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An IM Patent for the iPhone? 71

Posted by timothy
from the could-b-could-b dept.
Ian Lamont writes "Apple has filed a patent for IM on portable devices, which could mean that it's getting ready to launch an IM client for the iPhone. The filing is titled 'Portable Electronic Device for Instant Messaging', and covers methods for sending, receiving, and viewing ongoing conversations. The proposed GUI is similar to Apple's current interface for SMS. As for why iChat wasn't enabled for the iPhone earlier, there's some interesting background and analysis here, which also includes a discussion of AIM for the iPhone. IM also came up in the discussions last year about the most-wanted features in iPhone 2.0."
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An IM Patent for the iPhone?

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  • by bit trollent (824666) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:04PM (#23159462) Homepage
    You can tell that Apple is still the same company they have always been when they are patenting functionality that is already on most modern cell phones and is noticably absent from the iPhone.

    So not only is Apple late bringing this feature to market, but they are trying to patent something which has prior art in products which are already competing against their own.

    Bravo Steve Jobs!

    *slow hand clap*
    • by zappepcs (820751)
      holy fsck! I read that and thought there must be a catch, Apple folks can't be that slow? TFA doesn't seem to indicate anything different.

      Does anyone have ready-to-hand details on the patent application. There is obvious prior art, and locking out developers just doesn't seem overtly good business practice.

      • by furball (2853)
        Diagrams [appleinsider.com]
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by kithrup (778358)

        I found the patent [uspto.gov] via a Mac rumour site.

        The main point of difference appears to be the touch screen, but I admit I'm not great at reading patents.

        Note that this is also just a patent application; it hasn't been granted yet.

        • by PachmanP (881352)
          Looking at the first bunch of claims and knowing a little bit about patents, one would hope to God that it would get thrown out on obviousness. Everything I saw described using IM only appending "with a touchscreen" to everything. Which would be ovbious if you were using a touch screen for imput. The thing that they maybe should get, but is still kinda obvious, is basically scrolling by making a scrolling gesture vs a scroll bar. All in all a pretty obvious patent, but due to the problems with the syste
          • by Weedlekin (836313)
            "Everything I saw described using IM only appending "with a touchscreen" to everything. Which would be ovbious if you were using a touch screen for imput."

            If the number of patents that have been granted for well known methods and processes with "on a computer", "on a network", and "on the Internet" appended are anything to go by, the fact that Apple have used a new and hitherto unseen (by patent examiners) "on a" variant will be more than sufficient to prove how incredibly innovative it is.
    • by MacDork (560499)

      You can tell that Apple is still the same company they have always been when they are patenting functionality that is already on most modern cell phones and is noticably absent from the iPhone.

      When Apple starts trolling with it, do cry about it. Until then, it isn't unusual for trolls to sue Apple over obvious shit [arstechnica.com] just like this.

  • by ZephyrXero (750822) <zephyrxero@yah[ ]com ['oo.' in gap]> on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:06PM (#23159474) Homepage Journal
    Hate to break it to ya Apple, but there have been cell phones with the ability to use services such as AIM for quite a few years now.
  • ASK SLASHDOT (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sm62704 (957197) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:11PM (#23159544) Journal
    Forgive me, maybe it's my geezerhood speaking, but I don't understand why anybody would want IM on a phone in the first place. Text messages yes, for if (say) the girl you're calling is in a movie or at the OBGYN or somewhere where she can't take a call right now, but IM? That's INSTANT message.

    Why would you IM when you could more easily and cheaply just talk? English class maybe?

    *wanders off muttering about foolish young people...*
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by calebt3 (1098475)
      WiFi hotspots make IM cheaper than text messaging.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by rkanodia (211354)
        So do ridiculous usage plans with unlimited data transfer... except for text messages. Don't get me wrong, I love my iPhone, but some of this bullshit is, well, bullshit.
        • Text messaging functions in a much different fashion than IM.

          Your cell phone doesn't initiate an Edge (or whatever) connection just to send/receive a text message. Instant Messaging in it's current form requires you to have that connection live.

