How cool would it be to charge your phone just by leaving it in a sunny spot by the window or for your e-reader to run on power from the sun? Based on this patent application by Apple, solar power may come to iPhones one day soon — but if Apple is able to patent the idea, it may not be available for other brands until 2032. That would be a shame, not only because it could inhibit the development and distribution of greener devices, but also because there’s good reason to suspect that the technology Apple is claiming was actually invented earlier by open hardware developers and academics. For example, the One Laptop Per Child computer used one kind of solar power system discussed in the patent application. Unfortunately, as we have seen with 3D printing, this kind of prior art is not often known to the examiners at the Patent and Trademark Office, who decide whether to issue a patent.That’s where you come in. The Cyberlaw Clinic is asking for your help to identify publications that disclose the technology being claimed by Apple. If you are familiar with electronic devices that accept power directly from a solar panel, and preferably which use a technique called “maximum power point tracking,” head to this webpage for more details on where to submit documentation or leads.
Image by SvenAERTS – CC-BY 2.5 – available here.