back to article Apple files 'Bonk to Gift' near field communication patent application

Apple has filed an unusually detailed, 63-page patent application for the ability to "gift" – and yes, our dictionary recognizes that word as a verb – digital content via near field communication (NFC). Application number 20130211971, filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office just this March, published on …


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  1. cyke1

    How long does it take to Sue Samsung over this patent only to eventually get killed for prior art as this could apple to NFC ALREADY in good % of driod phones?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Actually, it's not a bad idea, a way to give a present, you pay for it then pass it to someone else. However, it will be interesting to see who has ownership of said gift?

      Does the purchaser keep ownership or the person receiving the gift? If the gift turns out to be crap who has the right to demand the money back?

      I can't see why it needs to have a patent though, just a gift receipt perhaps.

      1. imaginarynumber

        Interesting point regarding the ownership.

        I thought that digital content ownership wasn't transferable if that is the case then the person gifting the content might be breaking the law unless they can prove that it was purchased as a gift. Perhaps to distance themselves from enabling owners to break the law, Apple need to let the gifter stipulate that the purchase is a gift at checkout, automatically add it to the giftee's iTunes account, allow it to be downloaded to the gifter's device but disable it on that device.

        Sounds like a bit of a palava.

      2. Frankee Llonnygog

        However, it will be interesting to see who has ownership of said gift?

        It's very simple. The gifted gifter gifts the gift to the giftless giftee who, on getting the gift, gets to be the gifted giftee, while the formerly gifted gifter now goes giftless. Gifts may be any format except GIFs.

        1. Frankee Llonnygog

          Re: However, it will be interesting to see who has ownership of said gift?

          You didn't like that first explanation? Here it is, in verse form:

          The gifter grabs a gift from the gift shop that's online.

          He gifts it to the gifter with an ease that's asinine.

          The giftee gets the gift and exclaims with joy, 'it's mine".

          And Tim Cook gets a bonus, which makes him feel just fine.

          1. Colin Wilson 2

            Re: However, it will be interesting to see who has ownership of said gift?

            While we're feeling poetic, with apologies for breeding a new earworm, and to Mark Twain:



            Fanbois, when you're feeling free

            Bonk a present to the iphone of the recei-vee

            An AppStore App for Sister C

            An iTunes Tune for Uncle G

            Bonk a present to the iphone of the recei-vee


            Bonk brothers! Bonk with glee!

            Bonk-a present to-the i-phone of the recei-VEE!

      3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        "I can't see why it needs to have a patent though, just a gift receipt perhaps."

        Absolutely! It sound like an app + copyright would make more sense than a patent.

    2. g e

      To paraphrase John Cleese

      If Apple were to go on mastermind their specialist subject would be the Bleedin' Obvious.

      It's at very least a totally obvious extension of Samsung's bonk-to-share, the trigger event of the bonk is just being used to initiate a different action.

      1. philbo

        Re: To paraphrase John Cleese

        Doesn't "Bonk to share" have prior use from syphilils etc?

  2. h3

    Visa and Mastercard didn't like Wikleaks so the last statement is not totally true.

  3. Charles Manning

    Strange verbs

    Gifting is surely a reasonably common verb, though it should rather be replaced with give.

    The most absurd I've encountered is "to beverage", as in: "Economy class passengers will be beveraged now."

    Unfortunately USPTO happily hands out patents when you just add the slightest twist. We've been gifting each other money for as long as there has been money. Same with telegraphic or internet transfer of funds. Just do it with NFC and it is all suddenly novel. Bah!

    1. Frankee Llonnygog

      Economy class passengers will be beveraged now.

      Rendering 2nd class punters down into liquid seems a rather drastic space-saving measure.

  4. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

    Apple, a well-known grifter, not a gifter.

    Next up: A patent on interactive web-based wedding gift lists managed on mobile devices.

    The should be high monetary damages for even submitting such shite to the patent office.

  5. Dazed and Confused

    Sounds just like

    a circa 90s Nokia with IR.

