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Patently ridiculous: Apple applies for iOS face unlock patent

Posted: , by Michael H.

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Patently ridiculous: Apple applies for iOS face unlock patent
This isn't the first time we've seen it from any tech company, let alone Apple, and it probably won't be the last, but Apple has put in an application to patent a technology which some of us are already using: face unlock. As we all know, face detection is nothing new, and anyone with a Galaxy Nexus knows that unlocking your phone with face detection certainly is nothing new, but luckily the US Patent Office doesn't bother with trivial things like that, so Apple applied to patent it anyway. Yes, Apple applied for this patent in 2010, before Google put out ICS with Face Unlock, but Google's facial recognition software came from the PittPatt acquisition. PittPatt has been working on this since 2004, and was issued a patent for facial recognition (though not for mobile devices) in 2007. This is how the patent system works, even if two identical technologies exist, but one is on mobile devices and one isn't, both get the patent. 

Patently ridiculous: Apple applies for iOS face unlock patent
Of course is that Google's Face Unlock is not perfect. It can be fooled by a photo, or even a pair of glasses or a beard. Apple's patent is designed to use your mouth, the tip of a nose and eyes, and the distances between your facial features to analyze whether or not you are the owner of the iOS device and unlock the device. Of course, given how the facial recognition in Android can do all of those things in order to morph your face in the new camera app, none of this seems particularly new, or if Apple's way will be any more secure or reliable than how Android does Face Unlock. 

Either way, there is no reasonable way that this patent should be granted, but no one ever said the USPTO was a reasonable organization, and it certainly wouldn't be the first time Apple or any other company were granted a patent for something that already exists. We'll try not to get too worked up as this is just an application, but the fact that Apple even applied means it knows there's a chance it could be granted. Of course, there's very little likelihood that the patent would stand up in court, but there would almost certainly be a wasteful lawsuit following this patent around. 

Update: We felt it necessary to add this addendum to the article, because as usual the fanboys on both sides of the aisle have missed the point completely. We are not annoyed at Apple applying for this patent, because that is Apple's right within the system. It is merely a symptom of the problem. We are annoyed that the system allows for patent applications like this, and that often these sorts of patents are accepted, regardless of prior examples. 

It is the US patent system that is horribly broken, especially in regards to technology patents. Apple didn't come up with this technology, and neither did Google. Intellectual property laws and patents stifle innovation by producing incredibly wasteful lawsuits because the USPTO doesn't know how to deal with technology patents. We don't blame Apple for using the system the way it is designed. We blame the system for being broken. 

Ideas cannot and should not be patented, because ideas are all built on what came before. Apple and Google built their mobile platforms on the ideas of Nokia, RIM, Palm and the other companies that came before, and Nokia, RIM, and Palm built on the work done by companies before them, and on and on and on. That's how innovation works. No one owns knowledge or ideas. No one owns innovation. It's just how evolution works, and all patents do is slow down evolution. 

source: Patently Apple via BGR

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posted on 29 Dec 2011, 12:59 40

1. israelian (Posts: 12; Member since: 15 Dec 2011)


Apple, stop making s**tty steps! The world'd be fine even if without you.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 14:59 6

29. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5736; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)


I seem to recall a similar function being part of Android ICS. I guess Apple doesn't care if their patent is invalid before it has even been awarded.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 15:56 7

39. ReturningToNokia (Posts: 130; Member since: 09 Jul 2011)


Umm...Apple applied/filed the patent in June 2010. ICS was just released a few weeks ago.

Besides, if Google doesn't have a patent on it, why shouldn't another company file for their implementation of the technology?

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 16:53 5

43. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5736; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)


And I suppose there was zero development time involved with the facial recognition function in ICS? BTW, for Apple's application to not be subject to an invalidity challenge, there must be no publication of algorithms for facial recognition prior to the filing date.... I rather doubt that test will be met.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 17:22 4

46. ReturningToNokia (Posts: 130; Member since: 09 Jul 2011)


Then Google should have filed for the patent while this was in development, or once their development was completed. What is so difficult about filing a patent? It's seems others do it quite well; why not Google?

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 17:26 7

47. sgogeta4 (Posts: 392; Member since: 02 Feb 2011)


You clearly do not understand anything regarding Google's open source stance. While Apple filed the patent a while ago, none of their products currently use it...

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 22:02 1

64. ardent1 (Posts: 1994; Member since: 16 Apr 2011)


> And I suppose there was zero development time involved with the facial recognition function in ICS?

