AT&T Seeks Patent for Creating and Implementing a Mobile Privacy Zone

AT&T Incorporated (NYSE: T), headquartered in Dallas, TX, is a major corporation with a storied history in the field of telecommunications. Recently, executives from both AT&T and DirecTV made arguments in favor of the merger of these two corporations, a business move which has been valued at $48.5 billion, in front of antitrust committees at the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives. In a move likely conceived to win regulatory approval for the merger, AT&T has recently sold off its 8.3 percent stake in America Movil, a competitor of DirecTV in Latin American countries. Although currently only a rumor, there are some talks that AT&T will be the exclusive carrier for the Amazon Fire smartphone, which has yet to be released.

We always make sure to pay good attention to the major developers of consumer technologies here in the Companies We Follow series, and IPWatchdog is back with an in-depth look at the innovations recently stemming from AT&T. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has published many patent applications and has also issued plenty of patents assigned to this corporation in recent weeks. Our most recent search of AT&T patent filings showed us a great deal of intriguing improvements to wireless communication products and services.

We begin today by sharing our featured patent application with our readers, a technology designed to create a privacy zone to disable unauthorized functions in mobile devices which are within the zone. This would enable a meeting administrator to ensure that smartphone device owners cannot produce a recording of a meeting from within the privacy zone, for example. Other patent applications we explore discusses systems for transmitting calls and messages to the proper destination device for more effective communication between those who own multiple devices, as well as a system for better providing local advertisements to device owners who are on the go.

Our exploration of AT&T’s recently issued patents features a couple of patents protecting technologies designed to improve calendar applications, including one system through which a professor or group administrator can update project deadlines so that all students or group members are aware of the change. Another patent is directed at a technology for parents who want to know when their children arrive at home from elsewhere. We also discuss a couple of patents featuring improvements to set top boxes for home media systems, including one method for freeing up space in video recording software by preventing against redundant media recordings.



Mobile Object Location-Based Privacy Protection
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140171057

In our recent searches of inventions from corporations covered in the Companies We Follow series here on IPWatchdog, we’ve lately been noticing an upswing in technologies aimed at privacy and security on wireless networks. Our latest profile of Qualcomm’s recent inventions featured a trio of patents which had been issued to protect various wireless device and network security improvements. The free movement of device owners and the plurality of wireless networks with which they can communicate makes wireless privacy an interest not only for people, but also for organizations.

A company or an individual may want to prevent unauthorized surveillance of a meeting or another event, like the surreptitious recording of a meeting on an electronic device, by someone who operates an electronic device. However, often the only useful attempt at this is to post signage or some other form of notification at a physical location to tell others that recording or other mobile phone activities are prohibited within a certain area. This method is not only ineffective against those who simply refuse to heed this request, it can have the unintended effect of notifying people that such an event is occurring at all.

AT&T Mobility II LLC, a wireless subscription providing subsidiary of AT&T, filed this patent application with the USPTO in February 2014. If a patent is issued for this application, it would protect an apparatus which can track the presence of mobile communication devices in and around a privacy zone. The Abstract defines a privacy zone in this way: “A privacy zone is a geographic location proximate to a mobile object in which mobile device functionality is reduced when a mobile device is inside the boundaries of the privacy zone.” The apparatus contains a processor couple to memory which includes instructions that commands the processor to track devices and retrieve their function configuration.

Once the function configuration for a mobile device is received, certain functions of the device can be disabled by the apparatus while the device is within a boundary zone. Function configuration data utilized by this system is supported by the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI) mobile ID standard. The system can produce a program signal for controlling a mobile device within the privacy zone according to data about a device’s configuration collected from IMEI.

As Claim 1 states, AT&T is attempting to secure the rights to:

“An apparatus comprising: a processor; and memory coupled to the processor, the memory comprising executable instructions that when executed by the processor cause the process to effectuate operation comprising: determining that a mobile communication device is proximate to a boundary of a privacy zone and not within the privacy zone, wherein: the boundary of a privacy zone is in relation to a location of a mobile object; and the boundary of the privacy zone varies in relation to the location of the mobile object; tracking the mobile communications device while the mobile communications device is proximate to the boundary of the privacy zone and not within the privacy zone; upon a determination that the mobile communications device being tracked is within the privacy zone, retrieving a function configuration for the mobile communications device; and programming the mobile communication device within the privacy zone according to the retrieved function configuration.”


