Bezos Wants to Protect Your Device from Impact Damage

ParachutingDropping your phone might not be as gut-wrenching as it is today if Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has his way. He and a colleague have filed for a patent for a system that would cushion mobile devices whenever they sense they are falling. He’s proposing three methods: springs, airbags and jets.

Bezos applied for the patent in February 2010, though it was only recently made available.

“A system and method for protecting devices from impact damage is provided. Prior to impact between a surface and a device, a determination of a risk of damage to the device is made. If the risk of damage to the device exceeds a threshold, a protection system is activated to reduce or substantially eliminate damage to the device.”

When dropped the gadget would calculate the severity of the fall and determine whether or not to deploy. If it does, the system would right itself — much like a cat rights itself when falling from a tree — with an on-board gyroscope and a series of jets that would force “a gas through a modifiable opening in the portable device” to adjust its decent. The system could force the device to fall on a side where an airbag or springs would take the greatest impact.

The technology for this doesn’t exist, but the U.S. patent office doesn’t care. Anyone applying needs only the idea, and the technology can come later. It’s why more and more people see patents — not inventions — as the commodity. Google acquired Motorola in part for its arsenal of patents. Apple, Microsoft and RIM jointly paid $4.5 billion for more than 6,000 Nortel patents. The idea there is one company won’t sue the other over patent infringement. The loser in all this is the garage tinkerer who actually invents a system to protect a falling gadget that comes too close to Bezos’s idea. She doesn’t have an arsenal of patents to protect herself.

Of course, that’s the cynical view. Bezos is an innovator and might surprise us with this value-added feature to the new Kindle tablet.

Photo: Nicke L on Wikimedia

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