Apple claims to have invented location services

In a desperate bid to prevent people buying rival products, it seems that Apple is becoming one of the worst patent trolls in the business.

Not only did it acquire a patent for touch screens recently, it has now got its paws on a patent for location based services.

CBS  says the patent originally dating back to 1998 has been acquired from Xerox and gives Jobs’ Mob some serious power over the likes of Google, Facebook and Foursquare.

Apple could be nice, and force these companies to pay for a licence but what is more likely is that Jobs’ Mob will refuse to license the technology and demand that it is removed from rival products.

Location-based services are vital for any mobile plans including the latest ideas for advertising, social networks, mapping, flash deals, and augmented reality.

The patent that issued yesterday, RE42,927, is actually a reissue of a patent that Xerox received in 2000 and filed for in 1998. The US Patent and Trademark Office, Apple received ownership of the patent on December 17, 2009.

It is old enough to predate everything that is happening in both mobile and social media and is so broad that you can land a 777 on it, sideways.

It talks about a location information system that displays location specific information, the location information system, comprising: a receiver that receives location identification information from at least one site specific object identifying a location.Iadd., where the at least one site specific object is a beacon.Iaddend.; and a transceiver that transmits the location identification information to a distributed network and that receives the location specific information about the specified location from the distributed network based on the location identification information, wherein the location specific information provides information corresponding to the location.

In other words the system will display information that is specific to the device’s location. There is no restriction on what the information conveys.

The patent description makes it clear that this could include GPS signals from space or a barcode plastered on a building. You could include GPS radios in mobiles or a camera and software combo that would obtain a two-dimension QR barcode. Apple has apparently broadened the language to include GPS systems.

If Apple were to use this patent aggressively it could effectively take all non-Apple smartphones off the shelves. Given that Steve Jobs ordered thermonuclear war against Android for “stealing his ideas” it looks like it will do just that.