This coming from Droid_x_Doug (the same guy who was beating his chest exclaiming that ATT will engage in a hostile takeover of TMobile USA).

The US patent law has changed -- now, the basic rule is first to file versus the the prior doctrine of first to invent.

posted on 30 Dec 2011, 00:24

73. Droid_X_Doug (Posts: 5736; Member since: 22 Dec 2010)


Ah... haven't you requested PA to change your ID to strident1, yet?

BTW, do you know anything about invalidity? Even under first to file, if publication of the underlying principle occurred more than 1 year prior to the filing, the patent's validity is still open to challenge. Facial recognition has been 'out' for way more than a year before 2010.

If you need a referral to competent patent counsel to explain the concept, I can give you one.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 16:02 4

40. quakan (Posts: 1177; Member since: 02 Mar 2011)


It's the patent office fault. I bet what they do is look through their database and see if something is already patented and if they don't see it, they just award to the first bidder. They should hire some techies in that office so they can actually show them what could actually be patentable. I love apple products but even i agree that these vague patents are ridiculous.

posted on 31 Dec 2011, 00:54

87. Lucas777 (Posts: 2137; Member since: 06 Jan 2011)


apple applied for this patent in june of 2010.. it only recently became public... how is that in violation of android? which recently only came out a month ago? yes they acquired a company before, but if we are being true and just, did google do any of the work that apple did?

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 13:09 11

2. Slammer (Posts: 1003; Member since: 03 Jun 2010)


----"Either way, there is no reasonable way that this patent should be granted, but no one ever said the USPTO was a reasonable organization, and it certainly wouldn't be the first time Apple or any other company were granted a patent for something that already exists."----

I agree totally!

If technology proves anything, it does not like to be stifled. It needs to advance by way of leapfrogging on one great idea and move it forward. It does NOT take kindly to being controlled so no other can capitalize on it.

Touch Gestures, Face recognition etc, are all technological inventions or discoveries that benefit all of society. It should remain open to every single individual regardless what product or company they choose.

Just as Linux has benefit the computer industry. It is imperative that the patent office reviews technological and scientific innovations with care. One controlling entity will provoke a severe slow down, or worse yet, a stale-mate in moving forward.

John B.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 13:15 25

4. mukrenol (Posts: 90; Member since: 03 Sep 2011)


this proves that apple is not innovative as before
just find competitor's technology and has been using it for a bit then claimed as their own

cheap apple you are just cheap right now

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 13:26 21

5. ZayZay (Posts: 556; Member since: 26 Feb 2011)


Can't teach an old OS new tricks, unless you sue for those new tricks!

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 13:32 20

6. SuperAndroidEvo (Posts: 4000; Member since: 15 Apr 2011)


Apple sees a good thing & does 1 of 2 things.

#1) They try to patent the technology.

OR

#2) If the patent doesn't work then they buy the tech or company outright.

Apple to me seems to have lost its edge. They clearly don't innovate like they once did & are now releasing sub-par products like the HUGELY underwhelming iPhone 4S. This is just a sad state of affairs for Apple. Their magic is fizzling away & soon people will notice. If Apple doesn't shape up, this could be the beginning of a RIM like fall for them.

Apple needs to do more than rest on its laurels.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 13:37 5

8. ZayZay (Posts: 556; Member since: 26 Feb 2011)


Let me be the first to say this before any iphone lovers say it.

NO NO NO NO you suck, android sucks!

So since everyone read that, this closes the need to input opinions right here from iphone lovers.

Have a good day.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 13:45 6

16. fost4real (Posts: 27; Member since: 29 Dec 2011)


You are sick in your head.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 13:35 13

7. hybris (Posts: 56; Member since: 05 Dec 2011)


As ridiculous as this news is, I can't say I'm shocked.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 13:40 8

9. mikerouche (Posts: 14; Member since: 18 Oct 2011)


are you kidding me? this is a joke right? the almighty innovators at their finest

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 13:40 8

10. Bluesky02 (Posts: 1439; Member since: 05 Dec 2011)


Wow that is so lame of Apple, I have the feeling that this patently will be rejected.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 15:33 4

34. cheetah2k (Posts: 804; Member since: 16 Jan 2011)


Stranger things have happened.

I think its time Google actively patents all its inovative ideas, making the wording as vague as possible so as to cover everything from the kitchen sink to the push buttons on the toilet...

