Recently, we stumbled across a patent application that pricked up our ears. Apparently, Apple starts patenting mobile app ideas—and one of those ideas is (partly) ours.


Where To? 1.0 and patent drawing

Now some folks argued we might have a deal in place with Apple. I can assure you: we don’t. The story was equally surprising for us as for many others.

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. So how to deal with that? — As some of you know, we’ve always been more than grateful for the platform Apple created. And, in fact, still are. However, we can’t ignore it if the #1 recognition value of our (currently) only app potentially is under fire.

Where To? 1.0 with its characteristic home screen has been launched on day 1 of the App Store. The patent has been filed in December 2009. And clearly, the number of details with all the icons, their ordering and the actual app name “Where To?” in the title bar (which, as a sidenote, doesn’t make a lot of sense as a module in a potential iTravel app) can’t be randomly invented the same way by someone else.

I’m not a lawyer. I can’t really judge whether the inclusion of a 1:1 copy of our start screen in someone else’s patent is legal. I just have to say, it doesn’t feel right. (If you can recommend a good, affordable patent lawyer, please let us know.) The perspective of an endless legal battle, however, is not very intriguing for a small company like us that aims to throw all its power into improving existing and developing new apps. So we definitely hope there’ll be an easy solution. Perhaps it’s just a flaw in the filing that can be fixed easily. If someone from Apple Legal reads these lines, you’re welcome to discuss.

In summary, this episode once more reinforces my personal aversion against software patents. In my opinion they discriminate against smaller developers who can’t afford building a huge legal department to defend against such patent cases and to research existing patent mine fields.

What do you think about the case? Are we overreacting? Please let us know in the comments, we’re glad to hear your thoughts.

Update 6.8.2010 15:44 CEST: Reading some of the comments, we’d of course love to jump to the conclusion that the Where To? drawing is just meant as an example of related apps. Even if that’s the case, we’d have expected, though, to be informed directly and in advance and not after the fact via the press. Brian Ford nails it:

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.

However, we’re not completely convinced, the filing uses Where To? just as an example and we should be glad for the free marketing. First of all, I question the marketing power of 20+ page patent filings. Second, we actually read the patent application. The relevant part of the patent application reads like this:

[0056]In some embodiments, a user can view available airport services through the integrated application. As used herein, the term “airport services” can refer to any airport amenities and services such as shops, restaurants, ATM’s, lounges, shoe-shiners, information desks, and any other suitable airport services. Accordingly, through the integrated application, airport services can be searched for, browsed, viewed, and otherwise listed or presented to the user. For example, an interface such as interface 602 [602 refers to the Where To? drawing depicted above, note by the author of these lines] can be provided on a user’s electronic device. Through interface 602, a user can search for and view information on the various airport services available in the airport. In some embodiments, airport services can be prioritized based on their location in the airport (e.g., using an integrated or associated mapping application). For example, the available services can be filtered such that airport services within a certain distance of a user’s gate are displayed (e.g., within 1000 feet of the user’s gate, or within any other suitable distance). In some embodiments, a map of the airport can be provided that indicates the available airport services.

This paragraph sounds like it describes Where To?’s functionality pretty exactly. I admit though, I found no evidence in the important claims part (1.-21. at the very beginning of the patent application). Again, I’m not a lawyer (but I learned this awesome abbreviation: IANAL :-)). Since all this is pure speculation, I guess our best advice is to stay calm and see what the lawyers say. After all, we should take legal advice from non-lawyers with a pinch of caution.

Also, we do hope that we’ll get a response to the inquiries we sent to Apple. (Actually, one of the reasons we waited nearly a week with this post, was to give Apple time to respond. When we were bombarded with rfc’s yesterday, we had to come out of the hiding, though.) So before we jump to false conclusions, we should give Apple a fair chance to explain.

Update 11.8.2010: Meanwhile, Apple responded and the whole case is resolved amicably.