          I'm not saying text messages aren't a scam or over priced... But there are really good reasons AIM et. al. aren't included as part of a cell phone's text messaging system. The technology just isn't designed around having more than a fraction of subscribers "in call"
          • by T-Bone-T (1048702)
            My last phone had AIM. It did use a data connection but each IM counted as an SMS.
          • by arivanov (12034)
            Wrong.

            SMS can be done over GPRS including Edge or 3G packet connection. The feature is present in most modern phones and most networks have upgraded their SMSCs to support it long ago.

            Unfortunately operators avoid enabling it by default. They have to justify the extortionate prices for SMS after all and with the legacy method which piggy-backs SMS onto signalling these prices are justified.
      • by maxume (22995)
        You should have wandered off typing about old people stuck in their ways.
      • Screw the Wi-Fi hotspots, "unlimited data plan" for the iPhone makes IM cheaper than SMS.

        SMS makes AT&T money, IM does not. This is also why iPhone SDK bans voice-over-ip apps like Skype. This would circumvent using up your cell phone minutes to call people and instead use the EDGE network to do it.

        Then again, I don't think i'd trust the EDGE network for much as it is ridiculously slow in most cities i've tried using it in on my iPhone.
        • by toleraen (831634) *
          I think you're forgetting that you are paying for the data connection as well.

          Oh, and on AT&Ts network my bandwidth tests return sustained 1Mbps+ connections. HSDPA is a wonderful thing! You can thank yourself for purchasing a phone that only supports a slower, last generation technology.
    • Wait... Not only do you fail to realize SMS is IM, but also fail to realize why it is so _popular_. (outside of the US)
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by snowraver1 (1052510)
        There is a big different. SMS uses the control channel of the cell tower, where as IM uses the normal data channels. The control channel is limited in bandwidth, where the data channel can accomodate much, much more data.
        • by PachmanP (881352)
          Well except any more text messages get sent over the data channels anyway. You just can charge more for 160 bytes if they "text messages" than you can for the 160 B of data...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by netsavior (627338)
      IM is the #1 most used data feature on my phone...

      My wife and I are in communication all the time, and it is seamless no matter if one or the other of us is at home, work, at the beach, at the mall, whatever. Same protocol, different device means when she is sipping her coffee at the desk checking email, and I am filling my car with gas 20 miles away, she doesn't have to scramble for her cellphone to ask me to go in and buy a pack of gum for her. It is annoying that more manufacturers don't place a lot
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by pete-classic (75983)
      Two word answer: Night club.

      Longer answer: Each of the combinations of synchronous and asynchronous, and visual and aural communication have their place. Need to send a street address, but the recipient doesn't really need it until tomorrow? Send an email. Need to tell a friend that you're at the upstairs bar? Send an SMS.

      I find that, now that I'm accustomed to using SMS, it comes in handy often. It hits a sweet spot of high precedence without requiring true synchronicity, while enforcing pithiness.

      -Pe
      • by tlhIngan (30335)

        Need to send a street address, but the recipient doesn't really need it until tomorrow? Send an email. Need to tell a friend that you're at the upstairs bar? Send an SMS.

        Better yet, call them.

        SMS latency can be extremely random. Sure, 99% of SMSes are received within say, 5 minutes of them being sent, but a significant number bounce around the system enough that they may be received hours or days later. Worse still, if there's a slight strangeness in the SMS providers, you can keep receiving the *SAME* SMS

        • Me: I'm upstairs.
          Friend: WHAT?
          Me: I'M UPSTAIRS
          Friend: WHAT?
          Me: I'M UPSTAIRS
          Friend: WHAT?
          Me: *click*

          I'll take my chances with SMS, thanks.

          -Peter
    • by Rycross (836649)
      My girlfriend is currently living in another country. If I connect via an IM program, then I can talk to her for the cost of my unlimited data plan. If I call her up or send an SMS then I have to pay.

