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Apple Invents a Means to Make Obnoxious Cell Phone Users Even More Annoying!

We REALLY hope that, contrary to press reports, Steve Jobs is NOT working every day yet. In fact we dearly hope that he took the July 4th week off so that he was not in the office on July 2, 2009, when the USPTO published yet another in a string of absurdities, a.k.a. Apple Inc.'s Patent Application No.20090171670 entitled "Systems and methods for altering speech during cellular phone use".

Steverino needs his rest and this "invention" ain't going to help him in that department.

When we first scanned this week's offerings and 'spied' this gem, we assumed from the title, that the boyz from Cupertinotown were working for the NSA or some other super-secret org helping to make the world safe for Apple's pie, iTunes and capitalism, solely we must admit based upon the intriguing title.

But alas, we were wrong.

Upon closer examination, we found the ABSTRACT reading as follows:

The present invention includes systems and methods for altering a cellular phone user's speech so that the speech can be less bothersome to third parties in the surrounding area and so that the user has more privacy. Sound cancellation can be used to ... modify the user's voice ... so that the user's voice cannot be understood. Furthermore, the user device can encourage the user to speak in a lower voice. The user device can accomplish this encouragement by indicating to the user their level of speech. In this manner, the user knows when he may lower his voice and yet still provide an adequate volume of speech for the cellular phone. Additionally, the user device can encourage the user to speak in a lower voice by audibly playing back the user's voice in real time.

But, being the perennial optimists that we are, and notwithstanding having our spy thriller moment bubble burst, we nonetheless wanted to posit some observations on the merits of this novelty, or more honestly, the lack thereof.

To do so let's set the tone as to what the case is all about, as far as we can see.
  1. The idea comprises the method of blending into the noise of a user's voice, a secondary sound source (i.e. MORE NOISE) and PROJECTING that secondary sound into the space around the cell phone (e.g., the bystanders' ears!).
  2. The Einsteins at Apple (Robert Bailey (Cupertino, CA) ; Lawrence Heyl (Colchester, VT) ; Stephan Schell (Cupertino, CA)) all contend that this Vocal Embodiment of Projectile Vomiting will alter a user's voice so that it is less annoying and bothersome to third parties. We hope the prototype is used next to their cubicle for extensive testing.
  3. Additionally, they contend that it can provide more privacy for the user.
Hmmm... this is something.

Perhaps the idea is to use an Air-Raid siren to mask the noise created by the cell phone caller's voice. While we agree that will probably work, we diverge from Apple in their contention that the result will be "less annoying and bothersome to third parties." We must be dense.

On the other hand, riot police in Tehran, the G W Bush Administration through FOX News, Hizzonner Mayor Richard J Daley during the 1968 Chicago riots (ooops we may be dating ourselves there) and dictators elsewhere have employed similar methodologies with various degrees of success over the decades, so maybe Apple is onto something here.

On the other hand, we do agree with Apple that it may in fact "provide more privacy for the user" since as we envision it, the people around the phone will flee, providing the miscreant caller with all the privacy in the world and we suspect that this is what Apple means by "preventative feedback."

We suppose Apple will call that a draw.

What really struck us as odd, and folks, that is quite the accomplishment when it comes to reading Apple Patent Applications, was the proferred contention that use of this technique is expected to "encourage the user to speak more quietly."

Hmmmm.... we have a better idea, why not just have the cell phone transmit a voice to the earpiece of the phone so that the caller will hear a message saying something like, "please keep your voice down during the call" and should that not work and the call continues, then a louder "SHUT UP!" would be dispatched.

Or maybe that is what Apple's counsel had in mind when they wrote: "Once the user is made aware of her own voice's volume, she can know when she is speaking too loudly and may then subsequently lower her voice." We guess that is 21st century parenting.

We could only wish that some of Apple's patent attorneys would have a similar device attached to their workstations so that when they are presented with absurdities like this case, that a similar negative feedback signal would be invoked until the abandonment. We hope the examiner at the USPTO is not deaf to our views.

AND ... If you feel that this is another travesty being foisted upon the USPTO or in this case, humanity, let your voice be heard by contacting the Attorneys of Record on this case

KRAMER LEVIN NAFTALIS & FRANKEL LLP
1177 Avenue of the Americas
New York NY 10036
Telephone 212.715.9100
Fax 212.715.8000
Managing Partner: Paul S Pearlman
ppearlman@kramerlevin.com

or better yet, go to the source, or rather the Core of the Apple
(and please refrain from joking with him about their street address)

Richard J Lutton
Chief Patent Counsel
Apple Inc.
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino CA 95014
telephone: 404-974-9453

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