75 Comments

  • MARKUS NIGRIN

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 1:16am

    So generally, patents are deeply depending on the “never seen before” status of what the patent is about. If your start screen was used in public before, it makes the patent claim potentially very weak. The beauty of this part is that as far as I know this does not require any immediate action from your side. If the patent gets granted, you have a certain time to claim that “hey, we did this before” and proof that a “significant number of people have seen this screen”. Which you do with press-releases, website visits and sales numbers (the critical mass is somewhere in the “several hundred people”, so I would not worry about that part).
    That claim should not be hard nor expensive and a lawyer might help you there.
    So that potentially weakens the patent application.
    A second question you raise is wether it is ok for Apple to use a screen that is similar to yours. That is indeed a question for a lawyer and depends on your own trademark situation with WhereTo?. A patent application is a public record and therefore you might have something there (I’m not thinking in terms of monetary claims as there is no damage as much as I can see, but suppressing the usage). However, Nr. 1 is much more critical and if that patent is in key parts depending on that graphic, a public usage of that graphic before the application date would render the application pretty much useless. That is also nothing to make money from or get into any type of deal with Apple even if you WANT to play fair, as you can not undo the public visibility, the public knowledge of something that Apple claims they invented “as new”. The only thing is you can suppress a patent that might potentially harm you later.
    Btw. if you don’t do it, someone else will very likely try to kill that patent with your graphic and do the dirty work, in that case you might get asked to provide similar stats as if you would do it.
    Hope that helps :)

  • Andrey Fedorov

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 1:25am

    I’d take this as an opportunity to talk to them about acquisition or licensing of your UI. It’s clearly a very big compliment from *someone* at Apple ;)

  • @CarlosAntonorsi via Twitter

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 1:25am

    Here’s @futuretap’s statement on the blatant ripoff that is the latest Apple ‘iTravel’ patent http://bit.ly/9iagOH

  • Adam

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 1:47am

    You could send the USPTO a DMCA takedown notice for the patent document.

  • Jon H

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 1:49am

    Just because it’s in the patent filing doesn’t mean they’re patenting *it*.

    That they show your app’s title says a lot to me. If they were just stealing the UI, I don’t think they’d do that. They aren’t that stupid. Since it says Where To, it’s presumably meant to be your app that is running.

    It looks to me as though they’re using your app as an example of an application (by anyone, just an application of the appropriate genre) that could use the technology that the patent covers, via some Apple API. (So I suppose it’s a hypothetical future version of Where To.)

    For instance, a GameKit patent might include a diagram which is a screenshot of Pong, as an example of a something that would utilize GameKit, standing in for all such games. It would not mean that they are patenting Pong itself, nor that they intend to copy Pong, or come out with their own Pong app.

    But don’t take my word on it. I would suggest you get a patent lawyer to look over the patent to see how, exactly the diagram is being used in context in the patent filing, and what it means. Probably wouldn’t require much of the lawyer’s time.

  • Rafael Masoni

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 1:58am

    Apple, I’m disappoint.

  • @ralley via Twitter

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 2:21am

    Bought your app in support. RT @futuretap "…Our statement to Apple’s iTravel patent application: http://bit.ly/9iagOH"

  • IDBIIP

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 2:52am

    No matter how you look at it, the fact that Apple’s patent lawyers are looking through the App Store for examples is worrisome. Seems like it’s becoming a PR issue, though, so I would hunker down.

    In terms of legal advice, though, you get what you pay for. You don’t want to meet with Apple without having any legal representation. It’s sort of like asking their lawyers to screw you (this goes for any opposing lawyers, not just Apple’s). In business terms, don’t become too dependent on the App Store. You’re at their mercy otherwise.

    If it were me, I would make a copy of that patent, a changelog with dates for every version of the application, and a timeline of when you did what, submitted the app to whom, etc. that you reconstructed with as much supporting evidence as possible (print out emails, blog posts, press releases, etc.), organize the lot of it and take it to a patent lawyer for a few hours of consultation. The more information you can give them (and the less of their time you waste hunting for it), the cheaper it will be. You don’t want someone billing $X00/hour to spend their time printing things you could have printed in your office for free.

    IANAL and this advice was free. You get what you pay for. I honestly don’t know how legal this is or isn’t. I do know that it smells bad.

  • Randolpho

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 2:54am

    Did you read the application? It shows a Soduku app (700), which I doubt they’re trying to patent.

    Be sure to read para 56. “…For example, an interface such as interface 602 [your app] can be provided on a user’s electronic device. Through interface 602, a user can search for and view information on the various airport services available in the airport….”

    I’m no lawyer, but I see Apple showing how your app could take advantage of their patent to provide better, more localized services for your customers. Seems as though Apple thinks you guys are smart and would put together a great app for your clients.

    But hey, go ahead and sue. Either way, I doubt they’ll highlight your app or give you this much free publicity again.