    But hey, since when has Apple given a s*&t about prior art.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Sounds just like

      Did anyone ever give someone a song using IR in the 90s? How many songs could a 90s era phone hold back then, 4? At the crappy bit rates of IR compared to the size of songs, it certainly isn't something you'd do while each of you was holding the phone, that's for sure. Maybe a ringtone, I can't remember if those were a 'thing' in the 90s or if it wasn't until after Y2K they became hot.

      Not to say this deserves a patent, it certainly doesn't. But claiming sharing via IR as prior art for sharing via NFC is as much a stretch as claiming that tin cans and string were prior art for the telephone.

      1. imaginarynumber

        Re: Sounds just like

        "But claiming sharing via IR as prior art for sharing via NFC is as much a stretch as claiming that tin cans and string were prior art for the telephone."

        I used IR to transfer content. Later I used BlueTooth. And currently use NFC as well. Sounds like prior art to me

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just because Apple files for a patent using NFC

    Doesn't mean they'll ever actually offer a product using it. There are plenty of patents filed (not just by Apple, by everyone) for technologies that never see the light of day.

    This seems like an odd thing to want to do, if I want to give someone a gift for iTunes I want to give them an iTunes gift card, not buy them songs they may or may not like (and can only give to them in person) I suspect the way this would be used would be if I have a song on my iPod/iPhone and let a friend listen to it, and he likes it, that I can 'gift' it to him directly and I'm charged the 99 cents, rather than him having to go iTunes and locate it himself.

    1. Stacy

      Re: Just because Apple files for a patent using NFC

      Whilst I think this is a totally BS patent, the point of gifting something that has been picked by the giver, rather than a gift card, is that some people prefer to give something they have picked than just hand over a card and let the other person do the picking.

      It depends on what the relationship is between the people. Someone who knows me could get me a new Muse album and know that I would love it, where as someone who doesn't know me that well could simply get me the gift card and let me pick.

      And then onto the "It's the thought that counts." I know people who feel gift cards are a sign of not thinking about the gift and just doing it because they feel they have to. (I don't subscribe to this viewpoint, but there are people who do).

      So the whole idea is fine, it's just the idea of patenting it that is stupid!

  7. Richard Jones 1

    Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT)?

    I thought Apple believed in nothing to do with sex;


    Gamete intrafallopian transfer (GIFT) is a tool of assisted reproductive technology against infertility. Eggs are removed from a woman's ovaries.


    Must they be trying to avoid a f*ck *p?

  8. paulc

    Oh dear fscking Lord...

    I could beam media files, contact details and apps across from my Palm M105 to other Palms ages ago over an infra-red link...

    this patent is stupid. There's plenty of prior art and the only "novel" aspect here is that it is being done with NFC... and what else is NFC intended for but communication between devices...

    Someone PLEASE whack Apple AND the USPTO with a very large clue brick...

    1. Lusty

      Re: Oh dear fscking Lord...

      "I could beam media files, contact details and apps across from my Palm M105 to other Palms ages ago over an infra-red link..."

      They didn't say they were beaming a file, they said the gifter pays for the gift with their own account. The giftee then gets the file from the shop. In Apple land you're supposed to email stuff you want to send people - that's why they held off of MMS for so long, and why no-one used MMS once they did add it.

      I'm curious (and not in a troll kind of way) what uses the NFC now has on Andoid devices. It's been there for ages now, and time and again used as a stick to beat Apple with on features but I've never knowingly witnessed it in use. Can someone list what we're missing out on?

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Re: Oh dear fscking Lord...


        I'll step in here. We use NFC about as much as anyone I know.

        Firstly the content of this article. Several apps exist on google playthat allow the transfer of any file from device to device via NFC. As described in this patent you open the app, select a file and bump devices.

        We also have NFC tags around our house, in the car and in my office. Each tag can be configured to make the phone touching it do upto around 20 functions. Things like volume, setting the alarm, turning wifi/Bluetooth/whatever on or off. You tell your phone what to do when it touches the tag, so each user can configure each tag to do whatever supported function(s) they desire.

