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Apple Files Patent For Fuel Cell Laptops 215

An anonymous reader writes "Apple Insider reports that Apple recently filed two patents for a new breed of fuel cell-powered laptop computers. The devices would eschew lithium ion batteries in favor of fuel cells that are capable of running for weeks without requiring a recharge. The patents are entitled 'Fuel Cell System to Power a Portable Computing Device' and oeFuel Cell System Coupled to a Portable Computing Device."
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Apple Files Patent For Fuel Cell Laptops

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  • Re:Patent the future (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 23, 2011 @07:15AM (#38469892)

    Just skimmed the patent, so not going to make any judgement on the patentability of this. Certainly the first few claims look fairly broad but this is normal. Somewhere down in the sub-claims, there could be something new and inventive.

    A couple of points though. This is just the published patent application - it has *not* been granted yet, so Apple certainly havn't succeeded in getting the patent. Also, from even a very quick search in a couple of online databases , there appears to be a load of prior art in this field as you'd probably expect. I'd expect the USPTO will find at least some of it. Chances are that either Apple won't get this at all, or they will end up with a very limited patent to a particular feature needed to make this work and not a general 'fuel cell in a laptop' patent.

    Finally, check out the fuels they're proposing. Good luck getting a cartridge of sodium borohydride, or lithium aluminium hydride on an aircraft. Patented invention does not necessarily mean commercial uptake of invention.

  • by Dr Max ( 1696200 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @07:37AM (#38469966)
    Better than that it has already been done [] . Do people at the patent office not know how to Google an idea, cause i'm betting the apple innovation department knows how. Its not something that's even deserving of a patent if they actually invented a new type of fuel cell then sure give them a patent but just putting the word it infront of laptop is the reason the whole patent system is a joke.
  • by gb7djk ( 857694 ) * on Friday December 23, 2011 @07:48AM (#38470014) Homepage
    Toshiba have demonstrated fuel cells for laptops since at least 2006. They may not be pretty, but the principle should not be patentable (at least by Apple). []
  • by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @10:05AM (#38470640)

    Sorry to say it a bit bluntly, but you like so many others have obviously not a single clue about what a patent is, and what it is for.

    A patent is for very specific inventions. Now of course the idea of "putting a fuel cell in a laptop" is of course not patentable, and that's not what Apple patents. From the first glance that I have the core of the patent revolves around the fuel cell itself, they did something innovative to it to make it suitable for these very small scale applications as for example in laptops. It being Apple, laptops of course are the first application they think of. But the same tech might be used to power your phone, or when scaled the other direction to power your car, who knows. But afaict it's the fuel cell where the invention is in.

    There is no way Apple or any other company will be able to patent "fuel cell powered laptop". They can only patent a very specific way of doing this, or a very specific fuel cell implementation, so specific that if a patent is written incorrectly changing the voltage of your implementation may already circumvent it.

  • by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Friday December 23, 2011 @12:06PM (#38471974)

    And now you're mixing up regular "invention-type" patents and design patents as well.

    Admittedly I haven't read the design patent, but one thing for sure: they haven't patented "rounded corners". They have patented a complete look, and with that prevent other manufacturers to make one that looks exactly or almost exactly like theirs. They sued Samsung because the Samsung devices look very much like Apple's devices, and Apple thinks it's too close alike.

    Apple will not get far suing just anyone using fuel cells. They're surely not stupid enough to even think about that. They can only sue people that use their exact implementation of the fuel cell, and trust me the fuel cell in that taxi will not scale down to anything near laptop size, let alone laptop battery size.

    Just like you can not compare the technology of a car battery (lead-acid) with that of a phone battery (Li-ion or NiMH - which are two different types in itself again). Now if you would be able to scale down a lead acid battery and make it suitable for say laptop power supply, now that may very well be patentable (oh and I'm not saying that it is necessarily useful or practical, just patentable).

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