  • Some Guy

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 2:59am

    I think you should go and read the actual patent claims. It looks to me like it’s all about knowing a user’s travel schedule, and using the information of when their phone has been turned off and back on to figure out if someone’s arrived at their destination.

    Your app is just one example of an app that might be used *in conjunction* with the technology they want to patent.

  • @agentsmart via Twitter

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 3:01am

    Apple files patent on someone else’s idea? They use to just block the app’s submission, then release their own. http://bit.ly/b4p66K

  • Jon H

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 3:03am

    Do the iPhone developer agreement or other contracts give Apple the right to use screenshots of your app? Is this expressly limited to marketing materials (posters, commercials, etc) or is it broad enough to include line art, derived from a screen shot of your app, in a patent filing?

  • @LockeDown815 via Twitter

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 3:18am

    #Apple stealing patent ideas directly from developers? http://bit.ly/9iagOH ( @futuretap )

  • IDBIIP

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 3:22am

    Seems like something similar has happened before. Take a look at these links for further information:

    * http://icontrolpad.com/

    * http://games.slashdot.org/story/10/04/02/2110233/DavidGoliath-Story-Brewing-Between-Apple-and-iControlPad-Makers

  • @josefajardo via Twitter

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 3:28am

    I know it’s been mentioned already BUT the stupidity of patents!! http://tinyurl.com/2csbjbn

  • Brian

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 3:55am

    I am troubled with this on so many fronts. First, IANAL and all, so get a lawyer to check it out. That much can’t hurt you. Now on to my worries…
    1. Patents prevent using even parts of the claims. If any of your technology is using any part of their claims, then you are violating the patent as a whole. By them saying, “like this application is using” they are admitting that your application is using part of their claim. At least that’s how I read it.
    2. Using a duplicate of your interface to illustrate in this filing MAY be a violation of the copyright act. It all depends on the contract you have with Apple on how they can use the imagery of your app. This is another area for a lawyer.
    3. Apple trolling their application store for ideas is just plain low. They are the sole gatekeepers of the store. To me, this is an area for the FTC. Again, seek legal advise for how to file that.
    4. Software patents (and all method patents) are just plain wrong. This is an area only Congress can correct. Avail yourself of your congressional representation to fix this. Of course, asking Congress to do anything is a monumental task. It is easier when done in numbers. Peer-to-patent is a good resource as well as EFF.

  • Gregory Casamento

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 4:02am

    First, IANAL, but I have had some experience in legal matters, unfortunately.

    The following paragraph in the agreement might be relevant:

    “11. Apple Independent Development.

    Nothing in this Agreement will impair Apple’s right to develop, acquire, license, market, promote or distribute products, software or technologies that perform the same or similar functions as, or otherwise compete with, any other products, software or technologies that you may develop, produce, market, or distribute. In the absence of a separate written agreement to the contrary, Apple will be free to use any information, suggestions or recommendations you provide to Apple pursuant to this Agreement for any purpose, subject to any applicable patents or copyrights.”

    While this doesn’t give Apple license to use your intellectual property, it does seem to allow them to create competing products. This is essentially stating that the agreement is not a non-compete for Apple…. i.e. they can still freely develop anything they want, even if it competes with your stuff.

    First and foremost, before you do anything else *TALK TO A LAWYER, A REAL ONE!*

    To my knowledge it is possible to challenge a patent filing. DO NOT WAIT UNTIL THE PATENT HAS BEEN ISSUED, PATENT LITIGATION IS PROHIBITIVELY EXPENSIVE.

    Here is a link about challenging patents applications:
    http://www.theiplawblog.com/archives/-patent-law-challenging-patents-short-of-litigation.html

    Here is the USPTO’s own website about the process:
    http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/documents/0600_610.htm#sect610

    Please, do not take this laying down and do not simply let the patent issue. This needs to be addressed now for your own sake.

    Gregory Casamento

  • @Leon_Vandenberg via Twitter

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 4:12am

    RT @futuretap: Calling 4 Patent Trolls > German App Developer, See their Letter re: Apple’s iTravel patent application: http://bit.ly/9iagOH

  • @roelofroos via Twitter

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 4:14am

    What is #Apple doing? RT @futuretap The patent case we haven’t called. Our statement to Apple’s iTravel patent app: http://bit.ly/9iagOH

  • kimsk

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 4:14am

    Becareful, your next version of app won’t be approved for sure if you mess with Apple.

