Apple Wins Patent for Flexible OLED iPhone Display

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Apple has been granted 54 new patents today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, one of which contains details of a flexible display for a possible future iPhone.

The patent, titled "Flexible Electronic Devices", covers products that would include flexible housings and internal components, including a flexible version of an Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) display, reports Patently Apple.


The patent also describes the use of flex-sensing components that register deformations of the device and could be used as a form of user input. Bending the device could change its operating mode, for instance. Other possibilities given include assigning deformations to game control systems and using flex sensors to power a device on/off.

Flexible devices are also cited as more resistant to damage due to enhanced shock absorption on impact. Apple notes that the technology in the patent could be used in future versions of its iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and other wearable devices.


Multiple reports claim Apple will launch iPhones with OLED displays in 2018. Samsung is reportedly close to reaching a deal with Apple to supply flexible OLED displays for future iPhones and is said to be investing up to $7.47 billion in OLED manufacturing equipment to fulfill orders.

In addition to Samsung Display, the OLED panel orders may be spread out over a number of suppliers, possibly including AU Optronics, LG and Japan Display. All three display makers have supplied Apple with LCD panels for existing iPhones.

Apple is reportedly operating a Taiwanese factory where a team of engineers are developing thinner, lighter and brighter displays for future Apple devices. The secretive lab may be specifically focused on flexible OLED and Micro-LED display technologies for use in future-generation iPhones.

Article Link: Apple Wins Patent for Flexible OLED iPhone Display
 

jayducharme

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Jun 22, 2006
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I get the impression that the patent office is handing out patents like candy. The issue is no longer about patenting a concept; if you have a good patent attorney and the money, it's apparently a fairly straightforward process. The issue is protecting your concept with that patent since, as Apple has found out, a patent alone doesn't guarantee protection.
 

hortod1

macrumors 6502
Jan 26, 2009
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Enter the obscure company that nobody has ever heard of before, to wait until a flexible OLED screen goes into production, to file a lawsuit for patient infringement.
 
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ArtOfWarfare

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Nov 26, 2007
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I'm now imagining that the iPhone might eventually be kind of like a card... it'd be interesting, because cards are not something you generally worry about breaking. If you really want to, you can snap or cut them, but that's about the only way to break them. You'll never break one by dropping it or taking it in the water.
 

Carlanga

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Nov 5, 2009
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So a flexible oled screen is patentable if your components also have some degree of flex?
I'm trying to understand what does having this patent mean? Is Apple now the only ones that can make a flex oled screen if the components are not rigid?
 

Vanilla35

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Apr 11, 2013
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This will be included with the next S version.

Iphone 7S Flex Plus Pro
Gets me every time
[doublepost=1456845600][/doublepost]Silliness aside, looking forward to apple making a better watch design (potentially incorporating this), and more than likely, them creating a band product as well, with a small screen, like the Fitbit Alta. This would be useful in that.

For all other purposes of the iPhone though, I think it is super lame and gimmicky. The only real applicable use I can see from this is basically what samsung did, and I don't consider that to be innovation by any means. Useful? Sort of. Not something worth investing millions into though (when it comes to the iPhone).

Until we get products that are thin and compact enough that we can fold it up completely and put it in our pocket, I don't really see where the advantage of these flexible displays are going to come in.
 
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samcraig

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I don't pretend to know more than I do about the patent process. But I know several patents (and prior art) exist for flexible screens. Other OEMs have been working on them for quite some time and I have to imagine they have similar patents. I'm curious what Apple thinks is original here.
 

Carvensno

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Jan 10, 2016
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Back in the day you actually had to have a physical item to claim a patent. Nowadays it just seems like you can scribble something on a napkin and claim/file a patent for it. Smh!!
 

MikhailT

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Nov 12, 2007
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I get the impression that the patent office is handing out patents like candy. The issue is no longer about patenting a concept; if you have a good patent attorney and the money, it's apparently a fairly straightforward process. The issue is protecting your concept with that patent since, as Apple has found out, a patent alone doesn't guarantee protection.
Not surprising as we're talking about 100K patents being granted per year to the tech giants.


