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Apple secures system-on-chip patent protecting future A-series processors

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday granted Apple a short but important patent relating to system-on-chip (SoC) design and manufacture, with the property likely aimed at protecting the company's A-series mobile processors.

SoC Patent
Source: USPTO


Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,334,704 for "Systems and methods for providing a system-on-a-substrate" covers the basic functions and architecture of SoCs like those found in iPhones, iPads and iPods.

Simply put, an SoC combines all circuitry integral to a computing device, such as the processor and memory, onto a single microchip. In more traditional layouts, each component is a distinct "entity" or package and is usually built on a separate microchip which is then installed onto a circuit board. With SoC technology, components can be stacked on top of each other or otherwise located on the same substrate in what is called "bare die" form.

SoC Embodiments
Variations of SoC architecture.


SoCs like Apple's latest A6X found in the fourth-generation iPad allow for performance in a greatly reduced space, an optimal solution for mobile devices. The '704 patent outlines such a system, noting that each bare die can include processors, memory, CODEC circuity, I/O controllers, communications assets, accelerometers and more.

The patent language states that the components on die can go through one another in efforts to further save space.

SoC Package
Illustrated SoC with dense component layout.


Also called for is a flexible printed circuit board, called a flex, which couples to the SoC to provide further component space. For example, the flex can extend beyond the die to provide for one or more components which are attached to the SoC. For example, memory can be located above or below the substrate in various embodiments.

SoC Ledge
Component (404a) coupled to SoC via flex ledge.


In some configurations, the NAND flash memory used by the processing package can be located on the same side of the substrate as the integral components, such as is the case with recent A-series chips.

Apple filed for the patent in September 2009, six months prior to unveiling the A4 SoC introduced in the first iPad. Most recently, the Cupertino, Calif., company released its first in-house designed package-on-package SoC with the A6 powering the iPhone 5.
post #2 of 20
"company released its first in-house designed package-on-package SoC with the A6 powering the iPhone 5."

You are getting wrong. In house development of the Ax SoCs (the SoC part) has always been the case since the first A4. What the A6 brings is that the Arm cpu core is also totally custom designed by Apple now instead of using the Arm reference design.
post #3 of 20
"Apple never invented anything" -- anonymous fandroids

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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post #4 of 20

Don't some Intel chips have the processor, graphics and graphics ram already on them?

Seems odd that no company has ever thought about packaging everything together before.

post #5 of 20

Since it's certain that Apple has actually *not* been granted a patent for the very familiar and common concept of an "SoC," and since the author of this article can't actually explain what *has* been patented, what the implications of it might be, or what any of this means .... 

 

Why run the article at all?  Why not just run a mention with a link to a site that actually knows about this stuff or can offer even a basic explanation of what was patented and what the likely consequences of that are?  

post #6 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evilution View Post

Don't some Intel chips have the processor, graphics and graphics ram already on them?

Seems odd that no company has ever thought about packaging everything together before.

 

That's because many companies actually have thought of it before, and Apple hasn't in fact been granted a patent on the entire SoC concept as the article mistakenly implies. 

post #7 of 20
but, but, Samsung is just gonna say it is Obvious... Anyone who is space constrained would do that...
but Samsung is cheap... thus does not need to devise solutions to a problem of thinness,
they just need to be Devious, and Rationalize that the size of the phone is good enough... (bigger, better)

Sammy-sung in a "sing-song" tone of voice.... Coulda, wouda, shoulda if weeee weren't Constrained by patents.

could this be the end of an era of copying????...

pick and choose the Satirical elements of this post....
post #8 of 20

Doesn't matter. This will be invalidated, just like all of Apple's other valid patents.

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

Reply
post #9 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evilution View Post

Don't some Intel chips have the processor, graphics and graphics ram already on them?
Seems odd that no company has ever thought about packaging everything together before.


no, that is a cache... (and necessary elements of a product in a 2d space) on a single chip.

but i think the patent invoves stacking Integrated circuits (BGA) on top of each other thus using the I.C.'s themselves as "circuit boards"...

it is easier for two people standing side-by-side, than on the shoulders of person, to use a bad analogy... for an example of the difficult of stacking and side by side...
post #10 of 20
It is really fascinating how generic and bland these patents become after competing between controlling some original idea and not giving away any future plans for development. I would also agree that the system on a chip idea is not new. The flexible substrate is probably the item that is different enough to attempt to patent. I would expect most of this to be generic enough to fail in lawsuits over extended litigation, but I am not sure that this is nearly as important as having a whole ecosystem of patents. It is much more expensive to litigate against a competitor who holds several patents needed in one area. I suspect this is only relevant for one type of flexible patent material, but the legalese purposefully opens the door to a more expansive view.
post #11 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Doesn't matter. This will be invalidated, just like all of Apple's other valid patents.


Tallest Skil.. if it has not been said before .... Congratulations on the promotion to Administrator from Global Moderator

shorter job titles... more power... only 136 more posts til you hit 20K!...
post #12 of 20
Originally Posted by haar View Post
Tallest Skil.. if it has not been said before .... Congratulations on the promotion to Administrator from Global Moderator

 

Hey, thanks. I hope to be able to tighten the chokehold on all manner of spam from up here, as well as see how adding some new features for users goes.