  • Scott Barnes

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 4:20am

    Yeah your screwd :( I use to tell small ppl who threatened to sue us at msft “dude I don’t care to me this is jus a once off email to lca to you it’s min 1yr of stress anger and potential financial ruin” it six but it’s the reality either get some rich benefactor or just ask apple to include you in the credits somewhere or a free iPhone? :)

  • @jamie_starke via Twitter

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 4:33am

    Apple is showing some questionable patent ethics. RT @futuretap: our statement to the patent saga: http://bit.ly/9iagOH

  • Gregory Casamento

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 4:57am

    One other comment…. Here are more resources:

    http://patents101.com/2009/06/prior-art-invalidates-patent/

    I’ll post any more I can think of.

    GC

  • SeniorShizzle

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 5:12am

    Yeah I think it’s great that you guys noticed this and everything. My question is shouldn’t the original company that designed the app and UI taptaptap be credited for the app, not FutureTap? If I buy a McDonalds franchise and some chinese company puts a patent on the M, McDonalds Corporation should be enforcing it, not me. Something to think about.

  • Jack

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 5:15am

    Apple is not Patenting your technology. They are using your screenshot as an example of a technology that might use their technology. They are giving you free marketing! Thank them and read the patent next time you guys fire off some negative vibes…

  • Isaac

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 5:31am

    Hey, you don’t need to go into any legal battles now, since the patent has not yet been granted. I don’t know the sequence in the states but there’s a stage in patent application called publication stage. What you simply do then is write the patent office that the present patent should not be granted. Simply prove that you have published the app even before the patent was filed so it is not patentable.

    The publication is stage is similar to wedding program where they ask, who is against this marriage should say it now… And the patent office will look at your case. The base feature of a patentable idea is that, it must not have existed anywhere before prior to the filing date; it’s called NOVELTY of the idea and once you can prove that, pop up a champaign!

  • @nielskob via Twitter

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 5:48am

    Ziemlich übel: The patent case we haven’t called. Our statement to Apple’s iTravel patent application: http://bit.ly/9iagOH (via @futuretap)

  • @sharedideas via Twitter

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 6:01am

    The patent case we haven’t called: http://tinyurl.com/2csbjbn #apple #patent #idea #futuretap #priorart #fail http://ff.im/-oNrX0

  • George Scott

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 6:11am

    I believe that this probably is about to come to the attention of Steve Jobs who will want to acquire you. You should go ahead and let him do so, this way you can continue development at Apple which seems like a great idea to me. No need for a lawyer just make sure your phone number is easily accessible on your website somewhere so he can call you.

  • IDBIIP

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 6:29am

    Oh yeah. Be sure and take a copy of any and all agreements you can find that you agreed to when joining the App Store, downloading the dev kits, etc. if you get a consultation. And anything else legal-looking that Apple made you agree to.

    As for some of the comments here, they’re just a bit… off. “Free marketing,” Jack? Seriously? How would a patent application give someone that? Nobody looks at those except for lawyers until they become infamous. You seriously think that a patent lawyer somewhere is going to buy Where To? because they saw a picture of it (with no download link or mention of it being a third-party application) on someone else’s patent?

    Now, the claims may or may not read on this application and it’s true that the mock-up of Where To? is only referenced in one place. But that’s all lawyer stuff. Random people online can’t decide that.

    And you actually have to infringe upon a whole claim, not part of one. But that’s tricky, too, because they can word things funny. They don’t even use the normal definitions of words. That’s why legal dictionaries exist.

    Anyhow, the best outcome is to avoid any legal battles. Only lawyers win those, in the end.

  • @bobsomers via Twitter

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 6:33am

    Apple is attempting to patent a 1:1 copy of another developer’s app store application. This is disgusting. http://bit.ly/b4p66K

  • John

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 6:34am

    I am always on the look-out for a good tech news site , but i’m afraid this site just is not going on my list.

    Short story plenty of links to outside sources = Good

    including a comment system = Good

    80% or more of the comments being Twitts/tweets/retweets

    MAJOR FAIL

  • Ortwin Gentz

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 7:22am

    John, we know. Working on it, have just deleted the old RTs.

  • Matt Johnston

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 8:51am

    Calm down.

    When has Apple ever patent-trolled?

    This is a protective patent. Protecting the iPhone way of life. Your prior art protects you.

  • Christian

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 9:14am

    Has anyone actually completely read the patent? Might this be another storm in the glass in the blogosphere?

