Controversy Over Apple Travel Patent Application

MacRumors

macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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A bit of controversy has arisen over a patent application filed by Apple in December 2009 that was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office last week. The patent application describes an integrated travel application for the iPhone offering users the ability to access a host of travel services, from airline bookings and check-ins to information on airport shops and social networking.




Where To? screenshot (left) and drawing from Apple patent application (right)
The controversy, which appears to have first been noticed and publicized by Rogue Amoeba developer Dan Wineman, involves a figure in the patent application showing a screen image that is essentially a direct copy of the interface found in the third-party application Where To?. While Apple's patent application was filed in December 2009 and claims association with a provisional patent application filed in January of that year, Where To? initially went live in July 2008 in the first wave of App Store apps. Where To?, initially developed by tap tap tap, was subsequently sold to FutureTap in late 2008.

While there were some initial questions over whether Apple was trying patent the inventions of third-party developers, an examination of the patent application reveals that Apple's ideas appear to be rather different that those utilized in Where To?, which is a GPS-based application for finding nearby businesses and other points of interest. Apple's application is focused on travel services, and while it can utilize GPS for positioning purposes, it is certainly not the main function of the application.

Consequently, it appears that Apple's designers and patent staff simply used the Where To? screenshot as an example of an interface a user might find when entering an airport, without claiming any invention of the interface's design itself or even the functionality behind it. But even if Apple is simply using the Where To? screenshot as an illustrative example to help describe a different technology, the move is not sitting well with the application's current developers.
At first, we couldn't believe what we saw and felt it can't be true that someone else is filing a patent including a 1:1 copy of our start screen. Things would be way easier of course if that "someone else" would be really an exterior "someone else". Unfortunately, that's not the case.

We're faced with a situation where we've to fear that our primary business partner is trying to "steal" our idea and design.
In an update to the post, FutureTap's Ortwin Gentz notes that he is not yet convinced that Apple isn't essentially describing his application's functionality in its patent application, but that even if it does not, the company's behavior still raises some questions. As one commenter notes, Apple's actions just don't feel right and leave the situation open to incorrect speculation and information.
The real problem, as I see it, is that no one thought to approach FutureTap, and let them know that they'd be doing so. I deal with patent applications a lot at work because they're often used as evidence in trials that I work on, and there's no way around the fact that they're hard to decipher. Bloggers are bound to read a lot into this, and a lot of the speculation is going to be based on a lack of information.

That's Apple's fault.
FutureTap notes that it became aware of the issue immediately after the patent application appeared last week, but that it held off from making a public statement as it attempted to contact Apple for clarification. With the issue being noticed by others and still no response from Apple, FutureTap is left to discuss its questions in public.

Article Link: Controversy Over Apple Travel Patent Application
 

ChazUK

macrumors 603
Feb 3, 2008
5,390
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Essex (UK)
Wirelessly posted (Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US) AppleWebKit/533.4 (KHTML, like Gecko) Chrome/5.0.375.125 Safari/533.4)

Wow.. I don't know what to say about this..... :eek:

EDIT: The only thing I will say is that this could indirectly turn out to be some lovely publicity for FutureTap. :D
 

stagmeister

macrumors regular
Jul 17, 2004
179
0
It's ridiculous to try to file a patent with the exact same interface. Yes, it is legal - as we know from the old Microsoft vs. Apple battles, user interfaces can be copied - but shady as hell.
 

NoSmokingBandit

macrumors 68000
Apr 13, 2008
1,579
1
This comment from gizmodo is awesome.

This is appalling! I cannot believe this "Where To" company has found a way to steal ideas from Apple even before Apple gets the idea to the patent office.

Stop stealing Apple's innovations rest of the world!
 

swarmster

macrumors 6502a
Jun 1, 2004
623
89
It's ridiculous to try to file a patent with the exact same interface. Yes, it is legal - as we know from the old Microsoft vs. Apple battles, user interfaces can be copied - but shady as hell.
The patent has nothing to do with the interface?

As said in the article, the only mistake Apple made is forgetting how dumb the internet is.
 

Tyre

macrumors regular
May 23, 2010
143
0
Baltimore, MD
They are different. Look at the sketch of the iPhone for the patent, it has 6 bars from Carrier.

Should clearly be denied based solely on this, at least until Verizon iPhone.
 

