Internet sleuths detected intriguing patents from Google and Apple, which are increasingly trading blows over the desktop and mobile Web.
The United States Patent & Trademark Office Dec. 31 published Apple's location-sharing patent and Patent & Trademark Office position fix indicator patent, both of which describe functionality akin to what Google Latitude provides for users.
Google Latitude is the location-based social networking feature for Google Maps for Mobile that lets users see the approximate location of friends who opt to share their location.
Google launched Latitude on Android, BlackBerry, Symbian and Window Mobile phones in February 2009, but conspicuously the company didn't provide the tool for Apple's iPhone. Google in July launched Latitude as a Web application for the iPhone and explained:
"After we developed a Latitude application for the iPhone, Apple requested we release Latitude as a Web application in order to avoid confusion with Maps on the iPhone, which uses Google to serve maps tiles."
But these new Apple patents suggest Apple was perhaps protecting its own interests. The abstract for the location sharing patent explained:
""Geographic location data is sent from a first device to a second device with a modified message to signal the presence of geographic location data associated with the message. The message can include (or attach) the geographic location data or file, or the message can include a link to a network-based resource which the second device can use to obtain the geographic location data.""
Moreover, the patent noted that when a user of the first device views a location on a map display of the first device, a graphical UI is displayed to let the user share the geographic location with the second device. The second device receives geographic location data or a link from the first device, which can trigger a map display on the second device showing the location of the first device and the location of the second device.
The position fix indicator abstract described methods for: obtaining a first position measure at a mobile device indicating a geographic area where the mobile device is located, presenting a first graphical indicator on a user interface representing the geographic area; obtaining a second position measure at the mobile device, indicating a location associated with the mobile device, and within the geographic area; and presenting a second graphical indicator on the user interface representing the location within the geographic area.