    I do not have the time to read Apple’s filing, but the developers of where2 (which i supported by buying) obviously have to do so.

  • Demian

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 9:25am

    I’m with Jon H.
    The patent is about a software algorithm to detect the travel plan of an iPhone user (by means of calendar info, appointments, e-mails, iPhone activation or GPS location) and serving contextual information and offers based on the current location of the user.

    This being used as part of the system or in conjunction with third-party applications, by means of API calls, etc. Also it states that it is intended to centralize the whole flying experience (tickets, dinner reservations, shopping at the destination, etc.)

    I think (and this is just a guess) that Apple is trying to create a centralized database of information for travelers and use that to provide several services, either directly or through third-party apps.
    They’ll probably create an API fot third-party developers to use and get info from to power apps like yours. It will cover also offers and coupons.

    I believe travel agencies should be more worried than you. :P

  • jobbogamer

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 9:54am

    Taken from the article about this on GigaOm: (http://gigaom.com/2010/08/05/where-to-apple-patent/)

    ‘Dan Wineman explains that ”the diagram is just part of an example of one way the technology in question might operate. I think it’s more likely that the people involved in drawing up this patent simply didn’t think about the message it would send to developers. I’m sure it’s not Apple’s practice (or intention) to plunder the App Store submissions bin for new things to patent.”

    Reader Gary Watson says: “After reading the claims, it’s clear that the spinning wheel image stolen from the 3rd party app was not part of the claimed invention at all and was just an illustration. You see this a lot in patents, where a an exemplar device such as a Dell laptop is used in a drawing but is not part of the claims.”’

    It looks like they’re claiming the technology they’ve put into the iPhone to allow apps like yours to work, not actually the app.

  • Robin Ashton

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 10:13am

    Sounds like it could just be an example of an app in a longer patent application?

    I’d join the chorus on here suggesting that you seek real legal advice, but before that you should proactively try and contact Apple. Finding out what they’re actually trying to do would be helpful!

  • Dan

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 10:20am

    “@Jon H” -> ” If they were just stealing the UI, I don’t think they’d do that. They aren’t that stupid.”

    hahahahahaha… The history of Apple ‘borrowing’ other people’s UI ideas is pretty well known … Ask the Xerox PARC guys!! ^_^ lol

  • Dave Mac ^.^

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 10:28am

    Can’t say I read ALL the comments, but I did most, and did not note anyone (maybe George Scott has a similar idea?) positing the following:
    How about it simply being the cart before the horse, i.e. you folks are about to be offered (but said offer should have been done before patent) a large sum of money for your app to be bought out by Apple (like the menu bar clock from long ago, as I remember, a popular shareware add-on, that Apple bought and helped put the kid/developer through college… just one example, see Microsoft for many more >.<) and rolled into their upcoming Travel.app?
    So, yeah, lawyer up, but make sure he/she's flexible and the type to start with a hand shake greeting, rather than a writ!
    And Good Luck!
    ^.^

  • Peter

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 10:34am

    Lol, calm down. They just used your app as an example for an usecase of their technology.

  • Stephen

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 11:09am

    Guys, please read the patent. As someone already explained in the comment and other tech forum, Apple is not trying to Patent your application. They even have Sudoku in the Patent!!! They are just trying to use your application as an example to try to show a much larger concept.

    I know a lots of people looking every other way to bash Apple, like the comment here and appear else where in the Net, but this is getting out of hand and you read should know the fact before you publish something like this.

  • abulafio

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 11:42am

    Oh, come on, Apple just used your app as an example…
    Anyway, a good chance to get free advertising, isn’t it? :)

  • gettafreebie

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 12:04pm

    As others have already said. I’m sure it’s just an axample app to illustrate a wider patent and Apple chose yours. If it was mine I’d be very proud.

  • Guido

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 12:27pm

    I don’t think “calm down” is an appropriate response. Good luck if you find yourself in a legal battle all of a sudden.

    And I share your position concerning software patents.

  • Wieland

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 12:29pm

    This patent should fail because of prior art.

    Wieland

  • Pieland

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 1:22pm

    Wieland, just what is the prior art? Read the patent and see what they are trying to patent then explain to us what the prior art is.

