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Apple Files for OLED Keyboard Patent

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 6 years ago | from the prior-art dept.

Toys 188

pegdhcp writes to mention that Apple has applied for a patent on a 'dynamically controlled keyboard' with OLED keys. This may seem remarkably familiar, since an OLED keyboard has been bandied about by Art Lebedev studios for quite a while now. "while the Optimus Maximus is a bit expensive, Apple could certainly mass-produce something similar for less money, perhaps bringing the price into reality for most users. Lebedev has, however, apparently applied for several patents for the Optimus, so it's unclear just what Apple is up to, or what would happen if the company were ever to release such a product."

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apple fanboys (1, Insightful)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920198)

wait for it, they will find a way to prove it's really apples innovation.

Re:apple fanboys (1)

rolfwind (528248) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920220)

I don't see what the innovation is with the entire package/idea. Maybe something in the details, but it seems to be the standard application of new technology (or one going down in price) to an old(er) device.

Re:apple fanboys (5, Informative)

MACC (21597) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920722)

15 years ago you could buy keyboards with an lcd display in each and
every keycap.

Now please tell me the difference to that.

This is not old but ancient stuff.

G!
MACC

Re:apple fanboys (5, Insightful)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920302)

Don't forget, it's not just the concept that's patented, but the implementation. Sometimes companies will patent a dozen similar technologies to avoid someone finding a way to easily copy the one version they actually want to sell. I recall reading (in a book about IP called "Rembrandts in the Attic") that when Gillette came up with the "Sensor" razor, they patented several methods that they thought competitors might be able to simulate their new product.

Maybe there's something unique and non-obvious about their method of implementing the "dynamic keyboard" idea. Maybe there isn't, and they are just doing what big, ugly businesses do. Maybe they're really trying to purchase or license the Lebedev technology, and this is a bargaining technique.

But to think that a patent can't be valid and innovative just because someone has a similar product is a fallacy; it could be done in an entirely different way. Should the inventor of the rotary engine been denied a patent because there were other gas-burning engines on the market?

Re:apple fanboys (4, Interesting)

Hellad (691810) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920508)

Immediately, it strikes me that Apple will create context specfic layouts. The machine will know when you are playing quake, or using garage band (or whatever) and give you the correct keyboard layout automatically. I am not sure if Optimus was set up to do this already, but it seems like an obvious choice for Apple who controls both the hardware and software.

context specfic layouts (2, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#21921220)

>"I am not sure if Optimus was set up to do this already"

Ummm....what exactly would be the point of an OLED keyboard which DIDN'T do this?

Re:context specfic layouts (1)

svunt (916464) | more than 6 years ago | (#21921976)

Programmable versus pre-programmed. That would be the Ummm point.

Re:apple fanboys (1)

jrothwell97 (968062) | more than 6 years ago | (#21922232)

It is. Layouts can be configured for Photoshop, games and any other app on the Optimus Max, and its successor, the Optimus Touch. I simply fail to see how this patent will get through, and Apple will have to come up with a bloody good innovation to get it through.

I'm expecting something not too dissimilar to the current Apple keyboard, but with OLED keys. Or, perhaps, on the supposed tablet sub-notebook that several rumour sites have claimed exists, a keyboard which can disappear and become part of the screen, á la the iPhone or the iPod Touch.

Re:apple fanboys (1)

JackMeyhoff (1070484) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920512)

"But to think that a patent can't be valid and innovative just because someone has a similar product is a fallacy;" Its called PRIOR ART.

Re:apple fanboys (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21920576)

"But to think that a patent can't be valid and innovative just because someone has a similar product is a fallacy;" Its called PRIOR ART.
No, IT'S NOT. Learn about what the hell you are talking about or shut up. Every time there is a patent story on slashdot the comments are full of idiot replies from people like you who don't understand anything other than ignorant knee-jerk reactions.

Patents are for IMPLEMENTATIONS, not products. Someone can have the same product as me, AND have it for years prior to my own, but I can still patent my own way of making the thing, assuming no one else has used that particular implementation. As the GP said, believing a patent can't be valid just because someone else has a similar product is a massive fallacy - there are often many different ways to make the same product (some more ingenius, less obvious, or just downright cheaper, than others).

Re:apple fanboys (1)

wellingj (1030460) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920672)

From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

Prior art (also known as or state of the art, which also has other meanings) in most systems of patent law constitutes all information that has been made available to the public in any form before a given date that might be relevant to a patent's claims of originality. If an invention has been described in prior art, a patent on that invention is not valid.
I don't see a black and white contradiction with what GP said... But I'd be glad to listen if you can come up with one
And let's not forget the logical fallacy of ad hominem if you are going insist on making a logical argument...

Re:apple fanboys (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920694)

It seemed to me as well that the "It's called PRIOR ART" comment was intended to imply the contradiction. You are correct that it's not black and white; I'd be interested to see that poster come back and explain if they meant it differently.

And you are also correct that ad hominem attacks are inappropriate and ineffectual when trying to persuade. It's a pity that the GP--who had an otherwise good comment--fell into that trap. Kudos to you for responding to that in a wholly appropriate manner.

Re:apple fanboys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21921004)

I'm the AC who wrote the comment.

First you are correct about the ad hominem attack - it was out of line. It is often hard to read comments on slashdot about patents and not get frustrated because a lot of people feel the need to post without knowing the basic concepts involved. The person who posted "IT'S CALLED PRIOR ART" may or may not know about the concept proper, but in the context of his post it was not an appropriate response.

