Apple starts patenting mobile app ideas

By now most of must us have heard about the problems U.S. patent system is facing. With software and business model patents, patent trolls and lawsuits, and patented things like one-click buying online.

Well, if Apple has it’s way, things are about to get much worse.

The problem? Three Apple patent applications that just became public on USPTO website. From the looks of them, it seems that Apple is now trying to patent mobile app ideas. For now Apple is seeking to get a patent for 3 apps – travel, hotel and high fashion shopping.

In mobile travel app patent application, Apple describes things like sending travel promotions, making reservations through mobile app,  guide/assistance with airport services, using mobile boarding pass, remote check-in, access to in-flight services, sending automatic arrival notifications to your spouse, travel guide services/promotions at the destination site.

Apple’s Hotel app patent application talks about hotel promotions/reservations/service pre-order through app, early/remote check-ins, access to hotel and in-room services, operating room equipment, personal concierge services, check-out, post-trip promotion/questionnaires/info.

High fashion shopping app patent application describes an iPhone app from high fashion houses like Ralph Lauren. With this app  the user can receive invitations to special events, info/catalog of available products, use store locator,  find popular picks, gift guides, create wish lists/look books, see product reviews, engage in social networking activities, see enhanced adverts/promotions, use personal shopping services, product comparisons, suggestions for additional items, provide feedback via post-sales questionnaires, use virtual closet, etc;

Damn, but this is one scary development. Imagine if back in 1994-96 someone decided to sit back, think about what kind of web services can be provided via the internet, and then decided to patent them. You know, things like – shopping for books online, buying plane tickets, reserving a hotel, providing shopping comparison services, online auctions, online e-mail services, etc;

It seems that Apple is now trying to do exactly this kind of thing in mobile apps space. I really hope that U.S. Patent office will see through this Apple ruse, and quickly reject all these patent applications for mobile apps.

Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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  • Jonas Arnklint

    Are you kidding me? Is Apple becoming the new Microsoft and building their business model on patents?

  • thedavil

    Holy Jobs… now that is very scary

  • Alan

    With litigation like it is these days Apple is just as likely to be defending themselves as they are to be going on the attack.

  • wqoq

    Don't hate the player. Hate the game.

  • Jonas Arnklint

    @wqoq true.

  • Wilhelm Reuch

    This likes mostly from stopping Google going there first given Googles latest travel-related activities. Google has done similar patents regarding location aware apps and similar.

  • Ed Everett

    Another reason to build cross-device websites not apps.

  • spiral

    You're copy is

  • spiral

    That copy is just a little bit *too* search engine friendly. Especially that last sentence. It's distracting.

  • john

    Freaking ridiculous… that's what it is. New Zealand just passed laws to not allow software patents, perhaps we should follow suite.

  • danbec

    All of these apps and ideas already exist. If these patents get awareded, then the system is seriously broken.

  • PXLated

    Wasn't patents but in the early days there was something similar (to me anyway), was buying up domain names –, etc. Tying up the names, getting an advantage.

  • Eyesparky

    Simple … a patent system without any credibility will cease to hold any sway. If these patents are granted then it will be a major step towards the tearing up of the current system. There is a good comedy sketch by Eddie Izzard where he talks of the British Empire conquering the World with the cunning use of flags. The US patent system is a vain attempt to do the same thing with patents. It will ultimately end in revolt.

  • HPSauce

    or suit

  • Steve23

    Read the application claims to understand the invention. Not this write up. The proposed invention (at least for the airline) is a system that registers your location as at an airport when you turn off your phone (ostensibly to travel on the plane), and then recognizes when you turn on your phone when you get to the destination. As it registers you at your destination, it sends an email/text to a third party notifying them of your arrival. Now, maybe this has all been automatically done before and time will tell. But the story and knee jerk reactions here are uninformed.

  • jamesrsullivan

    Even if you have a patent you still have to enforce it… good luck enforcing a patent for online shopping. These patents are for specific location-aware logic though. Too bad they wrote a patent instead of just creating the application which would be much more useful!

  • tylernol

    as @Steve23 says, the patent is about the location awareness. And I would not get pissed at Apple about this , this is for building up a patent portfolio, it is more for cross-licensing with other behemoths like Google, than squashing a startup. It is the name of the game if you are a big tech player unfortunately.

  • tylernol

    as @steve

  • retard ur

    lol u retard. post the captions on the pictures :/ they are not patenting the app ideas – only the fucking controls and usage patterns. something they did since day one.

    I hope you die

  • jgervin

    Sleazy!!! I hope they submit more of these and other companies pile on so it will destroy what is left of the patent office. This is getting out of control.

  • Spechal

    The bit was one of the funniest ever. Next up is coming back from the moon with only rocks.