        For example on my phone:

        bedroom tag - puts phone on silent and sets alarm if not already set.

        Lounge tag - phone back upto full volume, wifi on if not already.

        Car tag - phone upto full volume, bluetooth turns on, connects to bluetooth in car kit.

        Office tag - turns wifi on if not already on and connects to office wifi


        My wife can set program her phone to do what she wants, I set my phone to do what I want. It's actually pretty decent. Yes as early adopters we were sort of "looking for things we could do". The wife works in the mobile phone industry and i'm in IT so we were both curious. I'm not claiming it's life changing but it's a good indicator that NFC will be used for more things in the future.

        Our local Library (post refit) now uses NFC to track/lend/return all books. You just scan your card, dump books into a booth on the way in/out and it checks the books in/out using NFC.

        That's just what we use NFC for with the limited amount of toys/apps available currently.

        1. Lusty

          Re: Oh dear fscking Lord...

          Thanks, that actually sounds very useful. Where do you get the tags?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Oh dear fscking Lord...

            The tags we used are branded as "sony xperia" smart tags. Neither of us has a sony phone but they were the first one available (we've had this setup for around 2 years now). I'm sure plenty are now available.

            If you search "xperia tags" on ebay you'll see the red/black/blue set we have. Work on any android/NFC phone if you add the correct app (called smartmanager or something)

            They're just little plastic things that look like the ID disc you hang on a dog collar!

            Like I said, it's not a lifechanger, but the last time I went into a settings menu (etc) to do anything like volume changes, profile changes, or to turn things on/off was on my last handset 2 years ago.

            Sorry I couldn't be more specific about buying the tags, the OH works for voda and gets regular "gifts" from the various manufacturers. The sony rep was dishing them out a couple of years back and she grabbed a couple of packs.

            as long as the phone is unlocked you simply touch it to the tag and it starts to work through whatever set of actions you've set your phone to do when it comes into contact with that tag.

            1. johnnytruant

              Re: Oh dear fscking Lord...

              The Sony branded tags are well pricey if you're not getting them free.

              RapidNFC make much cheaper ones which are functionally identical. Also smaller and in sticker form.

              I can't remember what I paid for a sheet of ten, but it was less than a quid each.

      2. imaginarynumber

        Re: Oh dear fscking Lord...


        I thought that they held off MMS because the early phones were so crap that they didn't even have 3G (making MMS painfully slow).

        I'd be interested in seeing why they held off; 3G, video recording, GPS, copy'n'paste, downloadable apps, camera flashes, etc, etc, etc..

    2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

      Re: Oh dear fscking Lord...

      "Someone PLEASE whack Apple AND the USPTO with a very large clue brick..."

      As far as the USPTO are concerned, I think they are merely discharging their responsibilities under US law. You want to whack Congress.

      As far as Apple are concerned, I think the lawyers whacked them over the head some time ago. The company has appeared pretty comatose in recent years and the only signs of life are lawyers feeding on the cash pile.

  9. Stephen Booth

    DRM is key

    I doubt a prior art argument will hold up.

    OK phone-to-phone gifting is not new but this is phone-to-phone gifting of heavily DRM'ed content from an on-line store without letting the store lose control of the content and its difficult to prior-art (verb ?) apple in that area.

    Of course that means that gifting non DRM content by NFC would not be covered as it does not involve downloading the content from a content store.

    Somebody should quickly patent exchanging drop-box download links by NFC. Heck you could probably even get it to work without an immediate network connection by generating a unique transaction identifier and then have the giver upload the data when they next get network and the receiver poll until the data is available.

    1. Eradicate all BB entrants

      Re: DRM is key

      OK PC-to-PC gifting is not new but this is PC-to-PC gifting of heavily DRM'ed content from an on-line store without letting the store lose control of the content and its difficult to prior-art (verb ?) Valve in that area.


    2. Ian Bremner

      Re: DRM is key

      Correst me if I'm worng, but Microsoft's ill-fated Zune did something very similar albeit ver wi-fi rather than NFC.

