back to article Apple granted patent for microphone silhouette

As if further proof were needed that something is broken at the US Patent and Trademark Office, it took a full 411 days for their staffers to grant Apple a design patent for iOS's Siri voice-recognition icon. Not the Siri technology itself, mind you, but merely its microphone-in-a-circle silhouette icon. Design patent D671, …

COMMENTS

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  1. pavsmith
    FAIL

    I'm going to patent the bleeding obvious and patent...

    ...the comment track on websites like ElReg.

    All you people here am my lawsuit beatches and I look forward to trolling you relentlessly.

    1. Zaphod.Beeblebrox
      Trollface

      Re: I'm going to patent the bleeding obvious and patent...

      I've begun the process of patenting trolling and the trollface. C&D letter is in the post.

  2. Geoff332

    Did Apple not decline to comment...

    ... when contacted by The Register?

    1. Naughtyhorse

      Re: Did Apple not decline to comment...

      the reg contacted siri directly, and were directed to a santa monica pizza parlour

      1. Naughtyhorse

        Re: Did Apple not decline to comment...

        lol did you see what i did there?

        directed? (so thats head west to frisco til you pick up the PCH and hang a right)

        soz apul, your fuckups are coming to thick and fast for me to keep up

  3. ElReg!comments!Pierre
    Facepalm

    EVERYTHING is patentable

    I think I'll patent my bike, so that I can sue for patent infringement (in Texas) if it gets stolen. Penalties and damage seem to be higher than for theft these days.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oooh

    That looks an awful lot like this:

    Icon

    Hopefully Apple with have the sense to only sue for an exact copy, not something that looks a bit similar as there is tons of prior art:

    Google search

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre

      Re: Oooh

      And this: http://cjoint.com/?BKBvRqB927B

      skype being now owned by... surprise surprise...

      1. Simon Harris

        Re: Oooh

        And this: http://cjoint.com/?BKBvRqB927B

        skype being now owned by... surprise surprise...

        I would think the essential elements of the Apple design patent are the microphone symbol and the surrounding circle. The Skype microphone doesn't have a circle around it.

        1. Mephistro

          Re: Oooh

          "The Skype microphone doesn't have a circle around it."

          No, but I've seen the same symbol -microphone+circle- in many laptops, next to the microphone jack. And in many home sound systems also.

          Seriously, the mofos at the USPTO who approved this crap should have their performance reviewed. Drastically. ;)

        2. vic 4

          Re: Oooh

          No but the link posted by an AC above does (below). Basically it looks like they taken the two icons and merged them to get a "Unique" one. If we really need to have these type of patents then the real test should be to show a few random people pulled off the streets the icons for a few seconds, wait 5 mins and see if they can identify the apple one.

          http://www.123rf.com/photo_14973511_retro-microphone-icon-microphone-icon-classic-microphone-symbol.html

      2. Anomalous Cowturd
        Stop

        It looks just like a Telefunken U47...

        You'll love it!

        1. BorkedAgain
          Thumb Up

          Re: It looks just like a Telefunken U47...

          With leather?

    2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      Re: Oooh

      Just popped open the app drawer on my phone and, lo and behold, an essentially identical icon is used for the Voice Search app. It even has rounded corners!

      These design patents are silly. At least they haven't managed to snag a real patent on the thing. Things aren't that far gone yet.

    3. Grikath
      WTF?

      Re: Oooh

      That Icon is"called "classic" for a reason..It's been part of the symbol set for stage and studio schematics since they near well invented the things..

      Insert the usual "how the hell could the USPTO have missed.... etc.

      1. dssf

        Re: Oooh

        My first thoughts were of Sansui, Technics, and Pioneer. If i could scream and rend the universe to billions of sub sub sub sub sub particles, and etch the uspto as the blame, i sure the hell would.

        There should be a bullet in the kneecap for every approver and every submitter of a bleeding obvious, tear-jerkingly simple design. I though a copyright might be sufficient. But, this shit just raises the bar for those who cannot dream of patenting because such people will not have the money to bri, ummm, pay for an approval. So disappointing. It loweres the standard, and further justifies all the lambasting the uspto gets. Pathetic state of affairs.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oooh

        Until recently I didn't have a clue what it was. It looks like a choc ice in a bowl.

        The proper microphone symbol looks like a cornetto.