The wikipedia quote talks about "invention". It this sense it is not necessarily referring to an end product, but rather what is being patented - usually the implementation or the process used to make the end product (when someone says "invention" it sounds like they are talking about a tangilble object but this need not be the case). When the original replier stated that it was a fallacy to believe that a patent cannot be valid because a similar product exists, he was correct. A similar product would not be considered prior art if the patent described a new (presumably better) way of making that product. If the process described in the patent had already been used elsewhere, that could be prior art.

Since the post I replied to contained only the very curt "IT'S CALLED PRIOR ART" after the quote about similar products, I reasonably assumed that he believed the existance of a similar product was the prior art. This is false in general, and ironically the exact fallacy that the quote he presented was warning against.

Re:apple fanboys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21920642)

-1, Confused

Re:apple fanboys (5, Insightful)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920688)

Correct. A loose definition of prior art would include anything in the public sphere of knowledge which has anything to do with the invention being considered for a patent. As such, things like a mouse's scroll wheel and track balls would be considered when evaluating the scroll ball on the Apple mighty mouse.

My father invented a simple, cheap, solid-state radiation detector that can be embedded in devices that is being purchased and licensed by major technology organizations (GE, Siemens, Lawrence labs). Prior art includes all technology associated with the detection of radiation. However, with all the geiger counters and such, nobody had recognized the possibility of, as it were, inserting tab A into slot B and using it as a radiation detector. He did, and he patented it, including several variations. Just because there is prior art doesn't mean something can't be patented.

When my father was going through the first round of the patent process, he learned that there is a delicate balance between broad protection and specificity that goes on with every application. If you define your product to broadly (i.e. it's a radiation detector, period), then your request will be rejected because everyone and their brother has invented a radiation detector. If you define it too specifically (think of a cooking recipe), though, people can learn from your patent and easily copy your work while carefully avoiding enough of the details to avoid a lawsuit. If your patent says that what makes your detector unique is the inclusion of four micrograms of adamantium, well then, all a competitor needs to do is add five grams, and they've got a different product.

Neither extreme is a good one. One is denied because it claims too much, and one is overly specific and doesn't protect enough. The key is to find a comfortable middle ground, and then patent variations to ensure that competitors won't do the same.

I haven't read the whole patent on the Apple keyboard, but it seems to me that there is at least one significant difference between the Lebedev device and the Apple concept, and that is that the keyboard would change dynamically, in real time, i.e. to present contextual controls based on what you are working on. That's very different from the other keyboard, which, as I understand it, is designed to be an all-one-profile or all-another-profile configuration (i.e. go into your Preferences pane and select Russian, and they keyboard will change). Long before Lebedev, there were custom stickers you could put on your keyboards i.e. to type dvorak instead of qwerty. OLED is cool, but if you're looking for prior art, in this implementation, OLED is just expensive stickers. I'd rather spend my $1500 on having the two or three keyboards I might actually need, along with a couple of spare terabyte drives with the left over money.

Here's an idea that has lots of prior art, but may be patentable. I present it here, in hopes that nobody has invented it. The parameters are:

  • It's a computer keyboard.
  • It's wireless.
  • For the sake of this thread, it's got dynamic displays on the keys.
  • It does not accept batteries, but only has a capacitor for holding charge.
  • Under each key, instead of a spring, there is a small flywheel device and ratchet mechanism which allows the keys to return to their original positions after being pressed.
  • The flywheels are composed of magnetic material and as they spin, they pass through carbon nanotube coils, generating power stored in the capacitor.
  • Additional power could be pulled from heat and electricity from the typist's fingers/hands.
  • And there you have it, the world's first self-winding, er, self-powered wireless keyboard.
There's lots of prior art for different elements of this invention, but unless someone has put them all together the way I have, and patented it, well, if I can build it, I could probably patent it, and rightly so. But one weakness is the specificity of the flywheel devices. If someone figures out a way to generate charge using a different aspect of the key movement, they could build something that accomplishes the exact same task (self-powered wireless keyboard) and they could patent their method of doing it.

In case you're thinking about busting my invention, I'm also working on a version where the keys have little hammers on the bottoms, and there is an internal substrate composed of Wint-O-Green Lifesavers. As the typist crushes the lifesavers, they scintillate, and those electromagnetic pulses are captured and stored as normal electricity, again using my capacitor. If I hadn't covered that angle, someone might have used it to get around my flywheel/nanotube invention.

Anyway, you can't just go around yelling "prior art" and thinking that it means that an invention is not patentable. You have to look at the scope of what exactly makes the invention unique and non-obvious.

Re:apple fanboys (1)

JackMeyhoff (1070484) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920948)

Use of organic LED's on the keys to communicate its purpose. Its been done prior, hence prior art for this combination.

Are you absolutely sure Lebedev's is like that? (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#21921712)

I haven't read the whole patent on the Apple keyboard, but it seems to me that there is at least one significant difference between the Lebedev device and the Apple concept, and that is that the keyboard would change dynamically, in real time, i.e. to present contextual controls based on what you are working on.

That's not a function of the keyboard, that's a function of the software in the computer driving the keyboard. It's also obvious... why would anyone pay fifteen hundred bucks for a programmable keyboard if it couldn't change in real time based on software in the computer? That's the whole point of programmable buttons in the first place!

Re:apple fanboys (1)

smallfries (601545) | more than 6 years ago | (#21922058)

I haven't read the whole patent on the Apple keyboard, but it seems to me that there is at least one significant difference between the Lebedev device and the Apple concept, and that is that the keyboard would change dynamically, in real time, i.e. to present contextual controls based on what you are working on. That's very different from the other keyboard, which, as I understand it, is designed to be an all-one-profile or all-another-profile configuration (i.e. go into your Preferences pane and select Russian, and they keyboard will change).