      Of course, when I'm at home we use Skype. But usually I have to chat with her when I'm working (code compiling!), and my work blocks all IM, so I have to use my phone. Luckily the nature of IM also means that I can work and talk to her at the same time.
    • because when you IM people, you get to use all the chat abbreviations that show how cool you are. 2moro, idk my bff jill, etc.

      The funny thing is, even though it's stupid and more work to do, most young (30) people use SMS exactly as a chat feature, to drag conversations that would normally last 45 seconds into 10-minute affairs. The only reason for this that I can think of is that people are ingrained with the minutes=money formula, but strangely not texting=money. (even though word for word, SMS is more
      • But then, I'm the guy who thinks people should go back to having face to face conversations with IRL friends instead of myspace, facebook, phones, and SMS.
        Yep, especially when those IRL friends can live hundreds or thousands of miles away. Clearly the most economical way is to travel those long distances rather than calling or IMing them.
    • by nguy (1207026)
      I use IM on my phone all the time: IM works well with desktop clients, it's faster than SMS or a phone call for short messages, it gives presence notifications, it's cheaper than SMS, and it's not as intrusive as a voice call.
    • 1. you can see the availability of your buddies
      2. you can maintain multiple conversations in parallel
      3. no expensive international calls when buddy is on the other side of the earth
      4. you can exchange files around
      5. it is much faster to exchange short messages than dial-n-talk

      Oh, in case you don't know, English is NOT compulsory on IM.

    • what is the big difference between IM and text messaging? - Kenneth R Starnes
  • iIM? (Score:5, Funny)

    by CanadianRealist (1258974) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:12PM (#23159570)
    Just imagine the fun when people start trying to say that.
  • ...ending well? This seems to be the type of patent a patent troll would try to get through. Can someone please explain to me how this won't end with Apple eventually suing someone for violating the patent, and then rinsing and repeating ad nauseum?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Tom (822)

      This seems to be the type of patent a patent troll would try to get through.
      Which, given the constant abuse of the patent system by said trolls, getting the patent yourself is the only way to be sure you aren't going to end up on the wrong side of a lawsuit.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by azuredrake (1069906)

      Since it's a methods patent and not a design patent, it could be (not saying it is) for a particularly novel way of sending IM over phone that hasn't been previously done. Multitouch commands to send IMs and change windows, or an IM client that can flawlessly transition from edge to 3g to wifi or something.

      But you're right, it could just be trolling. We'll find out!

      • Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that in general software patents are all fundamentally business method patents, even the overly vague ones that by saying, "A method for doing X," really are attempts to patent, "Any method for doing X," and often get away with it. It's the only way they can really get away with patenting something that, essentially, is just a complex algorithm.
      • by makomk (752139)
        The main claim is basically for a IM client on a touchscreen device that allows you to scroll by making a downward motion anywhere in the chat log display, not just via a scrollbar at the side. (It also displays the messages in chronological order, but all IM clients do that.)

        It goes into more details in later claims. Nothing particularly innovative, though - standard stuff like adding timestamps, colouring and aligning IMs from different participants differently to distinguish them, using the same text
        • by Kalriath (849904) *
          Don't worry, prior art exists. It sounds like you just described Windows Live Messenger (or, for that matter, any other messenger) on an HTC Touch.
    • by PachmanP (881352)
      Because most of their claims are about using a touch screen which not many computing devices have yet. If this gets through though you can bet your farm it'll hury anybody else who tries to make a touch screen anything.
  • Hmmmm .... (Score:4, Informative)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:37PM (#23159948) Homepage
    So, the usual question about such patents arises.

    How the heck can you patent "a method of doing a well-known operation in a slightly new context"?

    The issues are the same -- communications protocols, keeping track of sent and received messages, message sequencing, etc. Big deal, they're now doing it on an iPhone. All of the other stuff is just more of the same on top of a different platform that still needs to do the exact same things as other platforms.

    Unless I'm missing something, this patent will likely be describing something well known, and enumerating a few points where it's slightly different and therefore is revolutionary rather than an obvious outgrowth of previous things.

