Technology companies have one thing in common. Patents. All the major tech companies these days try to patent anything and everything. Why? Intellectual property has value. Competitors sue over similar designs. How would a modern technology company defend itself against patent trolls if they didn’t already have a war chest of patents?
All the major technology companies have entire armies of patent makers. IBM, Microsoft, Apple, you name it. If they make something, they have plenty of patents. Newer companies like Google and Amazon have patents, too, but they haven’t been around four or five decades, so they have to buy patents or enter into cross licensing agreements with those that do. It is said that Microsoft makes more money on patent license fees– a few billion dollars a year– from Android smartphone makers than any manufacturer beyond Samsung.
So, what’s the latest from Apple? Is it a patent on the new A10 ‘Fusion’ CPU designs? Is it a patent on the new ‘indistinguishable from perfect’ LCD screen on iPhone 7?
Nope. Apple wants to patent a paper bag.
Apple being Apple, this is no ordinary paper bag from the local, environmentally conscious grocery store. No, this paper bag patent highlights not content or carrying capacity, but the ingredients in the bag itself.
- Bag content of 60-percent post-consumer content from solid bleached sulfate
Handle formed of knitted paper fibers
Or, put another way, Apple’s special shopping bag is recycled and strong. Even the bags handles have a specific placement so they droop properly when stored.
Yes, few companies sweat the details like Apple. And when you’re a technology company with a patent application for what amounts to a bag then a few other issues are obvious. First, someone at Apple has too much time on their hands and a very ambiguous job description. Second, Apple plans to employ a mall security force to track down intellectual property thieves in other mall stores that give customers similar bags. Or, the timing of the patent application is all wrong and should have been saved for April 1, 2017.
A patent for a simple shopping bag, recyclable or recycled or not, got me to thinking about what other useful patents Apple’s obviously not overworked patent lawyers could be working on.
Here’s what I came up with:
- Apple Store Floor Arrows – so customers will know which door to use to enter the store, and which to use when exiting the store
- Apple Store Employees – sure, diversity is a good thing, but we should be able to who is who at an Apple Store by t-shirt colors. Red for expendables (like in Star Trek), Blue for Genius bar employees, Orange for store managers.
- Screen Cleaning Utility – employees clean demonstration Macs, iPhones, and iPads the old fashioned way. Manually. Automate the cleaning process with a patent on a giant arm that extends from the ceiling to the device.
- Talk Timer – Apple could put a timer on each employee so they don’t spend more than a set amount of time talking to a customer who 1) knows nothing at all, or, 2) thinks they know everything; a device which would automate freeing up an Apple employee so they could search for someone with real questions.
See? Apple could use such ideas but Store honcho Angela Ahrendts won’t return my calls or email.