Apple's Notification Center Patent App: 3 Years After Google

Apple has applied to the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) for a patent covering its Notification Center service, first introduced in iOS 5 in October 2011. The patent application, No. 20130007665, was first filed on June 5, 2012 and published today, January 3, 2013. It arrives over three years after rival Google applied for a similar patent relating to its Android OS notification system.

Apple Notification Center Patent ApplicationDrawings from Apple's Notification Center Patent Application (provided by Patently Apple

The application is entitled “Systems and Methods for Displaying Notifications Received from Multiple Applications” and describes how Notification Center operates in iOS by receiving alerts and other notifications from multiple applications, organizing them, and displaying them appropriately to the user:

Systems and methods are disclosed for displaying notifications received from multiple applications. In some embodiments, an electronic device can monitor notifications that are received from the multiple applications. Responsive to receiving the notifications, the electronic device can control the manner in which the notifications are displayed while the device is operating in a locked or an unlocked state. In some embodiments, the electronic device can allow users to customize how notifications are to be displayed while the device is in the locked and/or unlocked states.

Apple’s recently revealed patent application has drawn criticism due to similarities to Android’s built-in notification system, for which Google applied for multiple patents as early as 2009. While Apple and others have long argued that much of Android is heavily influenced by iOS, in the case of notifications Android implemented the feature years before iOS.

iOS Notification Center vs Android NotificationsApple's iOS Notification Center (left) compared to Google's Android Notifications (right)
Image via ZDNet

Directly connected to these patents is a new lawsuit by longtime Apple rival Samsung, which makes numerous mobile devices based on Google’s Android OS. Filed in late December, the Korean company’s suit claims that Apple’s Notification Center infringes on several non-standard-essential patents owned or controlled by Samsung. Although details are not yet available regarding specific patents, it is widely believed that Samsung is asserting patents specifically related to Google’s Android Notification system.

One key difference between the Apple and Google patent applications is the reference to computer syncing in Apple’s patent. A version of Notification Center for the Mac was introduced last year with the release of OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion, and users of iOS and OS X know that apps that have been written to take advantage of Notification Center can present notifications in both systems. Apple’s patent mentions how the claimed process can work on traditional computers, as well as a multitude of other devices:

...a system architecture that may be embodied within any portable or non-portable device including but not limited to a communication device (e.g. mobile phone, smart phone), a multi-media device (e.g., MP3 player, TV, radio), a portable or handheld computer (e.g., tablet, netbook, laptop), a desktop computer, an All-In-One desktop, a peripheral device, or any other system or device adaptable to the inclusion of system architecture 2000, including combinations of two or more of these types of devices.

Specifically, Apple’s Push Notification Service that powers iOS and Mac notifications runs on OS X Server.

While some Google patents relating to Android’s notification system have been approved, several key patents are still awaiting a determination by the USPTO. Apple’s application will bring fresh attention to the feature and the legal battles that will certainly follow.

Patently Apple obtained the diagrams from the patent application and has further details.