      You could transfer a song to another Zune and it could be available to the other user for a set period of time before requiring the recipient to either delete the file or pay for it. A kind of try-before-you-buy deal that I thought was actually quite a good idea.

      So this was a method for transmitting a DRM'ed file across a wireless network.

    3. XcOM

      Re: DRM is key

      I've used NFC quite a few times with some of my apps, there are some where I've beamed/NFC'd (What ever you want to call it) apps to other peoples phone where it takes them to the Android Playstore to download the app if they want to pay for it or install it if its free.

      There's your prior art.

  10. Anomalous Cowshed

    oh what a beautiful future

    Oh what a beautiful future they have in store for us, with giftees and gifters, DRM keys, charges for passing files, a whole new gilded cage, a framework of chains and restrictions, our very own brave new world, in which our every move is a carefully controlled commercial opportunity to our beloved big brother, not to mention the lovely measures planned by our other dear 'relatives' to helpfully pave and plot the path we must follow. Woe to anyone who should dare to stray from it.

  11. Ralph B

    Not Confident of Success

    Several of my UK relatives have at various times chosen to "gift" music or credit to my non-UK-resident family members. Inevitably the "gift" is not honoured by the non-UK iTunes instance accessed by the "giftee", even though the UK iTunes instance has no such problem debiting the "gifter".

    And so a potential useful and convenient application of digital commerce is rendered frusrating and useless by Apple's implementation.

    I'm sure they'll be able to do something similar with NFC "gifting".

  12. Sebastian Brosig

    "to gift"

    "gift" as a verb: well it's horrible but maybe it's in your dictionary. Thank you for stating between the lines that you had to check. "gifter" and "giftee", though, that's a whole other level of ugliness. Maybe it's the fact that the patant drawing is not horribly distorted this time that made someone think that, at least, the language had better be terrible.

    Some sort of statistical argument on how likely a patent is to stand up against legal scutiny, depending on how much it's actually scrutinised, which in turn depends on how stomach-turning the content is.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Get in quick

    Patent the "thank you card" via NFC.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As was hinted at in the article this is not for anything Apple is going to use, it is just a way for them to try and get money from Android phone manufacturers.

    There is prior art in that you can already do that on android phones and no one bothered to try and patent it because it is just an obvious extension of NFC usage, but we have to remember this is an Apple patent, Therefore will never follow logic and it will be as wide ranging as possible just to mess with any opposition.

  15. returnmyjedi


    Didn't Microsoft's hugely successful Zune allow you to do this, albeit not via NFC?

  16. Peter 48

    The title might be misleading

    At first glance this sounds like a typical Apple brad spectrum patent grab, but I suspect this is only really a patent that is relevant to how itunes specifically would handle this sort of interaction and would have little or no affect to anyone outside of the itunes environment and isn't really affected by prior art as it applies to how the interaction is handled, not the concept of the interaction itself.

  17. sleepy

    yet another

    yet another patent of the bleedin' obvious.

    No, it doesn't look like Apple are going to do this on their own devices, but they might do something rather similar using Bluetooth LE. So they patent the closest thing done with NFC to keep a wide "moat" round their "user experience".

    I don't think Apple are obsessed with DRM on their own account; they just want be able to assure content owners that paid content is safe when distributed by Apple. So that they can actually offer paid content.

    Ensuring that there can be a viable economy around content creation is, in my view, on the whole a good thing, which strengthens creators more than aggregators.

  18. Robert Forsyth

    Nokia NFC phones pre WP already had some of this

    On Nokia NFC phones, Angry Bird players can gift extra levels to each other.

  19. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart


    So crApple are now trying to patent file sharing.....

    Does that mean there no prior art about file sharing? The mafiaa won't like to hear that.

  20. dorsetknob

    every time i hear the word Apple

    "" I think of the wicked witch/stepmother in Sleeping beauty and that poisoned Apple """

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    to compliment the 'no junk mail please' on our doors ..........

    we may need a '"no iCrap please" NFC sticker tag on our phones.

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