Cougarcat

macrumors 604
Sep 19, 2003
7,766
2,545
Apple does this sort of thing all the time. Konfabulator anyone?
Not quite the same. Dashboard wasn't a 1:1 copy of Konfabulator's interface, and Dashboard was a re-imagining of the original Mac desk accessories anyway,
 

i.mac

macrumors 6502a
Dec 14, 2007
996
236
This site has become as anti-apple as any out there.

Guilty before proven innocent, and in the mean time, bash apple + get traffic as much as possible.

Not one knows the particulars, yet every one thinks apple is up to screw every one againg.

Meanwhile, the rest of 99.999% of users do not five a hoot.
 

KT Walrus

macrumors member
Jul 10, 2008
30
0
Apple did change the 'T' in "Where To?" to a lower case 't' in their illustration.

Doesn't that count in their favor?

If you change something, then it isn't stealing, is it?
 

Stella

macrumors G3
Apr 21, 2003
8,321
4,778
Canada
What did they steal?
Read the article. The developers are claiming Apple is doing just this.

I'll highlight:
Consequently, it appears that Apple's designers and patent staff simply used the Where To? screenshot as an example of an interface a user might find when entering an airport, without claiming any invention of the interface's design itself or even the functionality behind it. But even if Apple is simply using the Where To? screenshot as an illustrative example to help describe a different technology, the move is not sitting well with the application's current developers.
Quote:
At first, we couldn't believe what we saw and felt it can't be true that someone else is filing a patent including a 1:1 copy of our start screen. Things would be way easier of course if that "someone else" would be really an exterior "someone else". Unfortunately, that's not the case.

We're faced with a situation where we've to fear that our primary business partner is trying to "steal" our idea and design.
 

pixelcruncher

macrumors member
Jul 22, 2009
64
0
This is what Apple does. Remember that iBooks was essentially a straight rip of Classics (who had asked Delicious Library for permission to use the similar interface)? Remember how Dashboard ripped off Konfabulator?

3rd party developers will always be able to innovate faster than Apple, which shifts coders from project to project depending on what Apple needs. Why waste time developing an innovative, unique interface when releasing iAds is far more important to Apple and they can take the best ideas from third party developers because they have a giant legal team that can keep things tied up in courts for years?
 

Lynxpoint

macrumors regular
Jan 13, 2005
163
23
I think laziness is the only crime here. A click-wheel of some sort or another has been on many devices, how different could they all be and still be a dial? The drawing could at least have been slightly different from the app in question, but using the screenshot when Apple has plenty of graphic designers that could create a mock-up easily enough is laughable. Someone got caught taking short-cuts.
 

Stella

macrumors G3
Apr 21, 2003
8,321
4,778
Canada
This is what Apple does. Remember that iBooks was essentially a straight rip of Classics (who had asked Delicious Library for permission to use the similar interface)? Remember how Dashboard ripped off Konfabulator?

3rd party developers will always be able to innovate faster than Apple, which shifts coders from project to project depending on what Apple needs. Why waste time developing an innovative, unique interface when releasing iAds is far more important to Apple and they can take the best ideas from third party developers because they have a giant legal team that can keep things tied up in courts for years?
At worst: ( I'm not saying this is actually happening )
It seems Apple is using the Apple store to get ideas for its future products, and thus borderline ripping off the developers. Oh, and Apple can refuse / remove applications at any time if it so choses - to make way for its own application.

Apple - get out your photocopier!
 

TMay

macrumors 68000
Dec 24, 2001
1,520
1
Carson City, NV
Apple does this sort of thing all the time. Konfabulator anyone?
Uhh, not so much.

Apple had desk accessories much earlier, and Konfabulator was an evolution of the desk accessory. Apple may have created the Dashboard for the same space that Konfabulator was occupying, but there isn't anything nefarious about Apple evolving its own desk accessories.

John Gruber discussed this back in 2004, and I'll provide the link:

http://daringfireball.net/2004/06/dashboard_vs_konfabulator
 

BaldiMac

macrumors 604
Jan 24, 2008
7,409
6,591
Read the article. The developers are claiming Apple is doing just this.

I'll highlight:
Consequently, it appears that Apple's designers and patent staff simply used the Where To? screenshot as an example of an interface a user might find when entering an airport, without claiming any invention of the interface's design itself or even the functionality behind it. But even if Apple is simply using the Where To? screenshot as an illustrative example to help describe a different technology, the move is not sitting well with the application's current developers.
Quote:
At first, we couldn't believe what we saw and felt it can't be true that someone else is filing a patent including a 1:1 copy of our start screen. Things would be way easier of course if that "someone else" would be really an exterior "someone else". Unfortunately, that's not the case.