Are you (or anyone who has one) sure about this aspect? Looking at their website they don't specifically say if they can / or can't do that. They do show that they can dynamically update the key images (up to ten fps for the entire keyboard over usb). Adding the code to do the update on a change of active application is trivial, literally trivial given that the hook would be about five lines of code. One important question is whether or not a patent examiner would know that is a trivial extension...

Nice post, it's interesting to hear from someone who has some personal experience on a patent story for a change.

Re:apple fanboys (1)

SpinyNorman (33776) | more than 6 years ago | (#21922402)

Art Lebedev's Optimus Maximus is also dynamic (application programmable). It's not just for static English vs Russian or QWERTY vs DVORAK layout.

e.g. The demo page shows specific layouts for Photoshop or even for Half-Life :

http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/optimus/demo/ [artlebedev.com]

The Art Lebedev Mini Three suggests an even greater variety of uses, including things like e-mail notification:

http://www.artlebedev.com/everything/optimus-mini/overview/ [artlebedev.com]

The "dynamic" part of Apple's patent is certainly nothing new, and even if it had been it's trivially obvious. You're not going to put programmable key tops on a keyboard unless you plan to reprogram them!

Re:apple fanboys (1)

xouumalperxe (815707) | more than 6 years ago | (#21922006)

Don't forget, it's not just the concept that's patented, but the implementation

My understanding of patents was that, for the most part, it was actually the implementation, not the concept, that mattered (though that has been seriously "expanded" by now...)

Re:apple fanboys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21920310)

For real. Anyone or anything that stands in the way of their beloved corporate cult is automatically bad.

Re:apple fanboys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21920582)

Imagine the sh1tstorm on here if it were Microsoft applying for this patent yikes

You both realize, don't you? (3, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920872)

It's been a meme for awhile now. You know, the pre-emptive "Watch the fanboys defend..." and "Imagine if (Microsoft|Sony|MPAA|Bush) did this, what a shitstorm there would be!"

Judging by the comments on this thread, there are a lot more people whining about fanboys than actual fanboys.

Re:apple fanboys (0, Flamebait)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#21922042)

Yes, and they'll mod you, me, and anyone else who dares speak out against the Mighty Steve down into oblivion. If it wasn't so sad it would be funny.

Sure... (4, Funny)

denmarkw00t (892627) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920212)

I'd like a keyboard like the Optimus [PRIME!!!!!] but, really, if I paid less because Apple did it a different way, I probably wouldn't be nearly as happy as with the Optimus. I mean, if its anything like a Newton, we amy have evry odd transplations, write?

Also, first post (hopefully!>)

Re:Sure... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21920678)

what?

eat up martha (1)

unfunk (804468) | more than 6 years ago | (#21921140)

I think you missed the joke...

claim 25 (2, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920238)

about the only thing in the patent that may be innovative [that is that hasn't already been done] is claim 25 about their new manufacturing process [or not, it could be obvious in of its self, who knows] other than that, why hasn't this been thrown out yet due to prior art?

US patent system is first to invent (2, Insightful)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920294)

Of course changing 2006 to 2005 in a research notebook isn't that hard ...

Process Patents (2, Informative)

AHumbleOpinion (546848) | more than 6 years ago | (#21921056)

about the only thing in the patent that may be innovative [that is that hasn't already been done] is claim 25 about their new manufacturing process [or not, it could be obvious in of its self, who knows] other than that, why hasn't this been thrown out yet due to prior art?

One family of patents is the process patent. The invention is the manufacturing process, not the item. Whether or not the items manufactured are ordinary is irrelevant.

May the best idea win... (4, Insightful)

pcbob (67069) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920250)

Who ever figures out how to do it more efficiently (patents aren't for ideas, but particular implementation, right?) should be victorious. I'm glad to be on the consumer side on this one, however.

Re:May the best idea win... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21920322)

(patents aren't for ideas, but particular implementation, right?)
Shhhh!! You can't say stuff like that on slashdot. This inconvenient fact happens to invalidate 99% of all the "arguments" that come up against whatever software patent is reported on every other week on slashdot.

For varying ranges of particular (1)

Pinky's Brain (1158667) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920450)

If we are going to play that silly little semantic game how about raising the stakes ... is the following an idea or an implementation :

Putting a matrix of LEDs on each key of a keyboard?

Re:For varying ranges of particular (1)

IAmGarethAdams (990037) | more than 6 years ago | (#21922414)

To my non-lawyer mind, that's an idea. An implementation is when you actually do it.

Patent Fight *or* License from Art. Lebedev? (4, Informative)

Zymergy (803632) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920254)

IANAL, but it seems that Art. Lebedev Studio could just negotiate a fat licensing fee for the technology/idea with Apple and both would win from the collaboration...?
Surely that beats a costly Patent fight?
What about Prior Art?
Re: Optimus Keyboard With OLED Display Keys http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=05/07/14/1335215 [slashdot.org]
Re: Optimus OLED Keyboard Pre-Orders Start Dec. 12 http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=06/11/19/1911235 [slashdot.org]

I would love to see this technology in an affordable Laptop/Notebook keyboard. (Particularly one that has open source GPL'd base drivers.)

Re:Patent Fight *or* License from Art. Lebedev? (1)

rastoboy29 (807168) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920474)

No, but you see, theirs goes to green-leven.

What about Prior Art (3, Informative)

Udo Schmitz (738216) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920836)

Yeah, what about Prior Art? You think Lebedev was first? Check the Wikipedia entry http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Optimus_Maximus_keyboard [wikipedia.org] which has links to http://www.unitedkeys.com/ [unitedkeys.com] and http://lcd-keys.com/english/history.htm [lcd-keys.com]

Could I make a custom button... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21920264)

...to automate nigger-bashing AC posts on /.? That might be useful for some.

