Apple Adds More Patents To Its List: New iMac Could Support Wireless Charging, But Will It Fuel Samsung Lawsuit?

  @LisaEadicicco on December 04 2012 12:29 PM

While wireless charging isn’t anything new for the mobile device industry, Apple has managed to put its own spin on the technology. In a recent patent filing, the Cupertino, Calif.-based company details potential plans to create a new wireless charging system in which no contact between the device and the charger is required.

Most wireless chargers come in the form of pads, which require a mobile device to sit atop the charging station in order to replenish its battery. Apple’s patent, conversely, will charge any iPhone, iPad, or other device in proximity of the charger. This future charging system would utilize wireless near field magnetic resonance (NFMR) power transmission, according to Patently Apple.

When it comes to traditional wireless chargers, Apple had hinted that creating a “wireless” device that needs to be plugged in seems like a somewhat pointless endeavor.

“Wireless charging systems still have to be plugged into the wall, so its not clear how much convenience they add,” Apple’s vice president of marketing Phil Schiller said in an interview with AllThingsD. “Having to create another device you have to plug into the wall is actually, for most situations, more complicated.”

While a charging device free of all virtual wires and plugs may seem like a godsend for some users, there is one catch: you would need to purchase a new iMac in order for it to work. In true Apple fashion, the company’s most up-to-date technology will only be tailored to work with its most up-to-date products.

Apple included a diagram in its patent filing that demonstrates how the technology would work and illustrates the distance between the charger and its devices. This virtual charging area extends to about three feet from the central station that supplies the NFMR power supply to its peripheral devices. These peripheral devices include any gadgets being charged by the NFMR power supply. Each peripheral device would include a resonator circuit inside its body, and an NFMR channel would be formed between this circuit and the power supply to provide a charge.

This technology from Apple will undoubtedly spark attention from other major players in the tech industry, most notably the Alliance for Wireless Power. Founded by chipmaker Qualcomm, this organization brings together industry leaders in the wireless power and technology field.

Apple’s wireless NFMR patent was filed in 2010 before the alliance was established, but tech startup WiPower, a member of the organization, applied for a patent on the same concept back in 2008. Qualcomm has acquired WiPower since, and its patents along with some intellectual property from Apple’s long-standing rival Samsung provide the foundation for the alliance’s standards, reports The Register.

Samsung and Apple are already locked in a seemingly never-ending patent debacle, and the two are scheduled to return to the courtroom on Thursday. The Korea-based electronics manufacturer is attempting to overturn an August verdict that said Samsung “willfully” copied Apple’s iPhone and iPad to create its own smartphones and tablets. Apple has asked U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh to permanently ban the sale of more than two dozen Samsung devices in the United States, according to Bloomberg

In a legal battle as ugly as this, both Samsung and Apple are likely to use any ammunition possible against one another, and Apple’s wireless charging patent could add fuel to this feud. 

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