Apple sued for alleged trademark infringement tied to animoji feature on iPhone X

Why it matters to you

Apple’s new animoji feature may come as a result of some cool new tech in the iPhone X — but it may not be called animoji for long.

Apple is set to go through yet another lawsuit. The company has been sued by a Japanese firm, Emonster kk, which alleges that Apple stole the name “animoji” for the new animated emoji feature on the iPhone X. According to Emonster kk, it holds the U.S. trademark for the term “animoji,” and says that Apple’s use of the term is a “textbook case” of trademark infringement.

The animoji feature itself basically uses the new front-facing camera technology to map out the user’s face and apply facial movements to animate a character. It was shown off as a feature that could be included in Snapchat, and will debut on the iPhone X when the phone launches in November.

The story first broke in a report from Reuters, and Apple has declined to comment.

Emonster kk actually launched an app called Animoji in 2014, and a trademark was registered for the name of that app. According to the company, Apple had full knowledge of the app because it was actually available for download in the App Store. It will be seeking an unspecified amount in damages and a court order aimed at blocking Apple from using the term while the lawsuit is pending.

Apart from the Animoji feature, the iPhone X is hailed as being Apple‘s most innovative phone in the past few years. For starters, it finally offers wireless charging, and while many Android phones have offered wireless charging for years, Apple adopting it should help push the technology to a much higher level of availability. Of course, the $999 base price tag could be a little problematic for many would-be buyers. Despite that, however, anticipation for the iPhone X has apparently resulted in someone lackluster iPhone 8 sales — which was to be expected.  On top of that, Apple is said to be dealing with some serious stock issues. When the phone does finally launch in November, it’s likely that it will go out of stock pretty quickly.

We’ll have to wait and see what the outcome of the animoji lawsuit is, but we’ll update this article as we get more information.

Editor’s Recommendations

For those who want to watch the world burn, there’s Geostorm

This is probably how Geostorm came about: at some point a year or two ago, a bunch of Warner Bros. executives were sitting in front of a dartboard marked “big American concerns,” trying to decide what their next disaster film should be about besides digital tsunamis and improbably exploding buildings. On the dartboard: terrorism, climate change, natural disasters, worldwide political conflict, the Democrats, the Republicans, Donald Trump, isolationism, globalism, hackers and identity theft, technological changes, scientific overreach, family tensions, and adorable kids getting separated from their beloved doggos. “How many darts do we throw?” asked one exec. “Eh, this seems like a lot of work,” said another, to cover up the fact that he was terrible at darts. “Let’s just cram the whole board in there and call it a day.”

Hence Geostorm, an overstuffed, comically lousy thriller that tries to worry about all these things at once, and doesn’t do a particularly convincing job of worrying about any of them. The directorial debut of Dean Devlin (co-writer of Independence Day, its incoherent sequel, and the original Stargate movie) emerges from the kind of cheerfully sloppy aesthetic that produced disaster films like 2012, Into The Storm, and San Andreas. The actual point of the film is watching CGI cities around the world get destroyed by firestorms and tornados, as the foreshadowing sets up a technologically induced worldwide storm that will devastate the entire planet. Everything else is just set dressing, a way of trying to make the stakes personal for the audience. But just as trying to keep up with every geopolitical crisis on the planet all at once can be overwhelming, trying to track Geostorm’s name-checked concerns and its barely present characters is likely to tax viewers’ attention spans. Horror movies help people process some of our worst fears, but there’s a reason most movies don’t try to address every human fear at the same time.

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Gerard Butler stars as Jake Lawson, the snappish, arrogant engineer who designed and built a weather-control system in response to the rising number of natural disasters around the world. The system is commonly referred to as Dutchboy, after the fairy-tale story of a little boy who saved a Holland town by plugging a leak in a dike with his finger. Dutchboy consists of a global network of satellites surrounding the world, ready to disrupt storm systems with bombs, or employ high-energy lasers to… well, that part isn’t exactly clear. Something-something altering the conditions that let high-pressure systems form, or whatever. Point is, an international coalition of concerned countries built a giant space system that can incinerate anything on earth through a variety of means.

And yet somehow, no one ever even conceived of the idea that it might be used as a weapon. When the system somehow drops a polar vortex on a tiny town in Afghanistan and turns all the residents into dramatically fragile icicles, America attributes the problem to a system error and hides it from the world. (Which is odd, since UN soldiers discover the problem in the first place.) Then Hong Kong goes up in flames, and the US somehow covers that up as well. Turns out Dutchboy is due to be handed off from sole American control (somehow affected through a multi-country coalition on the International Space Station, one of the many plot points that makes not the faintest whiff of sense) in two weeks, and America’s president (Andy Garcia) refuses to turn over a damaged product. It’s pretty clear from the president’s first briefing exactly who’s behind the sabotage and what they want, but all the characters are ridiculously far behind the audience. It takes them a full hour into the film to even conceive that someone’s hacked and weaponized Dutchboy, and that those obliterated cities aren’t just software glitches.

