Blog Post

Palm (Like Apple) Tries to Patent Location-based Serendipity

Palm (s PALM) is applying for a U.S. patent centered around the concept of notifying a mobile device based on the proximity of another one. Such a feature could come in handy when you happen to be within range of a friend and you don’t know it. The patent was filed in March 2009, but just recently published online (found via GoRumors).

Meanwhile, Apple (s AAPL) is applying for a patent on a similar concept: “Geographic location data is sent from a first device to a second device with a modified message to signal the presence of geographic location data associated with the message,” according to the filing made in June 2008.

It’s funny that both Apple and Palm (who share a love for rolling in the IP mud) think they can patent this concept — it seems like a fairly natural extension of location awareness, and it’s something companies have been trying to do for years. Google (s GOOG), for instance, has a beta feature of its Latitude product that alerts you when your friends are nearby. Maybe the only reason the idea seems novel is because none of these products have gone mainstream yet. But that doesn’t mean additional companies aren’t still setting out with the same concept. For instance, we received this pitch yesterday:

MOSION (pronounced [moh-shuh n] is the latest in real time location based social network for the smartphone. While many social networks aim to connect you with your friends, what about the people you do not know? Yes, those sitting across from you at this very moment!

9 Responses to “Palm (Like Apple) Tries to Patent Location-based Serendipity”

  1. In 2002 I applied for a patent for a system & method to notify a person about people, places, things and events that match the user’s profile of interests. In 2006, that patent was issued. The whole idea was to support serendipity and at the same time regular tastes and needs. Advantage: putting your faves or needs in a profile that the database compared with attributes around you was going to work way better than doing single searches, and way better than some demographic analysis algorithm.
    The problem with engineers’ perspective is often that they leave people out. In the case you’re citing, it’s a match-up of gadgets (MAC address, probably). Well hell, what if I have multiple devices, or I’m using another platform entirely (how about all that stuff at CES on car systems?) No, it’s gotta be about matching people, the choices they’ve made and what mode or mood they’re in. And you have to have an application or at least services that are looking for all your favorites – people, places, things, events – or you’re going to miss something because you have your feelers on only in one of these narrow areas. This I thought would be readily recognized, but what’s been burned into people’s firmware, so to speak, is that they they have to hop apps and fill in boxes, manually manipulate the action all the time. How tedious all this will seem, when we can finally free ourselves, get out of the way of microprocessing and networking, and recognize that mobile presents a completely different informational proposition than the Internet we all grew up on, keyboarding endlessly.

  2. A company/person cannot patent ideas. Both Palm and Apple are attempting to patent the mechanism (or method) that they each used to implement the idea. In most cases, there are multiple ways that one can use to implement an idea.

      • These look like the hardware/network/handset matching system described in the original post, although they are focused on establishing communications – a kind of presence detection. They also describe a centralized piece – the Palm one cited in the initial post seems to be a peer network (I confess I haven’t read it all.) That would be a difference from the earlier ones cited. Definitely much IP out there. We cited something like 80 patents.

        Looks like showtime for all these many flavors and recipes. What methods or systematic pieces emerge as essential, will all come out in the taste-test. There’s a feast of apps rolling out now. It’s a great time to have a smart phone.