  • Nils Myklebust

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 1:40pm

    I think you should immediately take down this whole web page.
    It’s based on such a blatant misunderstanding it’s detrimental for you as well as for Apple. It’s NOT a good idea to publish such things and let people say bed things based on something they haven’t even bothered to read. Even the patent application itself isn’t hard to read and it for sure isn’t about your application. It’s about services apple could provide for you to use to make your application even more useful and attractive if you wanted to. Apple could of course also hold these services to themselves and create a competing application, but they have not tried to patent any part of what you have already done. If you don’t understand this please go back and read the patent. If that is hard to read get hold of someone who can read it for you.

  • Israel Alvarez

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 2:03pm

    Do all the folks who have knee-jerked “OMG APPLE SI TEH STEAL APP” realize what utter idiots they look like? If you’re going to spout off about a subject, can you at least take 2 minutes to familiarize yourself *even a little bit* about what you’re spouting off over?

    It’s painfully obvious to anyone with two brain cells to rub together that Apple is using this app *as an example* for a different service. How one could possibly miss this is beyond me. I’ve never used this app, but the developer’s paying so little attention to even the most cursory details makes me wonder if this app isn’t a horrible mess.

    And I agree with Nils above – this page is an embarrassment. You should take it down or at least put a huge disclaimer before all other text explaining how you overreacted without ever looking at the patent.

  • Concerned About The State Of The World

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 2:05pm

    Are you kidding me? Read the patent you half-witted morons. This posting is a massive, gaudy monument to your ignorance.

  • Someone who can read a ****ing document

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 2:47pm

    This goes to ******* TechCrunch, Gizmodo and every other stupid “technology” blog out there for which the “editors” claim to be journalists.

    I just took 15 whole minutes to read part of the patent, look at the patent images and understand what the **** all of this is about. Since I know pretty much all of these stupid blogs just copy and paste the content off of each other without doing ANY research, I was surprised at all with what I found. But maybe you, as the developer of the app EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT, could maybe educate yourself before reposting such ********.

    This patent is not out to steal your idea. How does “This is directed to systems and methods for integrating travel services in a single application available to a portable electronic device.” ******* sound?

    “Interface 602″ is the representation of your app in the patent images, since every blog seems to be ******* around with the original image more and more:

    “For example, an interface such as interface 602 can be provided on a user’s electronic device. Through interface 602, a user can search for and view information on the various airport services available in the airport.”

    I’m not a ******* lawyer, but it’s really not hard to understand that Apple is not trying to patent your idea, rather using it to show how it and other applications like it could work better and be more integrated with the user’s environment.

    Now, please read the patent and publish and update, admitting how stupid you were in the first place for just reposting what the ******* techtards were saying without checking their sources (“journalism”), and how stupid you were in the second place for not checking the original patent yourselves before saying, “In my opinion they discriminate against smaller developers who can’t afford building a huge legal department to defend against such patent cases and to research existing patent mine fields.”

    ****, I’m so ****** about this ****.

    [Redacted for offensive language. Guys, please try to maintain a professional level here. Also, if you've to say something important, you should not hide behind pseudonyms. Thanks!]

  • Someone who can read a ****ing document

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 2:47pm

    Thank you for the update.

  • Bill

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 2:51pm

    First apple makes developers sign ridiculously limiting contracts. Then they censor what can or can’t be published through the app store. Meanwhile gouging the developer for the privilege. Oh and now they steal your ideas and patent them for themselves. WAKE UP PEOPLE. Apple is well out of control and has become significantly more despicable than any other company in the history of the computer business. All they while brainwashing the idiots into believing it was good for them. Clearly it’s not.

    BOYCOTT APPLE AND ENCOURAGE YOUR FRIENDS TO DO THE SAME.

  • Someone who can read a ****ing document

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 2:53pm

    “All they while brainwashing the idiots into believing it was good for them.”

    “BOYCOTT APPLE AND ENCOURAGE YOUR FRIENDS TO DO THE SAME.”

    Read the post.

  • Jason

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 4:01pm

    Has it occurred to anyone at FutureTap that Apple might be planning on buying your “Where To?” IP, and that they’re filing this patent application as part of their CYA?

  • *sigh*

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 4:35pm

    As some of the more flame-oriented posters have already suggested, most of the fools on this thread have not bothered to read the patent document, nor – I suspect – has the original author.

    I’ll keep this simple:

    The scope of protection conferred by a patent is defined by its claims (and mind, this is an application – not even granted yet). Let’s look at claim 1 for this application:

    “A method comprising:
    - determining a user is scheduled to travel to a destination on a current date;
    - determining a portable electronic device in possession by the user is powered off;
    - determining the user arrived at the destination by detecting that the portable electronic device has been powered back on; and
    - transmitting an arrival notification of the arrival of the user to at least one third party recipient”

    Does your app do this?