Re:Could I make a custom button... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21920342)

PyCURL + hotkey
(Don't.)

I'll take 2, please. (4, Interesting)

cioxx (456323) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920328)

Art Lebedev managed to scrape together some cash and "released it" before anyone else. Big deal.

I would never purchase an Optimus keyboard because there is no muscle behind it. They can't mass produce the thing and have been paper launching the keyboard for 2 years now. Imagine getting one and needing quick support like an immediate replacement, or getting really used to the thing and discovering they don't have the money to continue producing it. Apple, Logitech, or Microsoft have the resources to do it.

Now there is lots of prior art in this area, going as far back as 1978 in monochrome alterable keys. Perhaps Apple patented this as a countermeasure against someone who would try to claim this as an original idea. A differently-worded patent on a new product is better than no patent at all. At least that's my opinion.

Re:I'll take 2, please. (1)

brian_d_w (793870) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920396)

>A differently-worded patent on a new product is better than no patent at all. At least that's my opinion. Actually it isn't. Patents are strictly offensive weapons. The only way that a patent can protect you is if you can threaten to use it against then one that is suing you.

Re:I'll take 2, please. (4, Insightful)

bluephone (200451) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920664)

Patents are strictly offensive weapons. The only way that a patent can protect you is if you can threaten to use it against then one that is suing you.
Ok, you're wrong twice. A) You describe a DEFENSIVE weapon. You're using it to defend yourself, that's not an offensive weapon. B) Patents are both defensive AND offensive weapons. You can threaten or actually countersue based on your portfolio if you're sued for infringement, or you can be the first mover and sue for infringement.

Re:I'll take 2, please. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21920452)

They don't have to get a patent to avoid future lawsuits. If they market it & it is available for purchase (or at least what's different about it) at a reasonable cost, they can throw the lawsuit out of the court arguing prior art. They only have to prove that they did not steal the concept. Now if they want to patent as the original idea of patents, then it's a different story.

Re:I'll take 2, please. (2, Insightful)

fortunato (106228) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920458)

Your other comments may have merit but the complaint about mass production and quick support is one I have to take exception to. I mean REALLY, you can't just plug in any old keyboard and keep typing away? If you find some obvious business model around OLED keys that is irreplaceable I would be more sympathetic, but as new as this technology apparently is I don't find that a compelling argument. Time and success of the product will bring the mass production and quick support. Anyone who has ever been in any sort of start-up venture knows how hard it is to ramp up to that sort of thing, especially when you have something bleeding edge. It not just about the technology, its also about all the stuff that goes around it like infrastructure, investment capital and scale.

Re:I'll take 2, please. (1)

Fizzl (209397) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920634)

Well, Gee..I wonder why startups offering real tangible products have no other option than to hope for a merger with one of the big boys.

Re:I'll take 2, please. (1)

houghi (78078) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920692)

A differently-worded patent on a new product is better than no patent at all.


No patent at all is better. If the product is good, it will sell. If the competition starts making things better and cheaper, that is also good, because that way the consumer gets a better products.

Patents do not encourage inovation, they block it. Could be that that was different 100 years ago, but it isn't now. Patents are used to block ideas.

Remember the saying 'I am standing on the shoulders iof giants.'? Patents tell you that you can't do that anymore.

Re:I'll take 2, please. (1)

PietjeJantje (917584) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920866)

I would never purchase an Optimus keyboard because there is no muscle behind it.
Funny, that. I seem to avoid purchasing products from companies when there's too much muscle behind it. Big companies are too powerful as it is. No Microsoft keyboard for me, for example, I rather spend on a small, promising player.

Another reason... (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920926)

I like Apple's keyboards right now. I haven't really been able to find a faster (to type on), quieter keyboard yet. Easier to clean, too.

The problems I have are all related to the funny layout Apple's got. The "Super" key is where the alt key should be, so I have to swap those in a keymap -- which isn't working flawlessly, yet, and is a pain on my laptop, where the only way I know of messing with keys like that requires a reboot (or logout/login) to take effect. This means I can either have the Apple keyboard work, or the built-in keyboard, but not both at once. So, when switching keyboards, I pretty much have to reboot.

That's just the beginning. All the F-keys are slightly off, ending with F12 -- they've been shoved left to make room for an eject key (which all my OSes currently ignore -- eject which drive, now?) -- followed by F13, F14, and F15 instead of PrintScreen, ScrollLock, and Pause. At least they were nice enough to throw in an extra F16, F17, F18, and F19, where normal keyboards have capslock/numlock/etc LEDs. (This thing has a Capslock LED, on the capslock key, which is cool, but it has no LEDs for ScrollLock or NumLock.)

Instead of NumLock, there's Clear, which (finally, a break!) is the same keycode. But then, going clockwise around the numpad, there's =, /, *, -, +, and enter, where the standard is /, *, -, +, and enter. This is especially frustrating as the keypad plus is half the size it should be, and the minus takes up the other half of the same space.

The worst part, though, has to be Insert. Home, Pageup/Pagedown, Delete, and End are all where you expect them to be, but Insert? No, you get fn. And from what I understand, that fn actually does expose the fancy features that I see on those F-keys, like brightness, expose, dashboard, fastforward/rewind, play/pause, volume/mute. None of which really do anything right now.

Not that I would mind mapping them, but I basically have no option to put insert where I think it's supposed to go, and I do actually use it (or did).

