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Patently Cool

March 21st, 2013 - 4:32 pm

Apple has been awarded a patent for a novel way to protect iPhones from drop damage:

The idea is that an internal sensor would detect when a phone is in freefall before determining its distance from the ground and how quickly it’s falling.

Then the system reorients the phone in the air as it falls, positioning it in such a way to minimize damage. The patent describes how this could be accomplished by moving around a counterweight inside of the phone, actuated by a can of gas.

But will they ever build in this feature? I wouldn’t get too excited about it. With the premium placed on battery life, thinness, and weight, I doubt Apple will ever find the room for a counterweight and a gas canister.

Which reminds me: Patents ought to be rescinded for products never put into production by the patent-holder. Give them, say, three years. Use it or lose it.

Comments are closed.

All Comments   (16)
All Comments   (16)
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I think something like this would be an invaluable tool in outer space. Unmanned probes, for example, would benefit greatly. Might be handy in zero-G. What if a meteroid hits your vehicle and knocks stuff flying? Less irreplaceable equipment destroyed.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Great idea. Except, ummm, it wouldn't work in zero G.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Accelerometer-actuated shifting of mass would have applications in zero-G, with some tweaking of the software. If your gizmo survived the initial impact it would be shitty if it got fatally damaged in a secondary impact.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I have a foolproof way to not break your smartphone.

Don't drop it.

#mindblown
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I worked at USPTO for a few years - a lot of those patents just keep getting renewed by large companies as they approach their expiration just to keep them away from the competition. This is a common practice
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

"Give them, say, three years. Use it or lose it."

That's a horrible idea.

Really radical ideas, the ones that really give us the payoff for the patent system, take quite a long time to develop. Especially now that we have a first-to-file system, which means you've got to file basically as soon as you get the idea. It can easily take ten years for an independent inventor to get to market.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
"Really radical ideas, the ones that really give us the payoff for the patent system, take quite a long time to develop."

Cites, please.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment

You're joking, right?

How long did it take to get a commercial use for lasers? Benz's automobile? I've certainly worked on research projects that required five years to get to commercialization. What about somebody working nights and weekends in their garage? With the new first-to-file standard (as of this month) you have to file well before commercialization, or else somebody else will get wind of what you're doing and file a patent to steal your invention. The fact that they didn't invent it makes no difference to the USPTO anymore.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
With all the controversies in IP, I'm surprised this change isn't creating more of a stink. "First to file" sounds like a bit of inside baseball, an administrative detail, but it's actually a very big deal that will serve to push smaller innovators out of the invention game.

A great big gift from government to corporations and the patent attorney bar.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Of course, unspoken here, this would also allow them to orient the device so that it suffers maximum internal damage on a drop.

Not sayin they would do that, but ipods did have notoriously short lived batteries that couldn’t easily be replaced….


(And for the record, I’m a long time Apple user and shareholder, and I work for a supplier.)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
iPods? Who buys those anymore?

(Also, er... I owned several iPods. They all had great battery longevity, and were "easily enough" replaced with a spudger.

Yeah, not as easily replaced as a hatch and some AAs, but not enough to make them trash after a couple of years.)

More seriously, Apple cares a lot more about customer satisfaction and loyalty than they do about "wrecking your iPhone so you'll buy another one a little sooner", since so many people just re-buy at the end of their contract anyway...
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Not just patents, copyright should have a "use it or lose it" clause too.

Damn you, mouse! *shakes fist*
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Can you name a copyrighted thing that anyone cares about making public that isn't being used?

Very little stuff, I find, is entirely out of "print", especially these days with digital music and text publication.

Speaking of mice, it's not like Mickey's ever been out of print, right?

(I'm all for a radical shortening of copyright terms, but "use it or lose it" doesn't solve anything to speak of - especially compared to just shortening terms.)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
At least independent creation is a defense in copyright.

It is not, but should be, a defense in patent law (there is a non-obvious requirement in patents but in the hands of the USPTO, independent creation is somehow not a factor to consider).
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Wow, Apple has found a way to miniaturize cats.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If they ever figure out how to economically butter tiny pieces of toast and attach them to the cats iPhones will never run out of power.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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