Patent Filing Error Means no Military Apple Tanks are Coming

Apple tank patent

Yesterday the internet was busy speculating about why Apple patented an articulated joint system that’s perfect for military vehicles. The patent seemed out of place for an electric car, and it turns out that’s the case because the law firm handling patents for Apple says it was accidentally assigned to the wrong company thanks to a clerical error.

Apple tank patent
typographic error gave Apple a military vehicle patent

The Morrison and Foerster law firm filed a Request for Certification of Correction on August 9th stating Apple was unintentionally named as the patent assignee due to a “typographical error.” The patent actually belongs to military vehicle maker BAE Systems, which makes much more sense.

Yesterday’s patent assignment was seen as more proof Apple is working on a car. The patent spurred discussions about how articulated joints fit into Apple’s vehicle plans, and was even a topic we discussed on our Daily Observations podcast. We speculated Apple could be looking at mass transit vehicles like busses, was obfuscating their real intentions, or simply patented an idea that came up during the car design process. In other words, there wasn’t an obvious use for the patent—and now we know why.

Apple’s electric car development program is still unconfirmed, leaving it open to rumor and speculation. TMO’s sources say the company is serious about its car, dubbed Project Titan.

Bob Mansfield, Apple’s go-to guy for secret projects and engineering wizard, was recently put in charge of Project Titan—a sign the company is serious about getting into the automotive market. Mr. Mansfield has been working as a behind the scenes figure at Apple for the past few years, and has a reputation for bringing products to market, or killing them if he thinks they’re a dead end.

Since Apple isn’t going to be a contractor for military vehicles, the big question is how do you get from Apple Inc to BEA Systems with a typographical error? Morrison and Foerster very likely have a computerized template system for generating the patent filing forms for their many clients. There’s probably shortcut codes assigned to each client, and the codes for Apple and BAE Systems are just close enough that someone accidentally typed the wrong one.

Patently Apple noted the patent application was filed in July 2015, which left plenty of time to notice and correct the error. Either no one was paying attention, or the law firm felt it was or faster to correct the error after the patent was granted. Either way, we won’t be seeing any Apple Tanks on the battle field.

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