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'Death to browsers!' cries Apple mobile-app patent

The camel's nose under Google's tent

A trio of Apple filings seek to patent mobile-application "systems and methods" for travel and online shopping — and to move us three steps closer to a Google-free world.

Taken together, the three filings point not only to the browserless future that Apple is seeking for its iOS devices, but also — if granted by the much-maligned US Patent and Trademark Office — to an application ecosystem in which software patents are sweepingly broad and the protection of "prior art" is enfeebled.

The filings were each filed late last year and published on Thursday — a relatively short gestation period in patentland. Hotel and travel services are covered by a pair, and the third seeks patent protection for "providing enhanced access to high fashion".

Of course, such services are offered today on a wide variety of websites from Travelocity to Neiman Marcus, but a website is a website, and an app is a discrete chunk of code that can be patented — unless you're in New Zealand.

And if you just dropped in on the civilized world after a decade-long hermitage in the wilds of that country's Raukumara Wilderness Area, here's a bit of news: Apple would rather deliver content — and advertising — through its "curated" App Store than in the unregulated wilderness area of the wild and woolly web. That web, of course, is currently the playground of two of Steve Jobs bêtes noires: porn and Google.

Thursday's three patents contain what you might guess: catch-all conglomerations of travel and shopping possibilities. Should you care to dig deeply into them, they can be accessed at the links above, but here's a trio of summaries, illustrated with snippets of their voluminous illustrations — we'll abbreviate "systems and methods" for the sake of space:

S&M for providing enhanced access to high fashion

This filing describes an app that leads an iOS device owner through all phases of the "high-fashion" shopping experience, from pre-shopping inducements such as new-product notifications and event invitations to post-shopping interaction such as the ability to "rate and review stores, fashion providers, fashion items, or any combination of the above."

Surprisingly, knowing Apple's penchant for adding location awareness to most every service-based patent application, the filing makes only cursory mention of location-based services such as suggesting nearby stores that might have available an item selected by or offered to a user.

Apple patent illustration

$100 off any outerware item! Who could resist?

Apple patent illustration

Playful Picks, Elegant Indulgences, and a Facebook page to locate the perfect wristlet

Apple patent illustration

Experiment with colors before you invest $450

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