Apple Patents Digital Handshake Between Devices


On April 23, 2013, Apple obtained U.S. Patent No. 8429407, titled Digital Handshake between Devices.

Creating a secure connection between two devices that are in close physical proximity allows users to share a great deal of digital content. Instead of showing a webpage or document to another person by turning the screen towards them, a user could choose to send the info directly to another device, preventing people from having to crowd around a small device screen to see. The same is true of videos and pictures. Also, some applications allow users to interact with other nearby devices for money transfers or to play a game.

Apple was granted the right to protect the system of creating a secured connection between devices laid out in this patent. It would allow an iPhone to create a bar code or alphanumerical code that can be scanned by the camera of another device. Once the “digital handshake” has taken place, other phones can also scan the key that was generated by the device to connect with the other devices as well.

As Claim 1 describes, Apple has gained legal protections over:

“A method for establishing a communications path between a first device and a second device, comprising: capturing an image of the second device using the first device; extracting, from the image, a first key associated with the second device; selecting from a plurality of processes a process to be used for generating a digital handshake key; generating the digital handshake key using the selected process with the first key; and establishing a communications path with the second device using the digital handshake key.”

The drawings are at least somewhat illuminating. Figure 4, which is shown above, is a schematic view of electronic devices positioned to initiate a digital handshake. A first electronic device (left in illustration) can be placed opposite a second electronic device (right in illustration) so that a front facing camera of the first device captures the front surface of the second device, thereby allowing the facing cameras of the first and the second device to communicate.

In another version of the invention, the handshake protocol can be used to log into a a desktop or notebook computer from a portable device or cellular telephone. This implementation is shown in Figure 14 of the patent, which is shown to the left.  In this embodiment, the first device can be used to release information available from a second device for authenticating purposes.

The patent also has what is a fairly standard “catch-all” at the end which reads:

The invention is preferably implemented by software, but can also be implemented in hardware or a combination of hardware and software. The invention can also be embodied as computer readable code on a computer readable medium. The computer readable medium is any data storage device that can store data which can thereafter be read by a computer system. Examples of the computer readable medium include read-only memory, random-access memory, CD-ROMs, DVDs, magnetic tape, and optical data storage devices. The computer readable medium can also be distributed over network-coupled computer systems so that the computer readable code is stored and executed in a distributed fashion.

One has to wonder in light of CLS Bank v. Alice Corp. what, if any, of this matters any more. It is certainly true that software can be implemented in hardware, but that nuance seems lost on at least some of the Judges of the Federal Circuit.

So is this another example of a very cool technology that couldn’t be patented if certain Judges make up the panel on a review to the Federal Circuit? I guess it depends on the “cool factor” and whether innovations outside the financial sector will be treated differently. We welcome your suggestions and thoughts in the comments, of course.

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