Other Patent Applications

It may be interesting for our readers to learn that, in the recent weeks of USPTO activity related to AT&T which we surveyed, the number of patent applications published recently was well outnumbered by the weekly number of patents assigned to AT&T and its subsidiaries. This may suggest that this corporation may be slowing down its patenting activities in recent months. We were still intrigued by a number of patent applications published in the past few weeks related to consumer electronic services and products. Better connections to video-on-demand services across a plurality of remote devices may be experienced through the invention expressed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140189762, which is titled Peer-to-Peer Video On Demand Techniques. The method that would be protected by this filed patent application can support viewing of extremely popular video streams by many people across a wireless network while minimizing bandwidth issues caused by so many devices accessing the same on-demand service. Advertising campaigns for local companies should be able to distribute more accurate location-based advertisements as a result of the technology described in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140188621, titled Dynamically and Predictively Updating Mobile Devices as Mobile Users Pass Through Projected Locations. This system is capable of updating travel itineraries or presenting ads from local businesses to mobile device users as they pass through various physical locations.

We’ve seen other companies attempting to patent technologies directed at supporting profile networks for mobile device users, and it seems that AT&T is attempting the same with U.S. Patent Application No. 20140171051, filed under the title Multiple User Profiles and Personas on a Device. This patent application would protect a system that could analyze a call received on a mobile device and transmit that call to a second device if the system determined that the caller is attempting to contact the recipient at the improper number. This system may help those who use multiple devices throughout the course of their daily lives and switch between them as their primary means of communication. Expanding on the wireless network security technology discussed in our featured patent application section is U.S. Patent Application No. 20140181968, entitled Monitoring Operational Activities in Networks and Detecting Potential Network Intrusions and Misuses. This patent application discusses a method of collecting data about possible network intrusions from wireless network session logs analyzed by an intrusion detection system.



Issued Patents of Note

AT&T is a major provider of both mobile and fixed telephone subscription services in the United States, although it’s easy to see the company’s dedication to improving wireless services by taking a quick glance at the patents recently issued to AT&T by the USPTO. AT&T Intellectual Property, the main patent application filing subsidiary for AT&T, earned 1,101 U.S. patent grants during 2013, 27th-overall for global patenting entities and 10th-best in America. Today, we’re seeing a great variety of telephone and multimedia technologies for improving communications sent through AT&T’s various networks.

A couple of the recently issued patents which caught our eyes during our most recent database search protect improvements to software applications on AT&T devices which offer calendar services. A location-based system for the more effective timing for notifications of upcoming appointments is protected by U.S. Patent No. 8768739, issued under the title Location and Time Sensitive Wireless Calendaring. This notification method takes the current location of the device owner into account and can schedule notifications based on the distance from current location and the location where a scheduled appointment will take place. Interactive calendar applications used by a large group of people can be more easily synchronized in response to calendar changes thanks to the technology protected by U.S. Patent No. 8768332, which is titled Interactive Personal Information Management System. This system enables a professor or group leader to change the deadline on a piece of homework or a project and includes a notification system designed to ensure that all class or group members receive the notification. AT&T Mobility II LLC, the assignee on this patent, first filed for the patent in September 2006, after which it received five final rejections. The last non-final rejection issued for this patent in June 2013 found certain claims invalid for obviousness under Section 103 of U.S. patent code in light of a patent issued in 2011 to Research in Motion Limited of Waterloo, Ontario. That patent protects a similar system of notifying event invitees of event changes through an electronic calendar.

From U.S. Patent No. 8768309, entitled “Reminders Based on Device Presence.”

The development of electronic and software products for home environments, either for security or for entertainment, are also featured in a few other recently issued patents which we discovered today. Parents who cannot be at home when their children arrive from school may find very encouraging the technology protected by U.S. Patent No. 8768309, entitled Reminders Based on Device Presence. Not only can this invention inform a parent that a child has returned home safely without GPS tracking, which can seem invasive and is expensive, this system can also notify children of necessary chores to handle with a notification received when the child’s device connects with a home network. We were also intrigued to see AT&T developing technology for set top boxes, a device for home media entertainment which delivers content to a television or screen display, represented in U.S. Patent No. 8769599, titled Apparatus and Method for Managing Set Top Boxes. This system reduces the chances that a set top box owner cannot record a show because of a limited number of tuner cards in a set top box by monitoring recordings for a group of set top boxes and eliminating redundant recordings to free up a tuner card. Finally, we noticed one last recently issued patent protecting another intriguing improvement to set top boxes produced by AT&T, U.S. Patent No. 8763024, which is titled Systems and Methods for Searching Based on Information in Commercials. This innovation allows set top box users to search for television series or movie content advertised through commercial content to see if the advertised content is available for download.


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