Photo: Warner Bros.

Devlin and his co-writer Paul Guyot cram that first hour with characters and complications. Jake’s estranged brother Max (Jim Sturgess), a State Department official with a longstanding grudge against his cocky older brother, is put in charge of Dutchboy for political reasons. He’s dating Secret Service agent Sarah Wilson (Abbie Cornish), which they both have to keep quiet because of some kind of departmental fraternization rule. His old college buddy Cheng (Daniel Wu, now some form of climatologist in Hong Kong) gets an early whiff of the Dutchboy conspiracy, mostly so the cameras can accompany him on a frantic tear around Hong Kong, in the kind of calculated international action sequence that makes a blockbuster look friendlier to overseas audiences. Jake has a moppety daughter (Talitha Eliana Bateman), who’s mostly in the story to precociously analyze his character, then weep beautifully for the camera when he’s in danger. And when Jake arrives on the ISS to fix the problem, he meets a broadly multicultural crisis team who mostly have only the tiniest hint of story function, but at least give Geostorm a more diverse face.

All this character business takes a long and tedious time to set up, and it’s often handled in the clunky manner common to action movies that aren’t too particular about how information reaches the audience — as long as it shows up in time to frame the next set of explosions. Among the highlights: Max has far too many scenes with sassy hacker Dana (Zazie Beetz), who takes potshots at his girlfriend and spouts riveting lines like, “The user logs have been wiped clean! We have no digital fingerprints!” (She also compares a particular tempting risk to “going on a roller coaster eating Chipotle.”) Jake spends some charisma-free time fencing with the ISS chief scientist, Ute (Alexandra Maria Lara), who spends the whole movie trying to get him to take her seriously by competently proving him wrong, and still just gets a series of Butlerian smirks for her troubles. He also protagonist-splains Dutchboy’s working processes to the people who are actually running it, in an apparent bid to make himself the year’s most obnoxious protagonist. And then, a grim analysis of Dutchboy scenarios prompts the grim line, “They all end the same way… a geostorm.”

Geostorm is fundamentally devoted to making “geostorm” happen as a term, which explains why when things get critical on the ISS, a board lights up with “TIME TO GEOSTORM: 90 MINUTES,” and a friendly computer voice starts laying out the geostorm countdown. Maybe no one anticipated that Dutchboy could be weaponized, but the programmers sure as hell anticipated that they’d need themselves some kind of highly detailed, graphics-intensive geostorm warning. What they didn’t anticipate was that brothers Jake and Max would somehow find a way to get over their mutual grudges and work together, with Jake on the ISS and Max on the ground. Devlin and Guyot do bring some clever structural mechanics to the story, with twin mysteries playing out planetside and in orbit. It’s just that both play out the same way, with people staring at onscreen code and barking about their latest findings, or reminding each other of their past character conflicts before rapidly moving on.

Photo: Warner Bros.

And of course, this being a disaster movie, it’s all punctuated with disasters. “C’mon, aren’t you a little bit curious to watch the world burn?” sneers one revealed villain toward the end of the film, in a line that’s mostly cribbed from Heath Ledger’s Joker. But copycatting aside, the audience almost certainly is curious to see the world burn, or at least splinter under car-sized hailstones and cold waves that chase people around Brazil, exactly like the laughably memorable “fleeing from cold” sequence in The Day After Tomorrow. For viewers who are only in it for the disaster-porn, Geostorm’s main problem is that these sequences play out too similarly, with the camera finding one “face of the catastrophe” victim to follow around as things fall apart, and then the usual glossy CGI weather tearing glossy CGI cities to shreds. The effects in Day After Tomorrow had more weight and gravitas, and were more convincing; there’s a glib feeling of frantic speed to Geostorm’s disaster sequences that make them feel a bit like the hilariously elaborate cosmic deathtraps of the Final Destination movies.

And when the final plan is revealed, it’s a pretty stupid one. “I’m turning the clock back to 1945, when America was a shining city on a hill!” another villain yells, by way of explaining what the geostorm’s catastrophes are meant to accomplish. The moment feels like a self-conscious reference to Trump’s “make America great again” speeches, and their callbacks to an era an awful lot of people wouldn’t want to relive. But Geostorm doesn’t have time to examine the impact of these kinds of politics, or even to chuckle over the irony and insanity of trying to eke some political gain out of obliterating humanity. It’s one quick shouted moment in a long frantic rush of shouted moments and only partially formed ideas about current events. Geostorm could just as well have originated with someone channel-surfing through news channels and family melodramas, getting half-glimpses of reports on terrorist attacks and political commentary. “This would probably make a pretty good movie,” that theoretical exec might have thought. “As long as it ends in… a geostorm.”

Will Ferrell stars in PSA campaign to remind you to put your phone away

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Will Ferrell is here to remind you that technology can be terrible.  