    No it does not.

    So are apple stealing your idea?

    No they are not.

    (Moreover, in spite of what some people say about the US patent office, I have yet to see someone successfully patent a GUI)

  • Antone Johnson

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 4:48pm

    Whoever first brought up the prior art point is probably correct. Whose prior art, you ask? Yours! A big company can’t just come along and patent the system or method used by a product already in existence made by somebody else! To be patentable, an invention needs to be novel (new), useful, and non-obvious.

    IMHO, Apple’s whole patent strategy around apps is aimed at Android and other platforms. The more they can claim a monopoly on certain features or functionality, the harder it will be for Google or Microsoft to compete. I also think it’s primarily defensive, as is the case with software and Internet business method patents in general — big companies collect them to aim at each other like nuclear missiles, as part of a deterrence strategy to avoid World War III.

    Having said that, although I am a tech startup lawyer, patent law is highly technical and there’s no substitute for talking to an expert in software patents. I can recommend one if you’d like.

  • MARKUS NIGRIN

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 5:21pm

    iANAL? Love it! so: iANAL! :)
    As I said in my first comment, with your prior art you have a pretty strong protection through patent law and you can potentially torpedo the patent application. However, reading through the other comments, I feel folks are going way overboard with what has happened and what this means. So your prior art is really only important if Apple would indeed try to patent something that exists today and can be illustrated with your screenshot. That means they would use it in their claims (those few first pages that really are important with patent applications). If they used it only as an example, that’s not very attackable (and not very wrong from their side).
    I didn’t read the application but if it is true what others wrote, that it is just used to illustrate as an example of an app that could use what they try to patent in a future version, then frankly
    a) you have no problem
    b) you have no claim
    c) Apple didn’t do something mighty wrong

    You can play hardball and claim trademark rights to your screenshot and bla, not sure you actually want to do that and if that is even possible.
    However, the one thing you and your lawyer needs to look at: If that patent gets granted, can someone read in REVERSE something into it that your current(!) app would infringe? Sometimes that happens. That’s what you don’t want and you would most likely start the process to claim “first rights” and if it is only so that Apple adjusts the patent application. As I said, that is neither tedious nor expensive and your lawyer can advise you there.
    One more comment: That is a 2009 patent. They either try to patent something very specific that was clearly not done before, or they have zero chance to get that through. And they are not stupid. A broad patent on “that type of app/use case” in 2009? No chance.
    So I think you are on a good track and yes you should talk to a lawyer, I’m surprised about the doom & gloom comments here. I’ve been through several patent and trademark threats/cases with my first startup and if you work with a good lawyer, patents are normal business if you run a business and yes, you need a handle on it just as with everything else.

  • *sigh*

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 5:29pm

    Having put the issue of the patent to bed in my last post, what you CAN consider is the possibility of copyright infringement through use of the drawing in the patent doc (not trademark infringement as markus nigrin suggests). However, if apple envisage implementing your UI in one embodiment of their patent, they’ll need a copyirght licence from you (for the UI and preferably the codebase). If they’re already thinking along these lines then things might be looking good for you. On the other hand, maybe the patent attorney who drafted this spec was being lazy and simply took a screenshot from your app to illustrate their point (& have no intention of getting in touch).

  • RoMe

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 5:51pm

    Regardless of all the brainless discussion going on here.
    Get a patent attorney who knows his business.
    If you are in Germany call Klaus Goeken at Eisenfuehr in Bremen.
    He is the best there is.

  • MARKUS NIGRIN

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 6:17pm

    @*sigh*
    The reason why I said “depending on your trademark situation” was because I was discussing the OP point of getting back to Apple regarding the use of their screenshot in the patent application. I am not sure if copyright law prohibits that. But, if they have any trademark claim on it (maybe they have a trademark on “WhereTo” which is used in that screenshot), then they COULD have a stronger case.
    If they are doing an embodiment of their patent you are right on, copyright law will be enough in that case. So I agree with everything you say but thought that clarification was worth pointing out :)

  • Matt Johnston

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 7:13pm

    Ugh. It’s now a case that FutureTap is benefitting from this nonsense of a story – Free PR Wheeeeeee!