    4. Naughtyhorse
      Flame

      Re: Oooh

      may the sun god Ra dismount his fiery chariot and cast a pox on all their houses

      it's a fecking cartouche FFS talk about prior art!

    5. Simon Harris

      Re: Oooh

      That looks an awful lot like this:

      Icon...

      Unfortunately, it might not work out as you planned. Apple applied for the design patent in 2011, while the icon linked to was published on that site by someone who only joined in August 2012.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: only joined in August 2012

        This one was posted in 2009:

        http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-9847107-microphone-icon-blue-isolated-on-white-background.php

    6. Michael Dunn
      Joke

      Re: Oooh

      But Apple's microphone is not made of Swiss cheese?

    7. James Micallef Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Oooh

      "Hopefully Apple with have the sense to only sue for an exact copy"

      Since when did sense ever come into it??

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Middle finger raised.

    That is all.

  6. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    What are you people on about?

    I just see a pill of bath salts being delivered into a red wine glass.

    1. frank ly

      Re: What are you people on about?

      Oh yes. It's obvious!

    2. Eddy Ito

      Re: What are you people on about?

      I thought it was a giant turd and symbolic of Siri shitting in our wine.

  7. Pirate Dave
    Pirate

    Did Apple

    check with the Swedish train authorities first, to make sure the Swedes don't already have a design patent on a real microphone that looks just like Apple's drawing of a microphone?

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Did Apple

      But not with the BBC's 90 years of the BBC exhibition

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/historyofthebbc/collections/bbc_collection/collection_archive_tech.shtml

      It does seem a tricky claim to defend = "The patent has value because the icon is so obviously and instantly recognisable as a microphone'

    2. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      Re: Did Apple

      Swiss.

      Though, come to think of it, I do recall a very similar design on a button in the railway station under Arlanda airport...

    3. Neoc

      Re: Did Apple

      Swiss, not Swedish.

    4. Pirate Dave

      Re: Did Apple

      Swedes, Swiss...

      ah, damn. Leave it to a 'Merkin to mess that up...

  8. Raphael

    do these people not even try look for prior art?

    *has a look at his 3 year old Logitech headset*

    Hmmmm, I see two very similar ones on there. the mute button even has a circle around it.

    1. Simon Harris

      Re: do these people not even try look for prior art?

      I think the difference may be that the Apple's design patent is for an icon, and is therefore applicable to on-screen graphics rather than being physically printed on something.

  9. NoneSuch
    FAIL

    So it's a wine glass with a Twinkie in it?

    1. ElReg!comments!Pierre
      Coat

      it's Apple...

      ... so it's more likely a roofie than a twinkie

      mine's the one with the purple pills in the pocket

  10. Greg J Preece

    Patent? Come on now, surely that's a trademark at best?

  11. Mark Eaton-Park

    yes I have evidence of prior art

    My crappy labtec speakers model LCS-1060 have this very symbol for the speaker socket, very much predating the 4th October 2011 date of apple's however given that the icon is a silhoette of a number of real microphone designs (not owned by apple) and I would imagine very much in the public domain due to age it looks like another example of US companies being able to patent anything they like.

    1. Someone Else Silver badge
      Holmes

      Ya know

      When I started working at KRST in Albuquerque (a wonderful progressive rock station in the seventies that lost its mind and identity in the 80's by going (gak!) country-western), we had an RCA 77-DX microphone in both our main and production studios. Looks real similar. Who owns RCA nowadays? Oh, yeah, NBC Universal. Now there's an outfit with enough lawyer horsepower to give ol' Apple a good run for the money.

      1. unitron
        Coat

        Re: Ya know

        Greetings fellow radio pronouncer.

        Didn't the NAB or the RTNDA or somebody like that have a logo almost identical to the Apple one?

        Mine's the one with the old copy of FMQB in the pocket.

  12. Dan Paul
    Devil

    US Patent Office Email Address

    Please all send the following email message to the USPTO to this address:

    ebc@uspto.gov

    Please be advised that you have granted patent D671,558 in error as the amount of prior art is overwhelmingly against there being any value to this so called patent of an icon for the Apple “Siri” Microphone.

    Failure to reject this patent constitutes a violation of civil law that protects the owners of all prior art.

