back to article Apple seeks anti-snoop display patent

Apple has filed a patent application for a way to vary the viewing angle of a display, and thus allow you to better protect your viewing privacy. The system in patent application number 20110116017, "Systems and methods for electronically controlling the viewing angle of a display", offers a number of examples – or, in …


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  1. Mike Green

    Didn't this already exist?

    We spent all that tech and money on displays which had ever wider viewing angles and now they want to go backwards again :)

  2. Jordan Davenport

    But, but... prior art!

    Nintendo already made it to the market with the 3DS!

    ...oh how ashamed I feel for scorning something I hold dear for the sake of humor...

  3. Juan Inamillion
    Thumb Up

    Good if it works.

    I can't be the only one bothered by people peering over one's shoulder while I'm watching Gorilla Action... Wouldn't it be possible to simply hook up some LCD spectacles? If you can touch-type this would seem to be an answer (other than watching movies of course).

    Oh, and err, the 'Cone of Privacy™' - nice one. I assume someone at El Reg was a fan of Get Smart and the infamous 'Cone of Silence'. Still, to me, one of the funniest things I've seen...

    1. Inachu

      I have a better technology!

      Flicker the screen so fast that a image would replace the desktop so people would just see wallpaper or a logo and the person using the pc will wear googles of the correct frequency to let him see the desktop.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Flicker the screen

        seizures r fun

  4. frank ly

    Working Prototype Available?

    This appears to be an electronically adjustable (or selectable) louvre filter. (Fixed louvre filters have been available for many years).

    The method or technique seems to be the selection of one of two (or more) light pathways, that have different 'louvre' characteristics. Fine - but - anybody with a bit of experience of LCD type displays could have thought of that.

    Have they actually developed these little switchable filter cells? I suspect not.

    Isn't it the case that a patent application requires the existence of a working model or process?

    I would like to patent a light filter cell (or sheet) that varies it's angle of light transmittance over a very wide range with the application of a small, variable d.c. voltage. No, of course I haven't made one. All I need to do is think about it and patent it then anybody who does manage to develop one has to pay me.

    1. Steve X


      > Isn't it the case that a patent application requires the existence of a working model or process?

      Nope. You patent the detailed design, not the implementation. No need to even build a prototype, although it might be better if you did have to.

      If the design is too general they aren't supposed to grant the patent, and even if they do it's usually easy to challenge.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    So what

    3M makes an over the screen filter that does pretty much does the same thing. I personally need a wide viewing angle and wouldn't have a need an anti-snoop display.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Page after page of dry repettitive descriptions which, when you can finally discern the useful ino and put it together into a coherent picture, could have occupied a mere fag packet. The only thing I could get out of it was that Claim 4, which includes "...third axis that is perpendicular to both the first axis and the second axis", seems to be decribing a three-dimensional arrangement of scattering regions (??).

    Anyway, I don't need privacy this way - if anyone is sitting that close I'm inhibitted anyway and couldn't even compose a shopping list.

  7. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    I have had a security foil for years..

    I bought the security foil as the same time as I bought my (then very new) 3GS. The novelty is thus in the fact that the display itself will have some sort of secure mode, which is interesting as you stop having to stick fiddly bits of plastic on devices, and it can used as needed.


  8. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Handheld gaming console?

    Considering the mix of specific and generic devices listed in the applications to which this patent might be applied, the handheld gaming console is conspicuous by it's absence.

    One wonders if this is because Nintendo already patented a similar method for adjusting the viewing distance on the 3DS screen for that use and forgot to include all the other possible applications.

    1. a_been

      Game Player

      That probably covers "handheld gaming console", as an aside Range Rover has a screen where the driver sees a GPS map and the passanger sees a movie both from the same screen. This sounds a lot like that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        damn. I could have used that feature in a tv.

        When I was married. I still can't stand Julia Roberts' movies, and my ex probably still hates everything that I like.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Abolish patents

    So they patent all conceivable solutions to a problem. Anyone other than Apple who invests money into solving the problem by making one of those solutions work is wasting their money as Apple already owns it. And this is supposed to encourage innovation how?

    1. Steve X
      Thumb Down


      > So they patent all conceivable solutions to a problem.

      No, they patent all the solutions that *they* have conceived.

      Innovation comes, as always, from someone looking at their ideas and saying "Neat, but *I* can do it better like this".

  10. Ezekiel Hendrickson


    He forgot automated ATM machine.

  11. P Zero


    Couldn't they just use a REALLY crap LCD panel with a horrible viewing angle? Probably save a few bucks too. I just don't really see a market for it. If your privacy is that big a concern, don't wave your iPhone in people's faces.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      @ P Zero

      Couldn't they just use a REALLY crap LCD panel with a horrible viewing angle?


      I had an HP tablet PC like that. I loved it, before the iPad came out, and I sold it to get one.

      The iPad has a very solid, aluminium back. I sugges that if anyone's gawping over your shoulder, they should get one warning, and then you just beat them to death with it. Problem solved.

      It's also quite well shaped for scraping out shallow graves. Though this does tend to scratch the screen...

  12. RJ


    Because ALL my mice have video screens on them, if only I had a transparent hand...

  13. jake Silver badge

    Or maybe ...

    ... just maybe, private shit should be done in private, not public, innit.

    I'm just sayin'.

