Saturday, April 30, 2011

Samsung v. Apple: Calculating the Time (for a Re-exam)

Samsung, in a 1998 patent application, claimed to have invented calculation of local time based on a network time, elapsed time, and offset from GMT for a selected city.  They now assert this patent against Apple.

Also among the patents asserted by Samsung against Apple is US7,069,055Mobile telephone capable of displaying world time and method for controlling the same. The application was filed July 17, 1998.  The patent issued June 27, 2006.

The method embedded in the independent claims essentially requires: receiving a time signal, counting elapsed time, selecting a city for which GMT info is stored, and calculating and displaying the local time based on the other values.

It's not clear what might have been considered new about this in 1998.  GMT itself dates back to the 1800s.   According to a paper by ACM Fellow David L. Mills, the history of Network Time Protocol (NTP) traces back to 1979.  Selection of time zone by city, and storage of corresponding time relative to GMT seems to clearly go back to Windows 95, and I suspect much earlier.  While the title of the patent references a mobile telephone, the independent claims do not, so use in a mobile phone does not appear to have been the novel aspect.

Docview wss

Image from IBM support site.

Beyond the patent validity question, there is also the issue that modern computer systems like the iPhone use UTC, not GMT, and the two are technically different.

As with the stylus patent I discussed in a previous post, Samsung seems to be grasping a bit here for patents to assert.  While Apple's complaint against Samsung read as fairly devastating, Samsung's, so far, has been underwhelming.

 

Claim 4, for reference:

4. In an apparatus having a display and a memory for storing Greenwich mean time (GMT) information for each of a plurality of cities, a method for generating local time information, comprising the steps of:

  • receiving a reference time from a signal received from a remote system;
  • counting a time which elapses from said acquiring of said reference time;
  • selecting at least one of said plurality of cities;
  • automatically calculating a local time of said selected city based on the difference between the GMT of said selected city and the GMT of a present location of said apparatus, said reference time and said elapsed time; and
  • displaying said calculated local time.

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