I suppose it would be the perfect keyboard if I was on OS X, and actually, there's very little I physically dislike about it. Given enough time and patience, I'm sure I could remap everything except that fn key. The reason I'd want a keyboard which can physically show me the keymap is that I strongly doubt they'd be stupid enough to make a fixed fn key on that. It would also be especially cool if I could have the mapping stored in the keyboard itself, so that I don't have to teach my various OSes to flip between keymaps when I change keyboards.

Re:Another reason... (2, Funny)

Angostura (703910) | more than 6 years ago | (#21921406)

To summarize:

I suppose it would be the perfect keyboard if I was on OS X

Re:Another reason... (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#21921768)

Which means I have to choose between the perfect keyboard and the perfect OS (Linux). I want them both, damnit!

(Alright, Linux isn't perfect, but it's closer (for me) than OS X will ever be.)

Re:I'll take 2, please. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21921784)

Wow, you are such a Jobs dick sucking piece of shit.

Plan all along (5, Funny)

edwardpickman (965122) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920356)

1.Come up with a plan for a keyboard we can't build but is so cool some one will want to.

2.Sue first company to actually try to build keyboard.

3.Profit!

Now wait'll some one tries to knock off Duke Nuke Em Forever!

This could be fun... (2, Interesting)

padonak (687721) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920370)

Now maybe they (the A.L. Studio) will get some sence about Apple and the likes. Because they love doing business with them, apparently.
Notice how they only promise windows and mac support [artlebedev.com] for the keyboard because linux doesn't have enough marketshare:

Why isnt there any Linux software?
Because first we want to let 95% of people to work with the keyboard.

Is there a chance it will support Linux?
Maybe sometime.

I hope they feel violated.

Re:This could be fun... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21920798)

Get over yourself. A small company (Art Lebedev) scrapes together some money to produce the most expensive keyboard on the market (hell, who could reasonably justify $1500 for a keyboard?), and then decide to forgo the one market (Linux) containing people who complain when they have to pay for anything, and demand that the source be available for all to rape and pillage? It's been hard enough for A.L. to get Optimus off the ground, let alone pay money for someone to develop a Linux driver for it that no Linux user will want to pay for.

You want free GPL drivers to run your $1500 keyboard on Linux? Write them yourself, release them to the public for free -- that's the open-source way isn't it?

Geez.

Re:This could be fun... (1)

padonak (687721) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920874)

Nice troll.
Next time try not posting anonymously to make your bullshit look more credible.

Re:This could be fun... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21922108)

Troll? It looked like a pretty rational response to me. Can you actually point out any errors in his reasoning, or are you just knee-jerking against an idea you don't like?

Re:This could be fun... (1)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920940)

A small company (Art Lebedev) scrapes together some money to produce the most expensive keyboard on the market (hell, who could reasonably justify $1500 for a keyboard?), and then decide to forgo the one market (Linux)

With that price point, why would they forgo a market if they don't have to? Is it really that hard to develop cross-platform USB drivers? (Hint: From what I understand, it is harder to go from Windows to OS X than from OS X to Linux.)

You want free GPL drivers to run your $1500 keyboard on Linux?

Surely $1500 should pay for those drivers, right?

Oh, by the way: I would easily pay that much for a good keyboard, if it weren't for the fact that I already have one. I develop software for a living, so, Linux geek or not, my keyboard is pretty central to my livelihood.

It's all about the documentation. (1)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#21921770)

You want free GPL drivers to run your $1500 keyboard on Linux?

No, I want that FAQ to contain a link saying "here's the API, write your own driver" with a link to the USB HID spec for the keyboard all the way down to interfaces and end-points and packets.

Apple and IBM (2, Informative)

NickCatal (865805) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920402)

Apple and IBM own enough patents to patent every square inch of my kitchen if they wanted... it is called R&D... most of this stuff won't make it to market

Re:Apple and IBM (2, Interesting)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920704)

Although, as of about 10 years ago, IBM was pulling in over a billion dollars a year solely in patent license fees. They could have stopped selling hardware, software and services and still pulled in a billion dollars a year.

I'll bet that number's gone up significantly since then.

OLED? Why not E-Ink? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21920460)

wouldn't oled sap the power? wouldn't e-ink be better if it is just to replace the characters on the board? I mean, it's not like they are going to change all that often...

Microsoft... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21920488)

I'm not a fan... but some how I image this thread would go an entirely different way if it were Microsoft filing the patent.

Publicity Stunt (2, Insightful)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920496)

is probably the cause for this - it doesn't matter if there is any substance to the content or if the filing is denied as long as it makes it to the papers - which will provide free advertisement for Apple. "Them guys ain't dumb" [lyrics007.com]

The irony is that even Slashdot bought it - but maybe I shouldn't be surprised anymore...

The basic idea about a keyboard that can get programmed to display different text on the keycaps aren't really new - the difference is that the technology is better today. But the use is limited - only a few doing writing in multiple international languages/character sets will really benefit from this in a real keyboard. For ordinary people it's easier to buy a secondary keyboard and switch whenever necessary.

But in specialized applications the use of programmable keytops may be really useful. Think cash registers and other kinds of devices.

Watch the "prior art" screaming start (5, Informative)

Infonaut (96956) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920570)

Until you've read the actual claims in a patent, it is impossible to know what Apple is actually attempting to patent. The fact that the description is of an OLED keyboard doesn't mean that prior art will negate the claims any more than the existence of LCD screens would necessarily invalidate a patent on an LCD screen.

Now to settle in and watch the ill-informed rants about patent law multiply like rodents. Anyone have any popcorn?