 

…more power…

 

I immediately went mad with it. It was the only thing I could do under the circumstances. lol.gif

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

Reply

Originally Posted by Slurpy

There's just a TINY chance that Apple will also be able to figure out payments. Oh wait, they did already… …and you’re already f*ed.

 

Reply
post #13 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

Doesn't matter. This will be invalidated, just like all of Apple's other valid patents.


You're definitely committed to your viewpoint. You should remember Apple has challenged patents as well. It works the same way if someone sues them. I just wish the process consistently involved expert review. Look at the actual claim pasted below. You would require some background knowledge of soc design to be sure of what is obvious or existed in development phases. Much of that is just a reiteration of an soc. Since I know Samsung will inevitably come up at some point, they have done some research in flexible components. They were interested in flexible displays a while ago. Anyway would you know which elements were used in the past?

 

 

Quote:
What is claimed is:

1. A method for creating a system, the method comprising: coupling a microchip to a first surface of a substrate, wherein the microchip comprises every system component of the system; coupling a second surface of the substrate to a flexible printed circuit board ("flex"); coupling at least one test point to at least one system component of the microchip, wherein the test point is operable to indicate the quality of the at least one system component; and separating a first portion of the system from a remaining portion of the system, wherein the first portion comprises the at least one test point and the at least one system component.

2. The method of claim 1, further comprising coupling the flex to an entity, wherein the flex and the substrate electrically couple the microchip to the entity.

3. The method of claim 2, where the entity comprises a flash memory.

4. The method of claim 1, wherein the at least one test point is positioned in the flex.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the first portion further comprises a memory component coupled to the at least one test point.

6. The method of claim 5, further comprising decoupling the memory component from the at least one test point, wherein the decoupling allows the at least one test point to be accessed by a test probe.
post #14 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evilution View Post

Don't some Intel chips have the processor, graphics and graphics ram already on them?

Seems odd that no company has ever thought about packaging everything together before.

 

The patent is not for SoC, although the article (and maybe even the patent) are vague enough that it is tough to tell what they are actually patenting.  Most likely they added their own little twist somewhere and are protecting themselves from any 'copy exact' shenaningans or to stop rivals with similar SoC patents from suing Apple for too closely copying their designs.

 

System on a chip implementations have been around at least since the 70's and specific to VLSI / IC chip manufacture Intel had SoC devices in production several years before 2009 when Apple filed for their invention.

 

Components through components is also too widespread so maybe the part about using a flexible PCB instead of a rigid one is their invention.

post #15 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by haar View Post

but, but, Samsung is just gonna say it is Obvious... Anyone who is space constrained would do that...
but Samsung is cheap... thus does not need to devise solutions to a problem of thinness,
they just need to be Devious, and Rationalize that the size of the phone is good enough... (bigger, better)
Sammy-sung in a "sing-song" tone of voice.... Coulda, wouda, shoulda if weeee weren't Constrained by patents.
could this be the end of an era of copying????...
pick and choose the Satirical elements of this post....

 

You forget that early iPhones used a Samsung-designed SoC that did exactly put memory Package-on-Package, and so on, and that this design actually eventually formed the basis of the A4.

 

This article must be missing something out - Apple can't patent the SoC with multiple components only, as that has been done before - so what is the extra that Apple has added to make it unique?

 

Edit: The patent might be about exposing test I/Os through a multi-chip package so that you can test deeply embedded chips.

post #16 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

"Apple never invented anything" -- anonymous fandroids

You know desperate people generate misleading information.  To me, the hardcore Fandroids are those that don't anything other than play around with their OS, pirate music, movies, and hack into games because they like to CHEAT.  

post #17 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Evilution View Post

Don't some Intel chips have the processor, graphics and graphics ram already on them?
Seems odd that no company has ever thought about packaging everything together before.
The intel integrated graphics use the main system ram, it doesn't have integrated video ram like ATI/AMD and Nvidea.
post #18 of 20
It was scary stuff, radically advanced.  ...
It took us in new directions... things we would
never have thought of.

 

- Miles Dyson (Joe Morton, "Terminator 2: Judgement Day," 1991)


Edited by SockRolid - 12/18/12 at 1:55pm

Sent from my iPhone Simulator

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Sent from my iPhone Simulator

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post #19 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by BoxMacCary View Post

This is huge ....

This patent seems destined to be overturned someday. Don't get too excited.
post #20 of 20
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hattig View Post

You forget that early iPhones used a Samsung-designed SoC that did exactly put memory Package-on-Package, and so on, and that this design actually eventually formed the basis of the A4.

 

This article must be missing something out - Apple can't patent the SoC with multiple components only, as that has been done before - so what is the extra that Apple has added to make it unique?

 

Correct, this is not a patent on SoCs.  

 

Nor is it a patent on something broad like stacking multiple layers together, since that's how Samsung has made their huge multi-GB memory chips for years.

 

 

Edit: The patent might be about exposing test I/Os through a multi-chip package so that you can test deeply embedded chips.

 

 

 

I think you're right.  The description talks about using it to gain access to test points without having to get close to the actual components under test, and possibly causing damage to them.

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