    Much silliness here.

    Cheers
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by peragrin (659227)
      The Patent office Granted MSFT the right to patent a graphical version of sudo. This really isn't any different.

      i have yet to see a valid software, or business method patent.

  • http://www.thestandard.com/news/2008/04/22/apple-aims-patent-im-features-iphone [thestandard.com]

    Apple's submission to the patent office was first filed late August of last year, two months after the iPhone's US release and several months after the company first demonstrated its SMS chat interface for the iPhone at Macworld San Francisco.

    • by PachmanP (881352)
      Which of course means that the patent will get allowd in about 3 more years once there is a big touchscreen device market ...Profit!
  • How? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by kellyb9 (954229) on Tuesday April 22, 2008 @12:56PM (#23160230)
    Back in the day, you used to have to do something innovative to get a patent...
  • Feel free to pontificate without knowing what the application says. This post is for those few people who want to know of what they speak. The claim 1 says:

    A computer-implemented method, comprising: at a portable electronic device with a touch screen display,displaying a set of messages exchanged between a user of the device and another person in a chronological order;detecting a scrolling gesture comprising a substantially vertical movement of a user contact with the touch screen display, wherein the det

    • I do this every day on my notebook computer (laptop with a swivel & fold flat touch screen) I have gestures for scrolling... My gestures scroll the window that the gesture is performed near. Can anyone say Prior Art? The sad thing is that the US patent office will patent just about anything so long as someone else hasn't patented it. If you duct-tape a fork to a knife handle you could probably get a patent for it the US.
      • by PachmanP (881352)

        If you duct-tape a fork to a knife handle you could probably get a patent for it the US.
        Yup you could, assuming it's not obvious now. The system looks for novelness not usefulness which is how it should.
    • by Stevecrox (962208)
      That description is highly convoluted I can see two things their trying to do:

      1Allowing a user to scroll along a window by moving their finger up and down the screen. This will allow you to scroll up and down even if your far from the windows edge or a scroll bar. This is not new or inovative, my 4/5 year old Orange m500 did this wil Windows Mobile 2003 SE

      2As you've suggested the ability to move between different Im conversations by scrolling your finger up and down the screen. I fail to see the innovat
    • Which basically is an attempt to patent the straightforward way of implementing an IM client on any touch screen device. It may seem quite specific, but my reading of your quote pretty much amounts to, "We'd like to patent the only sensible way of implementing an IM interface on touch screens."

      Luckily it seems there's pretty obvious prior art. There was a third party IM application for the (jailbroken) iPhone several months ago almost identical to what's described by this filing.

      • by PachmanP (881352)
        per a previous comment the patent was filed last year-ish which means the app wouldn't count as prior art if it didn't exist as such before the filing date
    • This means Apple is trying to patent the use of scrolling gestures for IM displays in chronological order.

      So... what's your point? Further explaining a frivolous patent doesn't change the fact that it's frivolous. Doesn't what you described fall into the category of "Obvious"? If it were my patent system, i'd call that obvious and unpatentable.

      You insinuate that most posters take their position because they don't know what they're talking about, but you shouldn't be so quick to assume that, because it looks like they may actually have been right, this patent is lame.
      -Taylor

  • There are several iPhone-compatible Chat applications available for Jailbroken iPhones. Does this mean that Apple could file lawsuits against the authors of those apps for patent infringement?

    What would prevent Apple from simply adding "...for portable devices" to a bunch of existing patents, effectively locking out "unauthorized" developers?
    • by EkriirkE (1075937)
      Only if the date of the applet is after the patent filing date. Otherwise it's prior art.
  • I can reveal that Apple will include a next-generation technology that features audio instant messaging.

    iPhone users can record short audio messages, using the iPhone's mic, and send this to another user, who is able to listen to the message with the phone's speaker.

    In this way, iPhone users can simulate a "real-time" audio conversation.

    Oh, hang on a minute....

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