AT&T Seeks Patents on E-mail Self Destruct and 3D Media Content

AT&T is a major American telecommunications corporation headquartered in Dallas, TX. The company is a major developer of mobile telephone services for consumers all across the world. Recently, Engadget reported that AT&T would be bringing its high-speed LTE service for 4G phones to 50 markets in the coming weeks, including Fairbanks, AK; Fargo, ND; and Amarillo, TX.

The research and development activities of this corporation can give us an exciting look into the future of smartphones and mobile wireless technologies. Today on IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, we return to explore recent issued patents and patent applications filed with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

Many of these documents that we look through today deal with mobile wireless technology and media presentations. One patent application describes a system of analyzing a person’s geographical location to create a map detailing wireless coverage in the area. Another patent application provides for a system of developing three dimensional media content for images or video. Also, one patent issued by the USPTO protects a system of enhancing phone calls between business acquaintances by providing local news and weather information.

A few other patent applications covered here relate to law enforcement and security. One application would make it easier to track suspects using stolen or prepaid phones by searching for voiceprints. Finally, one last patent application would protect an e-mail system that provides for deletion of sensitive e-mails after a period of time has elapsed.


Method, System, and Apparatus for Providing Self-Destructing Electronic Mail Messages
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130159436

E-mail is a messaging system used across the world to communicate information to other people when a phone call or physically meeting the person is inconvenient. It is a useful system because it’s incredibly quick, practically instantaneous. However, a sender has almost no way to protect confidential information once it has been sent across the Internet. Once an e-mail has been received, it can be printed, forwarded or shared with anyone and another person could store it for years.

AT&T has filed this patent application to protect a system of providing for self-destructing e-mails that provide better protection for confidential information. In this system, a user could set a period of time after the e-mail has been sent for it to be automatically deleted, or a user could select a specific date instead for the same purpose. Users sending an e-mail over this system could obtain a return receipt so that they know when the e-mail was opened.

As Claim 31 (Claims 1 through 30 cancelled) explains, this patent application has been filed to protect:

“A method for transmitting self-destructing electronic mail messages comprising: receiving a request, at an electronic mail server, from a sender to send a self-destructing electronic mail message, the request identifying a time period after which the self-destructing electronic mail message is to be destroyed; sending a security warning to the sender when an electronic mail address of an intended recipient of the self-destructing electronic mail message is located beyond a home domain of the sender; sending the self-destructing electronic mail message to the electronic mail address of the intended recipient in response to input from the sender responsive to the security warning; deleting any instances of the self-destructing electronic mail message that are being stored at the electronic mail server after the sending and after expiration of the time period.”


Apparatus and Method for Providing Three Dimensional Media Content
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130208094

Multimedia recording and presentation is much simpler with smartphones and similar electronic devices that include camera and speaker components. Digital audio, video or images can be easily recorded, stored and shared with users as needed. Especially for images and video, two dimensional recordings are easy to obtain, but generating a three dimensional image is costly and time-consuming, although many consumers want these images.

This patent application has been filed by AT&T to protect a system of recording images and video for three dimensional presentation. In this system, at least two cameras record a stereo pair of a single image. This stereo pair is used to create a depth map for image pixels so that image pixels can be adjusted based on their distance from the camera.

Claim 1 of this patent application would give AT&T the right to protect:

“A non-transitory computer-readable storage medium comprising computer instructions, which, responsive to being executed by a processor, cause the processor to perform operations comprising: generating three-dimensional media content based on images captured by a camera and an adjusted depth map, wherein the adjusted depth map is based on adjustments to inaccurate pixels in a depth map; and providing the three-dimensional media content for presentation at a display device.”


System and Method for Tracking Persons of Interest Via Voiceprint
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130177141

Law enforcement agencies are capable of tracking suspects or persons of interest through telephone communications. In order to do this, law enforcement must first identify phone numbers that the suspect is likely to make phone calls from. Law enforcement officials can then perform surveillance on these lines. However, this system makes it difficult to track suspects when they switch to prepaid phones or if they use a stolen phone or voice over Internet protocol (VOIP) to communicate.

This patent application, filed by AT&T with the USPTO, describes a system of analyzing telephone communications to track a suspect using a voiceprint. Law enforcement first captures a voiceprint of the person of interest using a computer system capable of analyzing the voiceprint. Instead of specific telephone lines, communications networks would be scanned for matches with the voiceprint, identifying suspects even if they’re using stolen or prepaid phones.

As Claim 1 of this patent application explains, AT&T is hoping to protect:

“A method of comprising: receiving a voiceprint associated with a caller; determining a level of certainty between the voiceprint and a stored voiceprint, wherein the stored voiceprint is associated with an individual; establishing a tracking threshold based on the individual; and when the level of certainty meets the tracking threshold, tracking the caller.”

Personal Wireless Coverage Map
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130204530

Electronic devices that rely on wireless resources to provide services to users are present throughout our society. Wireless communications for Internet, texting services or telephone calls are used by millions on a daily basis. Although electronic devices continue to proliferate throughout our world, there are often limitations to wireless access. Some places are not covered by wireless providers, whether because of an isolated location or because a surrounding structure, like a tunnel, blocks the signal.


AT&T recently filed this patent application with the USPTO to protect a system of providing personal wireless coverage maps to electronic device users based on their geographic location. An electronic device determines the physical geographic location of a user. A map of this location is sent to a processor to determined areas of the local map that are serviced by wireless providers. This map is returned to the device user, outlining which wireless services are available at different regions on the map.

Claim 1 of this patent application would protect:

“A method to provide a map to a wireless device, the method comprising: processing wireless session records with a processor to determine a first route from an origination point to a destination point along which a first wireless service is expected to be available to the wireless device for at least a target percentage of the first route, the origination point and the destination point being specified in a request received from the wireless device; generating, using the processor, map data identifying the origination point, the destination point and the first route, the map data also identifying a first geographic region in which the first wireless service is experiencing, at a time associated with the request, usage above a threshold, the geographic region being determined based on processing the wireless session records; and communicating the map data to the wireless device in response to the request.”


Call Enhancement with Localized Information
U.S. Patent No. 8509804

Business professionals often use telephone communication to make first contact with clients before meeting with them to discuss business. Sales representatives especially spend a lot of time on the road travelling to meet with business associates or clients. Informal speech about current events, weather or other items thought of as “small talk” can often be very important for quickly building a rapport between a representative and a client.

AT&T has recently been awarded the right to protect a system of enhancing phone calls by putting users in touch with localized information pertaining to the geographical location of the party they’re calling. This information could include local weather, scores for sports games or news events for the region. This system could return information to a calling party while the call is being set up or while the call is actually taking place.

Claim 1 of this issued patent gives AT&T the right to protect:

“A method comprising: receiving an indication of a call from a first wireless device to a second wireless device; determining a specific geographic location of the second wireless device; abstracting the specific geographic location of the second wireless device into a general geographic location of the second wireless device in accordance with a configurable privacy setting associated with the second wireless device; obtaining, in accordance with a configurable category setting associated with the first wireless device, information localized to the general geographic location of the second wireless device, wherein the information localized to the general geographic location of the second wireless device comprises at least one of news information, weather information, or sports information; and transmitting the information to the first wireless device.”


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