    See link below showing the overwhelming evidence that contradicts ANY and ALL claims of microphone icon originality by Apple Corporation.

    https://www.google.co.uk/search?num=10&hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&biw=&bih=&q=microphone+symbol&btnG=Search+by+image

    You have 30 days to reply to this notice with evidence that this erroneous patent has been revoked.

    Failure to comply will be met with the full force and intent of civil law.

    1. Ivan Headache
      Unhappy

      Re: US Patent Office Email Address

      I looked at that link and do you know, out of all the images it shows, there are only four that look anything similar to the Siri icon. Your evidence is not as 'overwhelming' as you would like to think.

      Similar is not the same as identical so I doubt your threat would get anywhere.

      1. EyeCU

        Re: Ivan Headache

        'Similar is not the same as identical so I doubt your threat would get anywhere'

        Tell that to Apple who are happy enough to sue over things being similar but not identical

      2. Dan Paul
        Devil

        Re: US Patent Office Email Address

        You have to wait until the 1.9 million Google Microphone images finish loading.

        As far as I am concerned, anything that has the same general outline is prior art but there are at least a dozen that are too close to not have been copied by Apple.

        At the very least, this is the artists version of plagarism if not full out theft of prior art.

    2. Tim Brown 1
      Pint

      Re: US Patent Office Email Address

      Or how about

      president@whitehouse.gov

      Dear Barack,

      The US patent office is not fit for purpose. Please get rid of it.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fine by me

    With retina displays, you can just buy and digitise/scale a real, actual photo of a microphone (taken in the 50s, perhaps) and just display that).

    Better still, just buy exclusive licenses to 100s of photos of microphones and patent a new innovation called "User selects microphone photo/icon of their choice"......

    As an iFanboi (really, you can drag my OSX laptops from my cold, dead hands), I fear I'm looking at the slow decline and death of Apple to this idiocy.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1950's microphones prior art?

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/f3/Haydn_Sherley_1950s_microphone.jpg

    http://25.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_m7yvwgc1SR1qbch8io1_1280.jpg

    http://www.oaktreeent.com/web_photos/microphones/Calrad_500C_Vintage_Microphone_Badged_b_web.jpg

    http://www.w8bac.com/images/DSC01116.JPG

  15. Jolyon Smith
    Mushroom

    Not only is the patent pointless but it's worthless

    It's not a patent for a "icon of a silhouette of a microphone" - it is a patent for this very specific icon of a silhouette of a microphone.

    So it's pointless because there are any number of silhouettes of microphones that you might come up with, and it's worthless because it's very easy to make an icon that looks enough like the Apple patented one that it is recognisable as such, but is sufficiently different to not qualify as a violation of the patent itself.

    What Apple hope to do is use it to bully little guys with. YOUR ICON VIOLATES OUR PATENT! STOP USING IT OR PAY UP OR WE'LL SEE YOU IN COURT

    As I keep saying... the solution to the whole patented DESIGNS (as opposed to INVENTION) debacle is for people to refuse to play the game. Get a threat of court action, just ignore it. Get a court summons. Just ignore it. Get a court order awarding damages to a plaintiff. Just ignore it.

    The point at which anybody tries to get the system to actually, physically compel you to do anything will be the point at which the system is forced to take a long hard look at itself and realise it is being abused.

    1. DN4

      Re: Not only is the patent pointless but it's worthless

      > but is sufficiently different to not qualify as a violation of the patent itself.

      But will that stop Apple from suing you?

      1. Jolyon Smith
        Mushroom

        Re: Not only is the patent pointless but it's worthless

        No, but it will prevent the court from finding in their favour. The objective of holding the patent in this case is to be able to hold the THREAT of court action and the cost of merely appearing in court over someone.

        A: "Hey, that's our design. Stop using it."

        - "No it's not, we came up with it by ourselves. Leave us alone."

        A: "It doesn't matter. We hold a patent on this design. Time to lawyer up buddy..."

        - "Oh crap. Damn. Right, ok, we'll get our design boys right on it."

    2. badmonkey
      Stop

      Re: Not only is the patent pointless but it's worthless

      >>> it is a patent for this very specific icon of a silhouette of a microphone.

      It isn't a patent at all, it is a design patent.

      >>> it's worthless because it's very easy to make an icon that looks enough like the Apple patented one that it is recognisable as such, but is sufficiently different to not qualify as a violation of the patent itself.