Back in the day you actually had to have a physical item to claim a patent. Nowadays it just seems like you can scribble something on a napkin and claim/file a patent for it. Smh!!
This already exists, a flexible OLED display has been in development and shown for many years now. Apple most likely has already developed this in the labs. Here's a quick one found via a web search: http://news.oled-display.net/flexible-curved-oled/

Here's Samsung showing off the flexible display back in 2011:
 
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rek89

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Sep 10, 2015
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I'm curious what Apple thinks is original here.
Actually, a quick look at the granted patent shows that they are not patenting the flexible screen itself and, in fact, the claims they were awarded (the only actual protection that they get and the only basis they can use to sue) are of reasonable scope. It is important to note the virtual irrelevance of a patent's title and the difference between what a patent "describes" and what a patent "claims." In addition, while the patent was issued today, it actually was filed in 2011.

From a cursory glance, it looks like what they are claiming is the use of a flexible screen in a flexible phone housing that includes a sensor in the housing to detect when the screen flexes or is deformed, and using that flex or deformation as an input to the phone so that to infringe the patent would require the competitor's device to have a housing having both rigid and flexible portions, a flexible display, a sensor that detects flexing, and control circuitry that performs functions based on the flexing.

Conceivably, this looks like it could be a step toward eliminating some physical buttons and incorporating them into the screen itself.
 
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ricci

macrumors 6502
Aug 21, 2012
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Always 10 steps behind Samsung, but always the first to sue. Hence all the unwarranted patents. Patents only for "design" as Apple actually invent no core technologies that makes so many designs possible. Pathetic.
Just by starting your statement with" always" discredits this statement! Being awarded a patent" unusually " ( and I say usually because of the crazy amount of lawsuits) means your first! So if your first, how can you be "10 Steps behind Samsung " I will say that Samsung does release things way before they are fully cook , just to be first! Apple we know does not! Not sure what's better, half baked to be first or waiting!!
 

paulCC

macrumors member
Nov 2, 2012
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Actually, a quick look at the granted patent shows that they are not patenting the flexible screen itself and, in fact, the claims they were awarded (the only actual protection that they get and the only basis they can use to sue) are of reasonable scope. It is important to note the virtual irrelevance of a patent's title and the difference between what a patent "describes" and what a patent "claims." In addition, while the patent was issued today, it actually was filed in 2011.

From a cursory glance, it looks like what they are claiming is the use of a flexible screen in a flexible phone housing that includes a sensor in the housing to detect when the screen flexes or is deformed, and using that flex or deformation as an input to the phone so that to infringe the patent would require the competitor's device to have a housing having both rigid and flexible portions, a flexible display, a sensor that detects flexing, and control circuitry that performs functions based on the flexing.

Conceivably, this looks like it could be a step toward eliminating some physical buttons and incorporating them into the screen itself.
You are very likely correct in your explanation of the claims of this patent, but using the flex of the device as an UI method seems so utterly obvious....
 

Urban Joe

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Mar 19, 2012
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Actually, a quick look at the granted patent shows that they are not patenting the flexible screen itself and, in fact, the claims they were awarded (the only actual protection that they get and the only basis they can use to sue) are of reasonable scope. It is important to note the virtual irrelevance of a patent's title and the difference between what a patent "describes" and what a patent "claims." In addition, while the patent was issued today, it actually was filed in 2011.

From a cursory glance, it looks like what they are claiming is the use of a flexible screen in a flexible phone housing that includes a sensor in the housing to detect when the screen flexes or is deformed, and using that flex or deformation as an input to the phone so that to infringe the patent would require the competitor's device to have a housing having both rigid and flexible portions, a flexible display, a sensor that detects flexing, and control circuitry that performs functions based on the flexing.

Conceivably, this looks like it could be a step toward eliminating some physical buttons and incorporating them into the screen itself.
I wonder if this means Apple has in fact created a device that meets these claims or if they are seeking IP protection for their wiley imaginations...?obviously not an IP lawyer here
 
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