Re:Watch the "prior art" screaming start (2, Informative)

makomk (752139) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920996)

I've read the claims, and it seems to be a patent application for exactly what people are saying it's a patent application for - keyboards with OLED displays on the keyboard, like the Optimus Maximus. (Actually, it covers slightly more than that - claim 1 is for any computer peripheral with one or more keys containing more than one LED that can be switched on or off. It's not narrowed down to just things like the Optimus Maximus until claim 4.)

Re:Watch the "prior art" screaming start (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21921662)

If you had read the claims yourself you would have seen that most of the claims have prior art. I dunno about all of them but they seriously would have to get rid of like 20 of the 25 claims before they would have something resembling patentable.

Re:Watch the "prior art" screaming start (1)

Mike1024 (184871) | more than 6 years ago | (#21922222)

Until you've read the actual claims in a patent, it is impossible to know what Apple is actually attempting to patent.

Sounds good - let's take a look! [uspto.gov]

Claims

1. A computer peripheral including one or more keys, each key having a plurality of light emitting diodes disposed on a face of the key, each of the light emitting diodes being operable to switch on or off in response to a data signal received from an application specific integrated circuit dedicated to the key.

2. The computer peripheral of claim 1, wherein the computer peripheral is a computer keyboard.

3. The computer peripheral of claim 1, wherein the light emitting diodes are organic light emitting diodes.

4. The computer peripheral of claim 1, wherein the light emitting diodes are placed in a dot matrix pattern on each key and operable to display symbols indicating an action that will be performed by a computer connected to the peripheral when the key is depressed by a user.

5. The computer peripheral of claim 1, wherein the light emitting diodes are switched on and off with a predetermined frequency to create animation effects on the key face.

[And so on - you get the picture.]


Each claim is a separate invention, which Apple claims the exclusive right to produce. In other words, Apple claims the exclusive rights to produce computer peripherals with keys, where those keys have more than one LED on, and those LEDs are on/off controlled, and that control is performed by a per-key ASIC.

For example, claim 1 of Apple's patent would cover the two-LED backlit power button on my monitor only if it is controlled by an ASIC dedicated to the button.

So, what's the point of claim 2, saying "The computer peripheral of claim 1, wherein the computer peripheral is a computer keyboard." - in other words claiming a subset of what is already claimed? That's a dependent claim [wikipedia.org] , due to "Clarification of the independent claim language" and "Possible invalidity of base claim".

So, for example, if Art Lebedev has prior art/a patent which invalidates claim 1, Apple would still have (e.g.) claim 5, animated keys, claim 7, images displayed across multiple keys, etc. Of course, claims 5 and 7 could be also invalidated if someone has prior art on them.

So, what have Art Levedev done anyway? I can't find any patent numbers for their product, but I can find this patent [uspto.gov] , (I'll call it 'IBM's patent') which contains the claim:

1. Apparatus comprising: a plurality of key buttons, wherein each of the key buttons includes a transparent central portion; a support structure mounting each of the key buttons to move vertically; a plurality of resilient members, wherein each of the resilient members holds one of the key buttons upward within the support structure; a plurality of traducers, each producing an electrical signal in response to downward movement of a key button in the plurality of key buttons; a display screen extending under each of the key buttons and under the support structure to provide changeable display patterns visible through the central portion of each of the key buttons.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the display screen includes a liquid crystal display.

3. The apparatus of claim 2, wherein the liquid crystal display is transilluminated.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the display screen includes a plasma display.

[and so on]


The IBM patent claims devices with multiple keys, where those keys have a transparent central portion, and a display screen extending under each of the keys.

The Apple patent is similar, but uses LEDs (maybe avoiding 'a display screen'), and no transparent central portion. Therefore it doesn't infringe on (claim 1 of) IBM's patent.

But wait, there's more! What about this patent [uspto.gov] , which only has one claim:

1. A new and improved display keyboard comprising, in combination:

a conventional keyboard having an upper edge, a lower edge, and a pair of side edges;

a plurality of function keys including a standard CTRL key, SHIFT key, CAPS LOCK key, ENTER key, and ALT key situated on the keyboard with conventional indicia situated thereon;

a plurality of display keys situated on the keyboard, each display key having a display situated thereon for depicting alphanumeric characters of various languages, symbols, special characters, pictures, icons abbreviations, short explanations and indicia, the display keys capable of changing colors and blinking to differentiate between numbers and letters and further between display keys having different functions associated therewith, wherein each display key is equipped with a light for allowing the utilization of the keyboard in the absence of ambient light; and

a computer with associated software connected to the keyboard for depicting, via the display keys, characters and indicia relevant to the function of the key during a current software application, wherein the improvement comprises: the computer controlling the display keys such that those not relevant to the software application are rendered blank and further wherein the computer displays, via the display keys, data relevant to a specific executable task associated with the combination of depressing one of the ALT, CTRL, or SHIFT keys simultaneously with one of the display keys.


This is a bit of a weird claim, in that it's so long and specific. Just don't render blank keys not relevant to the current software application, and you're home free.

IN SUMMARY: Keyboards with displays in the keys have been done before [wikipedia.org] . IBM have a patent on implementations using transparent central sections and displays behind. Apple have a patent for implementations using multiple LEDs and one ASIC per key. If you can implement a keyboard without using either of those technologies, you are free to do so (barring any other patents I don't know about).

The above is not legal advice, talk to a lawyer if you have a legal problem.

Idea 30 years old - Arthur C. Clarke got there 1st (5, Interesting)

slyall (190056) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920584)

The book Imperial Earth http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_Earth [wikipedia.org] by Arthur C. Clarke from 1976 featured something similar:

The 'Sec was the standard size of all such units, determined by what could fit comfortably in the normal human hand. At a quick glance, it did not differ greatly from one of the small electronic calculators that had started coming into general use in the late twentieth century. It was, however, infinitely more versatile, and Duncan could not imagine how life would be possible without it.