Will that be a half or full flush??

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 13:41 8

12. derricob (Posts: 24; Member since: 18 Jul 2010)


This is a bit low for Apple. a face recognition unlock patent? It's funny they didn't apply for this a year ago or so. They chose to do it after Google/Android released their new flagship phone and software that uses it. Also, what happens to the little guys like the devs that made iGotYa and Visidon Applock? Will they be banned or sued if this patent is approved?

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 19:11

51. stealthd (Posts: 956; Member since: 12 Jun 2011)


They did apply for it a year or so ago, 18 months to be exact. The patent was just published.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 13:44 7

14. PhoneCritic (Posts: 357; Member since: 05 Oct 2011)


If this is true then I really have lost all respect for Apple! Tim Cook has to reign in these lawerys. This is absoulutley BS. Aagain I am a tech agnostic I favor neither camp I just like what can get the job done I own a ipad and a Xoom I was a iphone 4 owner but have now moved over to a Samsung Galaxy skyrocket since it provides the LTE performance I need. I love all tech gadgets. However, the recent rash of patent lawsuits that Appl has been launching against other device manufactures is very concerning. And this if it is true is probally what will cause me to really double think purchasing anything else from Apple.

Please say it aint so!!!!

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 13:50 3

19. joseg81 (Posts: 165; Member since: 15 Jul 2011)


honestly if google stepped up and fought back i'd be so happy cuz this is just crap.

and if google would only come out with a dedicated music player and accompanying software, n no i'm not talking about google music, i'd get rid of my ipods. google music is great but i want my music without being tethered to the cloud and i didn't buy my phone to turn it into an ipod.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 13:52 4

20. PhoneCritic (Posts: 357; Member since: 05 Oct 2011)


Patent office please wake UP!!!! and reject this one out right. This move, The more I think of it, is so Steve Jobs. I hope Tim Cook is not going to carry out his personal vendetta agains Google. No let the old war die with its founder and please move on to new innovative things. This is just to petty.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 14:02 4

22. SleepingOz (unregistered)


This is called INNOVATION!

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 14:15 2

23. gallitoking (Posts: 4684; Member since: 17 May 2011)


"this will change everything again" .- Siri

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 14:39 6

26. ivanko34 (Posts: 617; Member since: 04 Sep 2011)


shame to rotten apple

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 14:51 3

28. bigdawg23 (Posts: 365; Member since: 25 May 2011)


Apple can file tor this but if they prove there concept is after Google they will never win in court. Apple is the master of invention just look they were the first to add pull down menu with Emails, messages and more, oh wait!!!

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 15:10 8

30. richardyarrell2011 (banned) (Posts: 510; Member since: 16 Mar 2011)


APPLE is the biggest JOKE in the smartphone industry....GOOGLE nor ANDROID has to much to really worry about the GALAXY NEXUS is simply PISSING all over the iphone...

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 15:55 3

38. gallitoking (Posts: 4684; Member since: 17 May 2011)


thank you for your opinion.. sir... keyword... OPINION

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 20:34 3

56. Mario1017 (Posts: 336; Member since: 04 Sep 2011)


yes. its his opinion. he never imposed his opinion to you. you like apple, good for you. most people here dont. and its keyword* their OPINION

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 15:15 4

32. GeekMovement (Posts: 1501; Member since: 09 Sep 2011)


Good this confirms my hate toward apple even more.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 15:34 3

35. taz89 (Posts: 2014; Member since: 03 May 2011)


lol guess we know whats iphone 5 selling point is going to be...and apple will claim that the 4s isnt capable of face unlock.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 15:43 6

36. tacohunter (Posts: 408; Member since: 06 Nov 2011)


Much like the somewhat controversial face unlock feature built-in to Google’s Galaxy Nexus smartphone, a new patent application reveals Apple too is working on similar, but more advanced user detection solutions. As PatentlyApple pointed out, Apple noted these recognition systems could land in a future iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or MacBook.

The basics of the patent entitled “Low Threshold Face Recognition,” is to allow a user to unlock a device—such an iPhone or iPad—using facial recognition. Apple’s solution could allow the device’s camera to recognize the user even when the device is in sleep mode. In other words, the device’s camera would remain active when sleeping, detect the user, and unlock the device without having to press the sleep/wake button. This could, in theory, allow a user to bypass the current Slide to Unlock feature.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the system would be the ability for the device’s settings to be customized depending on the user. For example, when detecting a specific user, iOS could set personalized wallpapers, notification settings, and custom configurations for apps. This would provide multiple user logins, allowing iOS users to easily share a device among family or coworkers.

