Apple taxied onto the runway with patents filed for travel apps, and, while they look pretty snazzy, several third party developers are hoping the U.S. Patent Office will clip the company’s wings.
Apple filed for three different application patents, travel, hotel and high-end shopping in October of last year, but the patents were discovered only recently by Unwiredview.com.
The patent application outlines a way for travelers to control services such as booking reservations, utilizing mobile-phone-based boarding passes, and requesting cabins; it allows the sending of arrival or delay notifications, and helps locate and review dining and entertainment options.
The hotel app describes such services as hotel check-in, access to hotel and in-room services, promotional deals, and more.
And the high-end shopping app provides for users to receive invites to special events, use store locator, view gift guides and catalog different products.
Certain app developers hope that the U.S. patent office will deny the patents because they say Apple is, essentially, upending their market. Since Apple has first priority in approving apps through the app store they are effectively monopolizing the future travel market with these patents.
As unwired review puts it, “This is one scary development. Imagine if back in 1994-96 someone decided to sit back, think about what kind of web services can be provided via the internet, and then decided to patent them.”
Another controversy that the patent request has stirred up involves Apple having used a figure in the request that is a direct copy of a similar third-party app called Where To?.
Though it is argued that Apple was only using the copy as a rough framework to show what the interface for the Apple version of the app would be similar too, it raises concerns because the
Where to? App is only available through the App Store.
“We’re faced with a situation where we’ve to fear that our primary business partner is trying to ‘steal’ our idea and design,” Where to? Designer’s told MacRumors.com.
Furthermore, advocates of free source software say that Apple’s patenting of these travel service mechanisms could put the kibosh on innovative functions in the future; Apple’s patents would block out third party providers, allowing for only one channel of innovation.