      Then presumably Apple believe it it worth protecting their "special" variation. The difference between the prior art is a recognized factor in any court's assessment of the extent of a design patent, so this whole thing takes care of itself. Something that lends a little irony to certain commentards' blather above.

      If it's useless, let Apple waste their money. Who cares.

      >>> The point at which anybody tries to get the system to actually, physically compel you to do anything will be the point at which the system is forced to take a long hard look at itself and realise it is being abused.

      Ah no I believe that would be the point at which the bailiffs earn their living, you hope like hell it is a limited liability company that you have just bankrupted, and you cross your fingers the court doesn't issue an arrest warrant for you personally. Moron.

      1. Jolyon Smith
        Joke

        Re: Not only is the patent pointless but it's worthless

        That someone who says this:

        "It isn't a patent at all, it' s a design patent"

        can with a straight face go on to call someone else a "moron" is a great source of amusement to me.

        And here's your ticket for the clue train: What I was suggesting wasn't practical advice, more like commentary on the whole stupid lawyer go round that this relies upon in order for the patent trolls/bullies to be able to make the system work to their advantage.

        Get on board and enjoy the ride. :)

  16. Displacement Activity
    Meh

    Dear Reg...

    When you run stories on Apple "patents", please point out that a US "design patent" is, apparently, what everybody else calls a "registered design".

    1. Silverburn
      Thumb Up

      Re: Dear Reg...

      Indeed. I was wondering when someone would notice that design/copyright/trademarks are not the same (and should never be) as Patents.

  17. David 45

    Barmy

    Bloody stupid. A patent on what is little more than a stylised illustration of a well-known item?

    1. badmonkey

      Re: Barmy

      No. Because it isn't. Pay attention.

      1. David 45

        Re: Barmy

        Yes it is. Please elaborate why it isn't. I see nothing here that is actually patentable, despite having been given one. It is merely a picture. Copyright might enter into it......... but a patent? Someone has to be joking or Apple have even more influence with their first rate cattle excrement than I thought.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Barmy

          say after me

          Design patent,

          Design patent,

          Design patent.

          Got it yet?

          1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
            Paris Hilton

            Re: Barmy

            No.

            1. Richard 12 Silver badge

              Re: Barmy

              A US "Design Patent" is what the civilised world calls a "Registered Design"

              That's somewhat similar to a trademark.

          2. David 45

            Re: Barmy

            Me neither

        2. badmonkey

          Re: Barmy

          It... is... NOT... a... PATENT

          It is a design patent.

          Clear enough?

          1. philbo
            Happy

            Re: Barmy

            Ah.. got it - as it is patently a design, it gets a design patent. Though I have also registered from what you wrote on theregister that what the Americans call a design patent, we would call a registered design, by design, presumably. Thank you for being so pat[i]ent.

  18. PatrickE
    Facepalm

    My HP 6730b laptop has this icon, sans the circle, right alongside the hole for the condenser mike. I'll go find a razor blade to scrape it off. I don't want to harm Apple in any way shape or form as they exude corporate integrity and should be placed on a pedestal.

    1. Simon Harris

      Well, my Pavilion dv6 has the symbol you describe next to the microphone socket.

      But there are two differences, one is that the HP microphone graphic doesn't have the circle around it, so would be substantially different from the Apple icon, the second is that the Apple icon design is registered for use on-screen rather than being printed on a physical object.

      I think your HP paintwork is safe!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Isnt that colour CADBURY BLUE!!!!!

    I see another lawsuit looming.

    Mine's the one with the pockets full of unmeltable chocolate.

    (Actually, its not- I've had unmeltable chocolate and it is mank!!)

  20. Matt Bucknall
    Facepalm

    So now, what are the chances of the USPTO granting a patent of an icon illustrating the cross-sectional view of an egg in an egg cup?

    1. badmonkey

      >>> So now, what are the chances of the USPTO granting a patent of an icon illustrating the cross-sectional view of an egg in an egg cup?

      None. Because that isn't patentable.

      You might get a useful design patent or registered design. Consult your IP attorney.

      Next question?

  21. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    Terminology

    Is a design patent in the US not the same as a registered design here?

    1. Simon Harris

      Re: Terminology

      Yes

  22. Arachnoid
    Thumb Up

    Middle finger raised.