For those who didn't read the source or this is just the patent in short extra info. It's stil a lot different from google's. P.S. a month ago or so they had a 3d face recognition patent.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 16:03 1

41. tacohunter (Posts: 408; Member since: 06 Nov 2011)


P.S.S. maybe Michael needs to update this article.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 17:04 2

44. protozeloz (Posts: 5375; Member since: 16 Sep 2010)


Nice read. Thanks but you must also remember what Michael posted that the camera app can already distinguish certain parts on a user. The SDK also provides more power to the face recognition. Why the app is limited. We have no clue yet but it was deemed as beta. Only thing I never like is that again will limit the amount of uses someone can find if used on the war

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 15:53 3

37. ReturningToNokia (Posts: 130; Member since: 09 Jul 2011)


For all of the Android fans who think that face recognition/facial unlock is new and that it was invented by Google, please understand...there is a face unlock app in the Nokia Store and has been for quite some time. No, it is not implemented into the Symbian OS, but this type of technology is not new.

In addition, Apple's implementation (if you read the source) goes beyond what is on the G Nexus; the G Nexus implementation is no different than the app in the Nokia Store, which is very basic (http://store.ovi.com/content/205739?clickSource=search&pos=1)

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 17:12 2

45. protozeloz (Posts: 5375; Member since: 16 Sep 2010)


Again there has also being an app on the market I don't think people are claiming this is Googles invention but rather not wanting this as an ammo against android. Now the face unlock might be basic but the SDK has lots of new cam features that devs could approach a faction was used for face unlock the other for the new camera app. Why? Don't know but the nexus can read lips and facial expressions its just being told not to do so.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 16:18 3

42. thephoneguy92 (Posts: 191; Member since: 29 Dec 2011)


I think patents are getting completely out of hand. In the world that we live in now, there are always so many ideas rolling around about how to improve a product or another idea. These patents make it impossible for a company with a good idea to do anything with it when companies (Apple) make it impossible for anyone but themselves to touch it. The consumers are the ones who get the short end of the stick here, and as usual, the corporations get the money. Just my 2 cents.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 18:17 2

48. jmoita2 (Posts: 930; Member since: 23 Dec 2011)


Desperation at its best!!!

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 18:27 2

49. GalaxyOptimus (Posts: 23; Member since: 29 Dec 2011)


depression tactic again
wake up Apple, I'm about to lose all of my respect to you

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 19:10 2

50. stealthd (Posts: 956; Member since: 12 Jun 2011)


The patent was just PUBLISHED. Apple applied for it 18 months ago, before anyone outside of Google knew about it. So no, ICS's face unlock is not prior art, and no, there is nothing ridiculous about this patent unless you just casually ignore the facts like this article does.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 22:29 1

69. rockstarlive (Posts: 307; Member since: 19 Oct 2011)


Yeah. But then this site is not the greatest source of news either.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 19:38 1

52. RORYREVOLUTION (Posts: 2967; Member since: 12 Jan 2010)


It doesnt matter who started it, we all know Apple didnt invent it nor do they have the rights to patent it. They are just trying to control every feature and make other companies fear of using it. Bottom line is they are trying to create a monopoly yet they state they love competition...right.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 19:42 1

53. actura (Posts: 8; Member since: 15 Nov 2011)


well, apple ios is good, but this kind of lawsuit things bother me a lot
is apple afraid of losing with android ? why they can just confidence on themselves

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 20:26

54. kcombs (Posts: 245; Member since: 15 Dec 2010)


So people are upset at a patent that Apple applied for over a year ago..

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 21:01 2

58. chadrick0814 (Posts: 208; Member since: 23 Nov 2011)


People are upset that apple is applying for a patent for technology that already existed. If Google was able to release facial unlock on ICS, I bet they were working on it well over a year ago. People will really be upset next year when apple sues Samsung for violating the patent. Apple patents things they haven't even created.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 22:25

68. rockstarlive (Posts: 307; Member since: 19 Oct 2011)


Basically.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 20:31 3

55. Sniggly (Posts: 6964; Member since: 05 Dec 2009)


To the strawman generators:

We are not claiming that Google invented face unlock.

We are not claiming that Apple can't have face unlock.