Because of the finite size of clumsy human fingers, it had no more controls than its ancestors of three centuries earlier. There were fifty neat little studs; each, however, had a virtually unlimited number of functions, according to the mode of operation--for the character visible on each stud changed according to the mode. Thus on ALPHANUMERIC, twenty-six of the studs bore the letters of the alphabet, while ten showed the digits zero to nine. On MATH, the letters disappeared from the alphabetical studs and were replaced by X +, / --, = and all the standard mathematical functions.

Shame on Apple for trying to claim they invented the idea.

Re:Idea 30 years old - Arthur C. Clarke got there (1)

iamnafets (828439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920684)

Having buttons that can change their caption is just the tip of the iceberg. The entire GUI revolution is based on this idea that a screen becomes something of a foundation for a bunch of virtual buttons sans the tactile feedback. This 'idea' is so central to how we live and work in this century that it seems to easily fall under the category of obvious.

Re:Idea 30 years old - Arthur C. Clarke got there (2, Funny)

balloonhead (589759) | more than 6 years ago | (#21921326)

My idea is one further. My new patented keyboard has one button and the software works out what letter it is that you mean to press each time.

Re:Idea 30 years old - Arthur C. Clarke got there (1)

Jacer (574383) | more than 6 years ago | (#21921618)

Funny..... Clark also said something about sufficiently advanced technology being indistinguishable from fiction, or magic, or something make belive and/or fantasy. The verbatim quote escapes me, but the point is still valid.

Re:Idea 30 years old - Arthur C. Clarke got there (1)

kalidasa (577403) | more than 6 years ago | (#21922328)

The sec was otherwise somewhat like a PDA or iPhone.

I hope so (1)

tyler.willard (944724) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920630)

Perhaps then they could continue, and expand, the legacy of the TouchStream. I.E., the tech they bought, for the iPhone, from FingerWorks.

Prior art.. Star Trex. Indutrial contollers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21920654)

It's already been done to death. This is such a old idea it's pathetic if they manage to get a patent.
Optimus has already a one screen design.

Whoever does it... (1)

xx01dk (191137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920658)

...don't expect it to be cheap. And I mean that even if Apple produces such a thing, the Logitech diNovo [logitech.com] is going to seem cheap by comparison.

Judging by the pictures on this site: Optimus Mini [deadprogrammer.com] , the backplane for the full blown 103 key version must be staggeringly complex, not to mention extemely difficult to manufacture within the confines of a standard-sized keyboard. Plus, a regular keyboard must be able to withstand normal typing, unlike the three-button jobbie; you have to wonder at the amount of abuse a standard flex-pcb can withstand. I'm seriously concerned about that aspect.

It's no wonder that the street price for these things is going to be so high; I think that the sheer complexity of mass-producing such a beast reliably is probably the only thing standing between us and our uber OLED planks.

Cheers~

Epic leet (2, Funny)

xx01dk (191137) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920680)

I'm going to run my Optimus in stealth mode [daskeyboard.com] .

Prior Art from the 70's (4, Interesting)

FlyingGuy (989135) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920682)

IBM made a bit of hardware for the US Navy called the A/N-BQQ5 SONAR system. The main consoles had an array of buttons ( keys if you will ) that called functions and of course changed that actual text that was displayed on each button based upon the current function(s) selected. If memory serves, mind you this was 30 years ago, they had an acronym ( the Military has acronyms for everything ) and it was DROS . This is a link to a site that has a decent photo [si.edu] of the control consoles, Click on the image ( yes unfortunately it will open in a pop-up, sorry its the ONLY photo I can find ) for a larger version. As you can see the three consoles are identical; however, each console could be assigned any function that the system performed. Thus each set of keys displayed text appropriate for the consoles currently assigned function, and sub-functions.

I rode USS-OMAHA SSN-692 in winter of '78 and USS Los Angeles was commissioned in '76, so given how long it takes to get a bit of hardware like that from IBM in those days, I would imagine those buttons / keys were more then likely developed in the late 60's.

So there you have your prior art.

Mod Parent Up! (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920736)

Now *that* sounds like a good example of prior art related to what appears to be the core unique concept on the Apple patent application. Significantly closer than the Lebedev keyboards, if I understand correctly. MOD PARENT UP!

Re:Prior Art from the 70's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21920760)

So IBM is the company I have to blame for the BQQ-5? I hate those things! Luckily we're moving away from them finally. Our boat only still has BQQ-5 because we're an SSBN and we get all the upgrades last.

You're right about the key labels changing but those labels sure are hard to read.

Re:Prior Art from the 70's (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21922164)

Could be worse, you could have had to deal with the BQN-3F.

It has to be said (1)

ghyd (981064) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920728)

I wish one day Ars and Slashdot make such a news about Microsoft, just to see the comments. Then two days later tell it was an Apple news finally.

Re:It has to be said (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920790)

I wish one day Ars and Slashdot make such a news about some big bully which had kicked you in the face a thousand times, just to see the comments. Then two days later tell it was actually about Mother Theresa, who has a history of trying to do good deeds.

There. Fixed it for you.

Jokes aside, it would be funny if there were an editorial change after the comments thus far to say that this was a Microsoft filing, not an Apple filing. Just the reverse of what you suggested, but probably equally funny. That having been said, though, it's no mystery that the comments might be different. Apple's not a saintly company by any stretch, but in general, it could be said that their products and practices show a bit more class than those coming out of Redmond.

