Apple Patent: Game-Changing Location Services Granted

Apple was granted a patent that could be a game-changer for location-based services, and a formidable weapon to wield against competitors.

The patent “RE42, 927” is a reissue Xerox filed in 1998, and it was granted in 2000. Apple transferred ownership of the patent Dec. 17, 2009, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

According to media experts, it is huge. Apple might be able to legally force companies, such as Facebook and Foursquare, to pay big money if they want to use location services.

“This patent is old enough to predate much of what is now happening in both mobile and social media. Even worse--for Apple's competitors--it's broad,” said Erik Sherman in a CBS News column.

“This patent is so basic that it would be hard to get around it. Just about any location-based system at its heart has to transmit a local location and receive information in return,” Sherman added. “That leaves the question of what Apple will decide to do, and to whom.”

The patent could grant Apple authority over location-based innovation in mobile advertising, social networking, and global positioning mapping.

Moreover, Apple has an established record of accomplishment of dealing with competitors over legal brawn.

The patent description explicitly states that location-based services could include GPS signals from space or a barcode on a billboard. Information that is specific to the location is in text, video, sound, or images, without restriction on what the information can convey.

The broad-term “transceiver” sends the location information over a network to an unspecified destination and receives location-specific information in return.

Once the transceiver gets the return information, the device can do whatever it wants with it, such as display the data separately, incorporate it into something else, or even jettison it.

“If you thought that Google, Samsung, HTC, and others were already depressed over the legal success Apple has had in fighting Android, it's now officially worse,” Sherman said.