We are not disputing the time period in which Apple filed its patent application.

What we're worried about is that Apple has a habit of trying to patent ideas and methods that other companies have already used in their products so that they can level the patents granted as weapons against their competitors. The story is also notable because Apple is not the first at all to implement this feature in their OS, yet they're considered the great innovators by iFanboys.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 20:36

57. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2669; Member since: 26 May 2011)


Why is anyone worried about Apple patenting this? That's just a symptom of the real problem, which is the complete failure of the USPTO to deal with technology patents properly.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 21:12

61. stealthd (Posts: 956; Member since: 12 Jun 2011)


How is this such a failure? Just because someone didn't invent the wheel doesn't mean they can't come up with some novel, patentable uses for it. The patent doesn't give Apple ownership of facial recognition.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 21:42 1

62. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2669; Member since: 26 May 2011)


There's no such thing as invention, just discoveries. No one invented the car, but someone did discover an efficient way to take wheels, pistons, combustion pressure, etc and make it into a mode of transport.

This patent wouldn't give Apple ownership of facial recognition, but given how broadly patents tend to be written, it would give Apple ownership over using facial recognition on a mobile device to unlock that device. Just like Apple may not own the idea of pushing a latch to the side to unlock something, but it does own the patent on the idea of using that motion on a touchscreen.

The patent system is a failure because it doesn't take into account prior art, or duplicate applications, and it doesn't require a working prototype or compiled code of anything, just a theoretical drawing or description. Case in point, someone was granted a patent for making toast in the year 2000:http://www.google.com/patents/US6080436

That is a complete failure of a patent system.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 22:29

70. stealthd (Posts: 956; Member since: 12 Jun 2011)


The only problem here seems to be that companies are issued patents before the true limits of those patents are determined (in court). It's a little backwards but hardly a complete failure.

posted on 30 Dec 2011, 09:41

80. MichaelHeller (Posts: 2669; Member since: 26 May 2011)


That's almost an impossible thing you're asking. Testing the limits of a patent is tough enough without having a working model of it, let alone the fact that people are notoriously terrible at understanding the full ramifications of new technology. The court system is already overloaded as is, and adding technology patents to the mix make things worse because so few judges can actually understand what they are dealing with. It ends up just being wasteful. The best test of a technology's limits is time. Of course, by the time we fully understand the limits, we've likely moved on to the next thing. Patents don't help any part of that process, they just gunk it up.

posted on 31 Dec 2011, 02:47

88. XiphiasGladius (Posts: 801; Member since: 21 Aug 2011)


The one that worries me is that if this patent is granted it may block the innovation/improvement of the Face Unlock which is implemented by Android, since the idea in the patent that they applied is a leapfrog from the one's that is implemented at the moment in the Android OS. . .

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 21:04

59. smartphone (Posts: 160; Member since: 21 Oct 2011)


soon apple will be filing patent for antigravity, teleportation, time machine etc.
When some body actually invented them(joking) . Apple says hey we file the patent long ago so its ours.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 21:07 1

60. SensibleVision (Posts: 2; Member since: 29 Dec 2011)


This article describes a small part of the technology that FastAccess has used since we innovated this type of face recognition in 2006. Come see us at CES in a couple weeks. We will demonstrate FastAccess Anywhere – for mobile. Using patent pending technology, we have optimized it to recognize faces in real-world mobile conditions. Our tech is highly resistant to photo and video of an enrolled person’s face. sensiblevision.com/faa

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 21:56 1

63. TKFox007 (Posts: 303; Member since: 02 Nov 2010)


What I don't like about Apple is that they'll file for patents, get them and turn around and sue other companies who were using the idea long before them.

I can only imagine that they're going to use this patent in another lawsuit against Samsung. And because USPTO just hands patents willy nilly

As someone said before, Apple has lost their edge, they've just turned into patent trolls, not to get money, but in an attempt to monopolize the market by making Android devices useless.

Why they don't go after Google is a question that remains largely unanswered. They are the ones who are distributing this "patent infringing" software to manufacturers.

posted on 29 Dec 2011, 22:23

66. rockstarlive (Posts: 307; Member since: 19 Oct 2011)


this story is gonna be pulled down seriously....

Even though I own a android device....

Apple actually filed a patent on this in 2010.

Talk about jumping the gun.

I was looking around andI am pretty sure it was filed in 2010.

Its just that its now taking this long to make it public. almost 2 years.

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