    In my mind, this is yet another useless Apple patent application. (Is there an app for that? Honestly, the mind boggles at the (cr)app that comes out of Cupertino these days ... ).

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Who cares about steamy letters

    Now I can read the DailyMash in a meeting with impunity

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tilt for Hello Kitty

    You can buy films that stick to your mobile that do this exact thing, for about $1, they have been around for at least a decade.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Remember these?

      I remember those tilt cards I got in a boxes of Cracker Jack. You could tilt the other way and see Hello Titty.

  16. Purlieu

    Missed a trick there guys

    By "waggling" the beam angles of pixels individually you can create 3D

    (tm) me

    oh wait .... 3D is so last year

  17. LaeMing

    I eventually realised it was ""

    but I read it as "butt in [the] sky"

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Now any time you see somebody using a computer with what looks like a dark screen you will think they've got something to hide and move round to get a better view. To defeat that I have just this minute invented a lenticular screen that displays a different image to shoulder surfers on either side, showing some innocent non-attention-grabbing kind of display.


    1. Pavlov's obedient mutt

      Range Rovers

      you mean like the one Tata put into Range Rovers a few years ago already?

  19. Bill Fresher


    Doesn't the Range Rover have a display which shows one image to the driver (eg. Sat-nav) and another to the passenger (eg. DVD film)?

    source: Top Gear.

    1. a_been


      That's what i was thinking but I think that was a fixed angle display. Also i think this is more about 3D, imagine you have a front facing camera that can detect where you are looking (fighter jets already have that tech) then by controlling the viewing angle of each pixel you should be able to fake 3D without the eye and brain strain.

  20. Jamie Kitson

    Already Exists

    When I switch from to landscape to portrait I get a narrow angle display.

  21. poohbear


    Oh good, this won't affect my upcoming Private Wrist Watch.

  22. TheProf
    Big Brother


    Use a snoot.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    Not actually an invention.

    Anyone can say "Oh, we can make a privacy-protecting screen, using tiny pixel-sized beam steerers, if only there was such a thing as tiny pixel-sized beam steerers", but until you've actually invented tiny pixel-sized beam steerers, you haven't invented fuck all.

    Yet another fraudulent abuse of the patent system by someone who hasn't invented something but has just come up with a "Oh, wouldn't it be nice if..." bunch of wishful thinking.

    1. a_been
      Thumb Down


      You may not understand this but in many cases it is required that you actually come up with an idea as to how to do something before you make something. This is what is generally know as R&D or research and development. Contrary to your belife the patent system is not about products but ideas, that is the sharing of ideas. People are given a limited time monopoly on new ideas (hence prior art) as long as they share the idea with others.

  24. heyrick Silver badge

    Excuse me, but...

    People witter on about privacy this and privacy that, and company giants file fantasy patents to solve the problem (one would wish dearly that "working prototype" was a pre-patent requirement).

    The solution is much simpler and won't affect your display quality... your private stuff in private. Is that so hard now?

  25. JaitcH

    Yet more Apple Tosh: Ever heard of Polaroid or 3M - ATMs use it

    Here we go again, Apple trying to re-invent other peoples work.

    There are already films, applied screens, that do this and at least one type of LCD does, too.

    Dumb U.S. patent office

    1. a_been

      Read the article

      It a patent upon a method. Think of it as making coffee, Apple are doing what AeroPress did. Did AeroPress get a patent on making coffee, No but they did get patents upon a way to make coffee.


  26. Anonymous Coward

    there's always an upside

    The craptacular TN panels in run of the mill Dell laptops already have a viewing angle so narrow that they almost require a headclamp to use, win!

  27. CmdrX3
    Big Brother

    Why bother looking over someone's shoulder

    Give them a couple of minutes and it'll all be uploaded to facebook, and then twit a tweet that twits all about it.... or is that tweet a twit.

  28. D. M
    Jobs Horns

    Quick, file a patent

    for apply a thin layer of film that does exactly the same thing, and when you need wide view screen, just flip the film over.

    I remember at one company made a easy attach/detachable filter film screen years ago.

  29. K. Adams

    "composing a steamy love letter [in coach] without that busybody next to you peeking"

    Then again, if you're so attached to your iThing that you need to use it to get amorous with your significant other, you really, really need to unplug more...

  30. TheOtherHobbbes

    I'm waiting for a display

    with a viewing angle wider than 360 degrees.

    Stick-on protectors (ooh er missus) aren't exactly rare, and it's much easier to swap them by hand than it is to embed an Objective-C class in Cocoa to support a feature on an Apple display that's going to impress exactly thirteen people, and - for all anyone knows - one confused badger.

  31. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Prototype? Nah.

    @frank ly and Steve X, nope, there doesn't have to be a working prototype. Even worse, at least here in the US, it seems patents don't even need to have a description of how a prototype would probably be built anymore. People will come up with these ideas, patent them, without the vaguest clue on how the patent would POSSIBLY be implemented. So then, by the time some actually, you know, INVENTS something, it's absolutely coated in patents. Damned unfortunate.

    This specific patent is at least REASONABLY detailed, but I do feel like at least a 1-pixel prototype should be, if not built, then at least schematic'ed out specifically. I'm working on a provisional patent and I "practice what I preach" -- I have a fully functional reference implementation.

  32. David Hagan


    Balls, this is for a 3D display.

    1. a_been
      Thumb Up


      Looks that way, the privacy stuff is just there to hide what they are really thinking I suspect.

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