A new PSA campaign, produced by Common Sense Media, features the Emmy-winning comedic actor being unable to put down his phone and making his family’s attempt at “device-free dinner” incredibly awkward. 

The campaign was released in tandem with the San-Francisco-based nonprofit’s most recent media use census

The report found that that children 8 years old and under spend a whopping 48 minutes a day staring at a mobile screen. It also found that 42 percent of children now own their own tablets. 

Both of these figures show a stark increase from previous years. These hilarious yet somber ads show us that maybe we should be, uh, doing something about this. 

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Common Sense Media hopes these ads will encourage families to have device-free dinners of their own. 

The organization’s website contains tips to plan a successful device-free dinner. For example: Establish consequences if your kids are using their phones too much. And maybe don’t invite Will Ferrell over. 

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Apple makes an unexpected deal to improve cell service in Puerto Rico e91e 9650%2fthumb%2f00001

The ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico is making some strange bedfellows.

On Wednesday, Apple announced that it will, with AT&T’s help, enable the 900 MHz Band 8 ban cell service on many iPhones in Puerto Rico. That band can only connect to Google’s Project Loon.

“We are working with AT&T to activate cellular service for iPhone users in Puerto Rico as the island recovers from Hurricane Maria. Apple engineers have created a special carrier settings update which users connected to Wi-Fi or who are connected to a cellular network will automatically be prompted to download throughout the week,” said Apple in an official statement.

Devastated on an almost unprecedented scale by Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico has struggled to rebuild core parts of its infrastructure, including basic communication technologies. Many people reported being unable to contact friends and families via cellphones and the internet. 

900 MHz (a 3G Extended GSM network) is not the normal band for cell communications and is not even one licensed for use in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. However, it is the communication band supported by Google’s Project Loon project. 

Earlier this month, Google got the okay to float its still-experimental, helium-balloon-based connection technology over the storm-ravaged island. The Loon balloons are designed to provide internet connectivity for rural areas and operate, more or less, as unmoored cell-towers, floating in the stratosphere and staying aloft for six months. A network carrier, like AT&T, communicates from the ground with the nearest Loon balloon and the balloons communicate with each other. Google’s balloons can provide up to a 10 Mbps LTE connectivity for cellphone owners on the ground.

However, before AT&T iPhone owners (iPhone 5c and above running iOS 10 and higher) can connect to Google’s Loon balloons, they need a crucial carrier update which will enable the 900 MHz Band 8. The iPhone’s mobile broadband radio already supports the provisional band, it’s just not enabled on the phone so the device doesn’t waste battery power scanning for a band that usually doesn’t have service.

The update is comparatively tiny (it can be measured in kilobytes), but the question remains: If there’s limited connectivity, how are Puerto Rico’s iPhone users going to download it?

According to StatusPR, a governmental web site dedicated to tracking Puerto Rica’s infrastructure in the wake of Hurricane Maria, more than half of the U.S. territory’s cell towers are out of commission and 75% of cell antennas are still not functional.

There are pockets of connectivity and, overall, StatusPR reports 61% of the Puerto Rican telecommunication system is back online. This, however, includes wired and wireless systems. It’s not clear if AT&T iPhone customers can also download that carrier update from wired systems.

We’ve contacted AT&T for clarification and will update this story with their response. 2dbb 83fc%2fthumb%2f00001

Alphabet’s Project Loon deploys LTE balloons in Puerto Rico

Alphabet’s Project Loon has officially deployed its LTE balloons to Puerto Rico, the team announced this afternoon. In a blog penned by Project Loon head Alastair Westgarth, the company says it’s working with the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Aviation Authority, FEMA, and other cellular spectrum and aviation authorities to bring connectivity to parts of the island still suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Loon’s official LTE partner for the initiative is AT&T, which is helping Loon use its fleet of stratospheric helium balloons to bring functions like text messaging and minor web browsing access to Puerto Rico residents who have LTE-equipped smartphones.

“We’ve never deployed Project Loon connectivity from scratch at such a rapid pace, and we’re grateful for the support of AT&T and the many other partners and organizations that have made this possible,” Westgarth writes. “Thanks to the Pan-American and Puerto Rican governments’ aviation authorities and air traffic controllers, who enabled us to send small teams of balloons from our launch site in Nevada to Puerto Rico. Thanks also to SES Networks and Liberty Cablevision who helped quickly set up essential ground infrastructure so that the balloons could get internet connectivity.”

Loon’s balloons have been used in a number of regions across the globe since 2013, including one other high-profile disaster relief effort in Peru after the country was struck with massive rains and extreme flooding back in May of last year. Yet the effort in Puerto Rico marks the fastest deployment, and its aimed at helping nearly 3.5 million residents of the island regain connectivity. As of early October, when the FCC first gave Loon the green light to operate in Puerto Rico, nearly 83 percent of cell towers were still down.