We're faced with a situation where we've to fear that our primary business partner is trying to "steal" our idea and design.
I did read the article, which is how I know that Apple didn't steal anything. They included a drawing of the Where To? interface in the patent application. The patent is unrelated to the interface. Drawing is not the same as stealing.
 

Tyre

macrumors regular
May 23, 2010
143
0
Baltimore, MD
Eee Apple.

Whats worse than patent trolls? A: blatant stealing.

This is bottom of the barrel stuff Apple.
You guys need to realize that they are not patenting anything that is shown here. They are not patenting Where To?'s app or anything like it. Read the patent, it isn't for anything UI related but rather a reactive application - one that, if it knows you have a plane flight (for example) can ready your boarding passes by checking you in or giving you maps of connecting airports.

This isn't "you are in coordinates x,y and here are stores/things-to-do nearby" (Where To?). Apple's idea is far more complex: "Based on your information, you will be in x,y and here are things you may need." I.e.: We see that you have a 10am flight that connects in Roanoke, here are your boarding passes and this is a restaurant in the Roanoke airport near your gate.

Read before Rage.
 

fribhey

macrumors member
Mar 11, 2005
84
24
Read the article. The developers are claiming Apple is doing just this.

I'll highlight:
Consequently, it appears that Apple's designers and patent staff simply used the Where To? screenshot as an example of an interface a user might find when entering an airport, without claiming any invention of the interface's design itself or even the functionality behind it. But even if Apple is simply using the Where To? screenshot as an illustrative example to help describe a different technology, the move is not sitting well with the application's current developers.
Quote:
At first, we couldn't believe what we saw and felt it can't be true that someone else is filing a patent including a 1:1 copy of our start screen. Things would be way easier of course if that "someone else" would be really an exterior "someone else". Unfortunately, that's not the case.

We're faced with a situation where we've to fear that our primary business partner is trying to "steal" our idea and design.
you need to read the article again. apple didn't steal anything. you are overreacting just like the app's developers and are flinging false accusations based on quick judgements and lack of knowledge.
 

Stella

macrumors G3
Apr 21, 2003
8,321
4,778
Canada
you need to read the article again. apple didn't steal anything. you are overreacting just like the app's developers and are flinging false accusations based on quick judgements and lack of knowledge.

I did read the article, which is how I know that Apple didn't steal anything. They included a drawing of the Where To? interface in the patent application. The patent is unrelated to the interface. Drawing is not the same as stealing.
According to the developer, Apple are stealing.

But its *Very* low to use someone else's GUI. Can't Apple create their own mock up?

If this was your application I doubt either of you would be as forgiving.
 

swarmster

macrumors 6502a
Jun 1, 2004
623
89
Read the article. The developers are claiming Apple is doing just this.

I'll highlight:
Consequently, it appears that Apple's designers and patent staff simply used the Where To? screenshot as an example of an interface a user might find when entering an airport, without claiming any invention of the interface's design itself or even the functionality behind it. But even if Apple is simply using the Where To? screenshot as an illustrative example to help describe a different technology, the move is not sitting well with the application's current developers.
Quote:
At first, we couldn't believe what we saw and felt it can't be true that someone else is filing a patent including a 1:1 copy of our start screen. Things would be way easier of course if that "someone else" would be really an exterior "someone else". Unfortunately, that's not the case.

We're faced with a situation where we've to fear that our primary business partner is trying to "steal" our idea and design.
The first part of your quote directly refutes the second. Did you read it?


At worst: ( I'm not saying this is actually happening )
I'm just going to stop right there. Is this what this site has come to? We just make up something that sounds bad and run with it?
 

fribhey

macrumors member
Mar 11, 2005
84
24
You guys need to realize that they are not patenting anything that is shown here. They are not patenting Where To?'s app or anything like it. Read the patent, it isn't for anything UI related but rather a reactive application - one that, if it knows you have a plane flight (for example) can ready your boarding passes by checking you in or giving you maps of connecting airports.

This isn't "you are in coordinates x,y and here are stores/things-to-do nearby" (Where To?). Apple's idea is far more complex: "Based on your information, you will be in x,y and here are things you may need." I.e.: We see that you have a 10am flight that connects in Roanoke, here are your boarding passes and this is a restaurant in the Roanoke airport near your gate.

Read before Rage.
people are stupid and facts mean nothing. this is why glenn beck has so many viewers.