Apple wants to 'advance the art of note-taking'

Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,141,698) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for a semantic note-taking system that could be a competitor to the popular Evernote app. Evernote is a cross-platform, freemium app designed for note taking, organizing, and archiving. 

Apple's patent is for a semantic note taking system and method for collecting information, enriching the information, and/or binding the information to services is provided. User-created notes are enriched with labels, context traits, and relevant data to minimize friction in the note-taking process. 

In other words, the invention is directed to collecting unscripted data, adding more meaning and use out of the data, and binding the data to services. The patent also mentions services to allow private thoughts to be published to a myriad of different applications and services "in a manner compatible with how thoughts are processed in the brain."

User interfaces and semantic "skins" are also provided to derive meaning out of notes without requiring a great deal of user input. Linking physical objects to notes are also provided, such as through QR codes.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that the abundance of online services can cause "information overload" with "disorganized information is floating around many users' lives and brains." What's more, the ubiquity of social media has created a further explosion in the information content of our lives and relationships. This information clutter reduces a user's productivity and shortens the user's attention span, says Apple. 

In the patent filing, Apple says that, typically, ideas begin with private thoughts that are later refined and shared to friends and, perhaps, the public at large. The shared ideas may evolve over time. Apple says that existing online services aren't particularly friendly to the process of developing ideas and deciding where to share them at a later time. 

For example, existing social media forces ideas immediately into the public domain. Information or media posted on social networks (e.g.,, and or blogs (e.g. and are immediately accessible by other users. To post information in existing social media "requires upfront cognitive decision-making related to the audience level of the information at the time the information was collected or generated," says Apple, adding that this process doesn't match the way human brains function. 

Systems, such as emailing to oneself and note-taking applications (e.g. exist for users to store private thoughts. However, in Apple's opinions, these existing systems aren't sufficiently integrated with other services or applications. A user often has to access and sign on to multiple applications simultaneously to utilize information stored in the application storing the private thoughts. Apple's invention is intended to address present shortcomings and "advance the art of note-taking."