Patent report: a foldable telephone lens system, Siri for CarPlay, digital media access to artists

Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product, so here are today’s patent highlights: 

Future iPhones and iPads may be able to use Apple-made telephoto lens. The company has been granted a patent (number 9,316,810) for a “folded telephone camera lens system.” The invention is for multiple lens with refractive power and a “light path folding element.”

In the patent filing, Apple notes that the advent of small, mobile multipurpose devices such as smartphones and tablet/pad devices has resulted in a need for high-resolution, small form factor cameras for integration in the devices. However, due to limitations of conventional camera technology, conventional small cameras used in such devices tend to capture images at lower resolutions and/or with lower image quality than can be achieved with larger, higher quality cameras. 

Achieving higher resolution with small package size cameras generally requires use of a photosensor with small pixel size and a good, compact imaging lens system. Advances in technology have achieved reduction of the pixel size in photosensors. However, as photosensors become more compact and powerful, demand for compact imaging lens system with improved imaging quality performance has increased. Apple wants to provide a high-resolution telephoto camera in a small package size.

Apple has also been granted a patent (number 9,318,108) for an “intelligent automated assistant.” Yep, that would be Siri. The patent shows that Apple plans to expand the personal digital assistant beyond the iPhone and iPad to CarPlay. ( also expect Siri to come to the Mac in the next major rev of OS X.)


Apple’s patent is for an intelligent automated assistant system that engages with you in an integrated, conversational manner using natural language dialog, and invokes external services when appropriate to obtain information or perform various actions. The system can be implemented using any of a number of different platforms, such as the web, email, smartphone, and the like, or any combination thereof.

Apple says the automated assistant system will help novice users, or individuals who are impaired or disabled in some manner, and/or are elderly, busy, distracted, and/or operating a vehicle may have difficulty interfacing with their electronic devices effectively, and/or engaging online services effectively. Note the “operating a vehicle” phrase.

Also, Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,319,480) for “managing digital media presented in an online digital media store.” The goal is to make it easier for music distributors to provide and manage digital media using a web-based application or an automated data feed. 

In some implementations, a webpage is provided by the web service that allows a user to request access to manage an artist or author. Upon such request, a rules-based vetting process is employed by the online digital media store for determining the eligibility of the user to access online media (images, song lyrics, songs, etc.) for their favorite singers, musicians, and bands.