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Apple patent controversy: patent diagrams look a lot like existing apps

Apple's got an interesting new patent application for a location-based suggestion system to be used in travel apps. There's nothing too controversial about the idea, but the patent diagrams have third-party iPhone developers taking notice because they look an awful lot like existing apps. Drawings in the patent closely resemble Where To?, GuideYou Amsterdam and an official Ralph Lauren app.

Dan Wineman caught the similarities on his blog, and the story was picked up by TechCrunch and others. Should developers be worried that Apple is going to patent their apps and put them out of business? Probably not. Apple's patent is for the very general purpose of "integrating travel services in a single application available to a portable electronic device." Whatever they're planning is probably a lot bigger than any of these individual apps, and won't end up looking like any of them.

I'd actually be excited if Apple came out with a full-service travel app like the one described, that could be used for "reserving a travel itinerary, checking-in remotely for a reservation, providing airport information, providing for social networking, obtaining dining or entertainment during travel, controlling and requesting cabin services, providing arrival notifications to third parties, providing destination location information, and the like." That's a little more than just finding relevant location-based suggestion while you travel.

Tags: apple, dan wineman, DanWineman, patent, travel, where to, WhereTo