    Im sorry but you have inadvertently contravened my patent clause please take that back or I will sue.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Looks like a sponge finger in a sundae glass.

    They can keep it.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    On the positive side....

    If Apple were to try and invoke their "patent rights" to sue some European company for abusing "their" logo then I'm pretty confident that the case will be laughed out of court.

    1. badmonkey
      Devil

      Re: On the positive side....

      The equivalent of a US design patent is not called such in the EU. They might have a crack on the grounds of their community design, if any. Didn't bother to check if they had one, did you?

  25. Whitespace

    Standing on the shoulders of giants

    The patent cites this image (dated Monday, 22-Jun-09 11:46:11 PDT) as prior art:

    http://www.clker.com/clipart-29058.html

    Apple appear to have directly copied the shape of this image and surrounded it with concentric circles to make it 'unique and distinctive'.

    I cannot imagine how even Apple's highly paid expert witnesses could defend a lawsuit against something with just a microphone - like, for example the Dolphin Voice Search icon on my android phone.

    Also IMHO the design patent looks more like the prior art than it looks like the siri icon, so it could be argued that the competition could freely use something very similar to the siri icon. The UK court recently pointed out that the case was about copying the design patent, not copying the iPhone.

  26. Gene Mosher

    That icon has been in Skype for years.

    Like I said; that icon has been in Skype for years.

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If the Swiss can patent a clock face and force Apple to pay up, Apple is just using the system the same way when patenting the Siri icon design.

    Ps: Apple has used that microphone icon since the Macintosh IIsi launched with built-in audio recording in 1990.

    1. Wang N Staines

      So then that is prior art.

    2. badmonkey
      Devil

      Whatever the Swiss clock case involved, it wasn't patents.

      It might have been designs, and probably copyright.

      Apple isn't "using the [patent] system" because IT ISN'T A PATENT.

      1. sabroni Silver badge
        Stop

        Apple isn't "using the [patent] system" because IT ISN'T A PATENT

        You know, the best way of stopping all this confusion, would be to stop using the word Patent in reference to a registered design. It's not stupid to read the phrase "design patent" and assume it's a patent, it is stupid to call something a "design patent" when it isn't a patent.

  28. Roger Stenning
    Flame

    FFS, get it right..

    It should never have been patented, as it's not a bloody invention, it's a graphical symbol, and instead therefore should have been copyrighted or even registered as a trade mark. Even if there's prior art that will prevent that from happening, of course.

    Sodding USPTO. Always fucking up.

    Sunshine, one bucket of, orbital delivery to USPTO HQ. The only way to be sure.

    1. badmonkey
      Devil

      Re: FFS, get it right..

      It wasn't patented. They registered a design patent.

      Try again, dumbarse.

  29. Schultz Silver badge

    Time for El Reg to extend the icon set

    It's intellectual property, and it might make a shit-load of money. Give up what you are doing now and get working on IP! I for one would be happy to pay a license fee for every comment, especially considering that we can now earn virtual base metals for our efforts.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "The "Inventors" of the microphone silhouette are listed as Freddy Anzures and Alessandro Francesco Sabatelli. The Reg salutes their artistic achievement."

    El Reg, WTF?

    1. Corinne
      Thumb Down

      Ever heard of sarcasm?

  31. Keep Refrigerated
    Facepalm

    Why doesn't someone just design patent a pixel...

    and be done with it?

  32. heyrick Silver badge
    WTF?

    Can't they tell the difference between patent and trademark any more? How is an icon "a process"?

    As for prior art - try Larry King. Okay, it isn't an "icon" per say, but when viewed it is an arrangement of pixels which is quite similar...

  33. mickey mouse the fith

    So its like a trademark rather than a patent, I get that, but even so its very generic.

    I presume they did this to stop other apps using it to pretend to be an official siri app (cloning of a popular apps icon seems to happen a lot on the Android play store, not sure if it happens much on the Apple side but i presume it does).

    So its quite logical really, even if it appears to be a bit absurd on reading the sensationalist headlines.

    I would add that it would be better if the patent/trademark/whatever was for the EXACT icon image (colours/shape/shading etc) and not 1000`s of variations that look vaguely the same.

  34. Identity
    FAIL

    Huh?

    Surely, this is a matter for copyright and not patent?

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