  • Spechal

    The bit was one of the funniest ever. Next up is coming back from the moon with only rocks.

  • Staska

    You're absolutely right. I read those claims on travel app before posting.
    Came to sort of similar conclusion. Except for – phone wakes up, checks
    reserved things, GPS and then sends a message “Ï'm here”. Tell me
    there's no such apps doin these things on Android or iOS already?

    Read those claims, almost decided not to publish it. Waited a day. But
    noticed hotel and high fashion shoppin app stuff. Again, readin the claims.
    Claim No.11 (10 before, 10 after):

    A portable electronic device for interfacing with a hotel system, the
    portable electronic device comprising:an input component operable to receive
    a user request to adjust at least one room setting of a hotel room;
    andcommunication circuitry operable to:transmit the user request to the
    hotel system;transmit identifying information to the hotel system for
    retrieving reservation information of a particular hotel room; andreceive a
    confirmation from the hotel system indicating the particular hotel room is
    configured with the at least one room setting.

    A super invention. Stuff I do with hotel remote or by hand. They are
    patenting it if I do it on mobile…

    And in HF shopping app there's much more

  • John Sawyer

    Isn't it a lot more likely that these are patents for some app, or series of apps, that Apple may be developing, and that the patent aspect applies mostly to these potential apps' specific layout, overall “look and feel”, etc., rather than their basic functions?

  • Staska

    Yep. It's mostly probably about look and feel. Problem is what happens when
    those apps are not on iOS but on Android or Meego…

  • macweenie

    Why discriminate? Hate them BOTH!

  • wired-4058

    Being Apple hater and hits whore will get you everywhere?

    Total rubbish and FUD by a tech blogger who should know better.

  • chrimu

    can't wait to use those apps.

  • Wolf_in_Council

    You can't patent an idea, you can only patent an implementation. Thus one cannot patent the notion of buying online, but one can patent an online buying system that is new and useful. The patent application has to spell out the complete nuts and bolts and full description of every working part, not just an overview of what it's supposed to do, but every working detail.

  • Rick Cain

    I thought you couldn't patent methods, only technologies.

    I mean I could go to the patent office and claim to have a death ray, but I would need to prove that I have a working device, not just a concept.

  • Michael Linehan

    Thanks for your insightful and well-argued points. Very persuasive, indeed. I'm sure you have convinced every reader of these comments.

  • Shadow14l

    Are not all software patents just ideas? The same with business method patents.

  • God Damn, People Are Stupid

    It's rarely the level-headed Apple users, but the raging fanboys that are quick to call anyone that says anything remotely against Apple a hater, attention whore, etc. They should take their own advice and realize it's a company that denies freedom and sells overpriced hardware to the sheep that worship it like it's the second coming of Jesus or something.

    –Signed, someone who owns Apple hardware.

  • Guest

    “It seems that Apple is now trying to do exactly this kind of thing in mobile apps space. I really hope that U.S. Patent office will see through this Apple ruse, and quickly reject all these patent applications for mobile apps.”

    Which may be why Apple is making the applications. If these get rejected then no one with any similar idea will be able to patent these types of apps. Stop the herd before the stampede even gets started!

  • znmeb

    Anybody can *apply* for a patent but not everyone can *get* a patent.

  • Anentangledreality

    Since Apple keeps getting taken to court over patent infringement I bet this is their way of getting ahead of competitors that would like to claim Apple stole their ideas. Their was a company fairly recently but I can't remember who that sued Apple for patent infringement. Apple had already been using the technology and it wasn't patented. This company came in and patented after the fact and then took Apple to court. They did this with several other companies also. If they patent first then they can't be sued. On the other hand if it is technology that is already being used then they will be just like the company that went after them.

  • Wolf_in_Council

    No, they are fully exposed implementations with all the working parts revealed and explained.

  • Druru

    To be fair, Apple has never acted like a patent troll. To my knowledge, they have never initiated a patent-related legal battle but merely counter-sued those who sue them for patent infringement.
    An example is the iPhone jailbraiking issue. While they obviously don't view it with a friendly eye but they never went after the folks who provide jailbreaking tools albeit those are quite blatant acts of patent and copyright infringement.
    My guess is that they're doing this in a preemptive way rather than with any malicious intention towards the potential competitors.

  • spinkid

    The top right screen is actually the WhereTo app ( which exists for years now. They didn't even bother to change the name in the header. It's pretty scary for sure.

  • Definesober

    Look up an App called Tasker for the Droid. I use it all the time and it does almost exactly that. I have it programmed to shut my phone to vibrate when I reach work, when I leave work and head to the bar, once I get in the bar it sends a text to my wife that I'm at the bar. It is also set up so when I have meetings at work, it automatically goes into silent mode. It's a really damn cool program and Apple is behind the curve once again.