    This patent is about an API. That you will benefit from.

  • jopincar

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 8:30pm

    Has anyone else noticed how lawyers have become the feudal overlords of modern society? They design and administer a system that makes sure everybody has to pay them.

  • PatentBoy

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 9:26pm

    I wonder who owns the copyright to the programming of iPhone apps submitted for sale at the Apple store?

    Apple is very sensitive to ip rights. I wonder whether Apple believes the image they used in their parent app is in the public domain?

  • ppaula

    wrote on August 6, 2010 at 10:27pm

    That’s the reason we never would work again on or with Apple-Systems… Sorry!
    That’s apple – sad but true!

  • Corporate Drone

    wrote on August 7, 2010 at 12:24am

    I work on IP for a large multinational consumer electronics company. IANAL, but I read the patent application and in my amateur opinion, it looks to me like your travel application would need to license Apple’s IP if this patent was approved. I would contact the U.S. PTO and make them aware of your claim to first use. I would not speak to Apple without a lawyer, but I would let the U.S. PTO know of your intent to pursue this immediately.

    Apple blows. They totally just saw your UI and wrote it up as IP. They should not have used your design without calling you. I bet they’ve called you by now. In case they haven’t, I’m giving you my comment. They ripped you off.

  • Pieland

    wrote on August 7, 2010 at 4:04am

    IANAL but IAAI and I read this patent and Apple is evil and is killing kittens.

    Yours Truly,
    I am an idiot

  • *nix

    wrote on August 7, 2010 at 10:12am

    There is a very reasonable questioning going on here in the post itself. In the comments… Well. Apple has a history that seems like… Well, it deserves healthy skepticism leaning on good faith, but not -blind- faith. And that’s playing nice, not fair.

    Here’s some fun for you: Your application, and the designs therein, were copyright the moment you created them. Selling enough copies created proof of that copyright. End of story. No, really:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyright

    In particular, read up on the Berne Convention. The US is one of the signers; last time I checked, Apple is ran from the US. The difficult part is that only certain things are covered under that particular agreement, but, I assure you, the artistic design of your application can be reasonably held to be one of them. As to the entire application..? You’ll need more than just that, but it’s a good start.

    IANAL, IAAA.

    (I am an artist. Email me for a link to my gallery, really… Just trying to avoid inviting trolls into the dungeon.)

  • *nix

    wrote on August 7, 2010 at 10:14am

    Small addition (and sorry for commenting twice):

    Indeed, it’s very important, as many

  • Eonicman

    wrote on August 7, 2010 at 4:12pm

    It seems that the Siri app that Apple has acquired is focused on finding and utilizing relevant web services depending on the information requested and user location but presents it in a completely textual manner. So Apple is suggesting that a more graphical result such as what Where To offers maybe better suited to the user. The Monocle mode in Yelp offers results in an augmented reality view.

  • Dave

    wrote on August 8, 2010 at 10:22am

    Congratulation Apple folks!
    You managed it to disgust me within one year only. This is the climax for how you treat your devs like garbage. And this is just on example…

    The next computer I going to buy will be a Windows PC!!!

  • Gregg

    wrote on August 8, 2010 at 3:00pm

    Are you guys thick?

    Apple is not after App Store developers’ IP →

    Nilay Patel at Engadget explains the whole Apple patent stealing ‘Where To?’ UI issue:

    Second, the only operative parts of a patent are the claims — not the drawings, and not the description, which are technically known as the “specification.” (We’ve now repeated this basic axiom of patent interpretation so many times we’re considering making T-shirts.) The only reason the drawings and description are there is to explain the claimed invention in sufficient detail so that someone else can make it.

  • Dominik Resl

    wrote on August 9, 2010 at 8:57am

    Hi Future Tap-Team,
    sollte Apple mit dieser Nummer durchkommen, wird man sich in Zukunft alle App-Ideen schützen lassen müssen.
    Mein Vorschlag bzw. meine Vorgehensweise wäre dies breit zu kommunizieren, Apple tut sich damit in der Zusammenarbeit mit Entwicklern keinen Gefallen.
    Ich wünsche Euch viel Erfolg und ein noch sehr langes “Wohin-Leben”.
    Dominik Resl

  • Brian

    wrote on August 10, 2010 at 5:48pm

    It’s always easy to pick on the little guy. Apple knows this and seeks to capitalize on it. Once you’re a giant corp, you can get away with murder.

Comments are closed.