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Apple's Horrible Year Is Almost Over: Today's Win of Caller ID Image Selection Patent a Good Omen

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Today the company faced two patent decisions, one that looks like a loss and one that's a clear victory.

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MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Today brings two big patent stories for Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) -- the potential loss of its important "Steve Jobs" multi-touch patent, and the winning of a patent that assigns pictures to incoming calls. At first glance, it seems that Apple is losing something big and gaining something small. But in a year so rife with legal battling and reconfiguration, today's loss will be manageable for Apple, and the caller ID program, if nothing else, could be quite fun.

The multi-touch patent is crucial to Apple because it covers the touch interface on the iPad and iPhone, the central functional aspect of both devices. The patent, number 7,479,949, was filed in 2008 and received on January 20, 2009. A reexamination of the patent was filed in January 2010 by the law firm Kelly Drye and Warren. It is not publicly known who requested the patent reexamination, but the law firm has worked with both Apple and Samsung (PINK:SSNLF). Today brings the US Patent and Trademark Office's ruling that the parent is invalid.

Apple has two months to contest the decision and may successfully do so. However, even if they do not, Apple has many more patents and the funds necessary to continue legal battles with Samsung, or whoever it was that originally requested the examination.

On the winning hand, after receiving the application first in 2010, the US Patent and Trademark Office today granted Apple's patent, number 8,331,916, for "Image selection for an incoming call." Against today's potential loss, this program may seem frivolous, but as far as caller ID photo recognition goes, it certainly is a step forward. The patent calls for an advanced system that selects images from a phone's media library based on predetermined criteria.

In his article for Apple Insider (which includes a detailed flow chart and reveals the complexity of this seemingly simple development), Mikey Campbell describes an example: "If a call is found to be originating from San Francisco, the system will search the image pool for pictures of the caller taken in that city. Alternately, if the call originated from the home town of the caller, but that person is currently on a trip to New York, pictures of previous trips to New York will be displayed."

As much as it rings true, I am so tired of hearing and reading the phrase "Apple's annus horribilis." It's definitely been a tough year for the tech giant, but evidence points towards Apple's continued success. These patent claims are obnoxiously expensive and resource consuming, but they are just part of the tech landscape right now. Apple has got some big news for the coming year, with production returning to America and rumors about a new Apple TV. According to Seeking Alpha, even in the worst case scenario revenue will be up for 2013. As usual, the company will turn out its newest models of its standard, high-quality products. And though it seems like a small blip on the radar, Apple's new incoming-call photo patent may change mobile phones yet again.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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