Next? Keys that change shape, size, or texture (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21920746)

Maybe someday we will see keys that can dynamically change their shape (this includes how much (or whether or not) they protrude) or size? Maybe even the amount of pressure required to press them?

So imagine that pressable buttons only appear on the display surface when you need them. Of course I have no idea how to implement it given current technology (some kind of flexible material that can harden in an electric field or something?) but just wanted to put it out there.

OLED keyboard revision 2.

That one takes a 5 minute patent search.... (2, Informative)

originalhack (142366) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920944)

This 1984 patent [freepatentsonline.com] kills their first 12 claims and this product [nforcershq.com] shipping in 2005 kills their remaining 13 claims unless you believe that the product had a wiring harness going from an lcd driver not on the keytop down up to the keytop.

That's all 25 claims dead right there.

Re:That one takes a 5 minute patent search.... (1)

tgd (2822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21921894)

You should learn how to read a patent before declaring something dead because of prior art on early claims.

You just look like a fool in public, particularly on a site like Slashdot which has a lot of people who work with patents all the time.

Art Levedev products (1)

Paul_Hindt (1129979) | more than 6 years ago | (#21920976)

Apparently the Optimus Maximus keyboard is now shipping and according to the Art Lebedev Studio site it costs $462.27. They also have another product concept for a single-surface display keyboard where any part of the display can be used to take input or display images. The site [artlebedev.com] says, "Any part of the [Optimus Tactus] surface can be programmed to perform any function or to display any images."

Re:Art Levedev products (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21921268)

They've been shipping a while- and $462 gets you ONE dynamic key- $1500 gets you the real deal.

right. (2, Interesting)

apodyopsis (1048476) | more than 6 years ago | (#21921110)

I would imagine the real question is: how large a firm are lebedev and can they afford to see Apple in court to protect their IP?

..after all, I find thats the real issue at stake in these weaselesque (is that a word?) situations..

Re:right. (1)

phorest (877315) | more than 6 years ago | (#21922460)

..after all, I find thats the real issue at stake in these weaselesque (is that a word?) situations..

I'd at least copyright it if I were you...

This is a good thing (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 6 years ago | (#21921272)

I'll let the USPTO work out the patents, and if Art Lebdev is really in a position to launch a first strike at Apple with the Lawyerpult (I love Dilbert) then that's just fine and dandy.

This may bring competition into the OLED keyboard market. That's a good thing. OLED. It's what keyboards need :)

I just want one of those things to get semi-affordable. Like say all the keys being OLED, awesome looking, and at less then $500. I mean, it's just plain COOL. Also, it's not like Apple has never made anything that looked cool and could be considered almost art. No. Of course not. If Apple does end up making one of these babies, I just PRAY that will make it compatible for other platforms.

Is OLED backlit too? Cuz I like the idea of being able to type in the dark, cuz.... ummmmm... there are things on my computer I like doing in the dark.

LED Number pad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21921288)

Huh seems one of the last times I saw a friend he had just bought a programmable LED number pad somewhere, was gonna invest in the company, and this was in 1995

Bribe/Extort (1)

fozzmeister (160968) | more than 6 years ago | (#21921408)

Apple will probably get their patent, then they'll release the product, then they might sue Lebdev.

The way it was explained to me (1)

DeanFox (729620) | more than 6 years ago | (#21921548)


Several lives ago I worked for the company that patented the holes on the left/right of forms allowing them to run though "pin fed" equipment like printers. The were called KS holes as in Can't Slip. I know, maybe CS was already taken... The original concept was to keep multi-ply forms interlaced with carbon paper aligned while they were fed through a device.

I asked if we had the patent why were other companies producing forms with holes on the sides. As explained, first the patent expired like 40 years before I got there but more importantly you can't patent and "idea" only a "process". In other words the idea of having holes on the side of the paper could not be patented. The process for putting holes on the sides of paper could be. Figure out a new or different way of putting holes on the sides of paper and you got yourself a new patent.

Maybe that's changed by now, IANAL. The way I see it the OLED "idea" isn't what's patented. One patent may be a 1500 matrix of mini-LEDs for the display. However, if I figure out a way to shrink a LED flat panel screen to the size of a key, I can patent a new way to do the same thing.

This may or may not be right and it may have changed but it's the way patents were explaind to me (20 years ago). I still see patents written starting with "A process for..." So maybe it hasn't changes all that much.

-[d]-

that what Apples good at. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21921568)

Apple is good at taking somebody elses hard work. making slight and almost unnoticeable changes to it, and then patent it for themselves.

i just wonder when they'll do it to somebody who wants to stand up for their work...

a large "iphone" keyboard (1)

roqetman (217708) | more than 6 years ago | (#21922046)

My guess is that they want to create a large version of the "touch" keyboard interface that the iPhone uses.

You know what? (1)

Waccoon (1186667) | more than 6 years ago | (#21922074)

I'd be happier if Apple introduced keyboards with media keys. How about function keys that aren't microscopic? How about keys that aren't Chicklets given that they want $1500 for the machine? Ah, the sacrifices we have to make in the name of style.

Prior Art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21922106)

The AEGIS Display System uses (or at least used) custom control buttons in a separate keypad which displayed different options depending upon the context in which the user is working. The keypad (20 by 20 keys, if I remember correctly) allowed up to three different values per key through clear keys, overlay labels, and three different internal lamps.

Goetz

the really stupid part is that 2 decade ago I saw (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#21922578)

these. Not with OLED, but with leds. It was just a bank of keys, but still the same. THe idea that a patent could allow the matrix to change AND the number of keys is expanded indicates to what level companies like Apple (and MS) have sunk.
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