Monday, August 09, 2010

Apple's 20100198453, the bicycle application

On August 5, 2010, there were 35 US patent applications published which contained the word "bicycle." One of them was
US 20100198453, assigned to Apple, titled Systems and Methods for Integrating a Portable Electronic Device with a Bicycle , with abstract:

Systems and methods are providing for interfacing an electronic device with a bicycle system. The electronic device can receive the output from sensors coupled to the bicycle and generate riding characteristics for display to the user. The electronic device can in addition receive communications from other electronic devices and provide the communications to the user. In some embodiments, the electronic device can be paired with the devices of one or more other cyclists so that the cyclists can share riding characteristics and other information. This can allow the cyclists to ride as a team and better assist each other.

The first claim reads:

A system for communicating riding characteristics among a plurality of bicycles, comprising:a first electronic device coupled to a first bicycle, the first electronic device operative to:determine at least one riding characteristic of the first bicycle;receive in real-time from a second electronic device coupled to a second bicycle at least one riding characteristic other than location of the second bicycle; and provide the determined and received at least one riding characteristics to a display associated with the first electronic device.

Talking bicycles instead of dueling banjos?

Claim 7 is directed to the device itself:

An electronic device for providing cycling information to the users of a plurality of bicycles riding in a group, the electronic device associated with a first bicycle, comprising control circuitry operative to:detect a plurality of electronic devices, each associated with one of the plurality of bicycles;determine at least one riding characteristic of the first bicycle, wherein the riding characteristic comprises at least one of speed, distance, time, altitude, elevation, incline, decline, heart rate, power, derailleur setting, cadence, wind speed, path completed, expected future path, heart rate, power, and pace; and receive, in real-time from each of the detected plurality of electronic devices, at least one riding characteristic of each of the plurality of bicycles.

Paragraph 0001 makes it clear that the device can be an iPod or iPhone:

This is directed to systems and methods for integrating an electronic device, such as an iPod or iPhone, available from Apple Inc. of Cupertino, Calif., with a bicycle in accordance with one embodiment of the invention.

So, if you the bicycle user transfer a riding characteristic to another bicycle user over something like an iPhone, you might be deemed an infringer. But what of the doctrine of patent exhaustion on first sale? Also, what if someone already had been doing this prior to February 2, 2009, the filing date?

On June 9, 2009, the attorneys sought a correction on the filing receipt, which initially had the assignee as "1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino, CA."


PC World issued a "clarification" of its initial story:

Clarification: As initially posted, this story's headline and lead-in suggested that Apple had filed a patent for a bicycle. In reality, Apple filed to patent a bicycle accessory. We apologize for the confusion, and regret the error. The corrected story follows below.

The issue of prior art arose:

According to the patent, this range of information would be collected via a connected iPod or iPhone and built in sensors. What the integrated technology to measure these cycling metrics would be is any ones guess. But accurate heart rate sensors in the handlebars, accelerometers and on-board GPS would all seem to be fairly safe bets.

However as any dedicated cyclist will know, this sort of information has been available for years - thanks to attachable mini computers. These mini cycle-friendly computers are available in a range of prices, starting from simple $10 to $20 models with more technologically able kit, including an iPhone app, pushing the $200 price point.


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