globe & Mail.
I have said it before, patents are not easy to understand. In fact, they can be down right misleading when read incorrectly. There were two areas of confusion; the file history and the inventive technology.
This morning there have been a couple of articles, here and here, indicating that the patent application that became ‘045 was filed by Kodak. AppleInsider indicates it was filed by the inventors, later assigned to Kodak and then later assigned to Apple after it was purchased. One can readily check ‘045’s file history at the USPTO if desired.
When I read through the Detailed Description yesterday I came to column 9, line 63 or “… this processing can be performed using the methods described in commonly assigned U.S. Pat. No. 7,542,077 …”. Thus it is written that ‘045 is assigned to the same entity as ‘077. Looking at the face page of the ‘077 patent, reproduced below, one finds it was assigned to Kodak. Next, anyone from the patent trade knows that no new material can be added to an application after filing. Yes, there may be “wording” changes, but nothing material. So this suggests all of the substantive material of the ‘045 patent was from Kodak. It is easy to assume, based on their resources, that Apple simply continued prosecution (a.k.a. moving it through the patent office) of the application. Apple may or may not be interested in the area based on the reasoning that they may or may not have made a blanket decision to prosecute any acquired applications.
What do we know about the technology? What does the ‘045 patent actually disclose? In reading a patent one has to look for that material that is known in the field or art and the material that may be inventive. There are both in every patent and they are almost always confused. In this case, at initial reading, the Detailed Description seems to be a bit of a laundry list of possible bits of hardware and configurations associated with a digital camera. If I were to mention two aspects of technology it would be the systems and functionality around the use of a remote to control the camera, and systems and functionality around power management.
In the end there will almost always be useful tidbits in a patent disclosure. It is unfortunate that so much of the coverage is click-based and not well versed in reading patents. I have not even touched on the Claims, which define the legal protection afforded by the patent. Unfortunately, that discussion is not something for a blog post.