The patent's assignee for patent number 8740443 is Core Wireless Licensing S.A.R.L. (Luxembourg, LU).
News editors obtained the following quote from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Light guides are used in electronic devices to conduct light from one or more light sources to desired locations. As examples, there are known backlighted liquid crystal displays and illuminated keypads. Prior art solutions for uniformly illuminating a backlighted liquid crystal display are known for example from US 2005/0052732 A1; U.S. Pat. No. 6,592,233 B1; and US 2005/0213348 A1. Keypad illumination solutions are known for example from US 2005/0202787 A1; U.S. Pat. No. 6,550,927 B1; and U.S. Pat. No. 6,006,118 B1. A publication WO 03/047222 A1 discloses a combined solution for backlighting a display and illuminating a keypad with common components for generating and distributing light.
"In some cases it is desirable to make the visual appearance of a user interface change depending on some affecting factor. For example, if the keys of a keypad have graphical markings on them to help the user visualize, which characters and/or functions are associated with each key, and such associations may vary depending on e.g. an operating mode of an electronic device that contains said keypad, it would increase the convenience of using the device if the correct key markings would appear in the correct orientation in each case."
As a supplement to the background information on this patent, VerticalNews correspondents also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "The present invention aims at providing an apparatus in which graphical user interface features appear differently under different conditions.
"The objectives of the invention are achieved by providing for the propagation of light inside a light guide selectively in at least two clearly distinct general directions, and using direction-dependent outcoupling structures on at least one surface of the light guide, so that depending on the general propagation direction of light inside the light guide, light is coupled out differently due to the orientation of the outcoupling structures.
"An apparatus according to the invention is characterised by the features recited in the characterising part of the independent claim directed to an apparatus.
"A communications device according to the invention is characterised by the features recited in the characterising part of the independent claim directed to a communications device.
"A structural module according to the invention is characterised by the features recited in the characterising part of the independent claim directed to a structural module.
"A method according to the invention is characterised by the features recited in the characterising part of the independent claim directed to a method.
"A computer program product according to the invention is characterised by the features recited in the characterising part of the independent claim directed to a computer program product.
"Features that affect the propagation of light in some relatively strictly defined general direction or general directions inside a light guide include (but are not limited to) selecting the location(s) of light source(s) appropriately in relation with the light guide, selectively switching on and off light sources if there are at least two of them, arranging the incoupling of light from the light source(s) into the light guide in a suitable way, and selecting a suitable form and material for the light guide. Structures on the surfaces of the light guide play an important role in defining, how light is coupled out from the light guide.
"A direction-dependent outcoupling structure is such that causes light to be emitted out of the light guide differently depending on the propagation direction of the light inside the light guide. Examples of known direction-dependent outcoupling structures include, but are not limited to, diffraction gratings, prisms and prism arrays. By using a suitable distribution of direction-dependent outcoupling structures, it is possible to select an area of the light guide that has a desired form and that couples out much more light that propagates in one direction inside the light guide than light that propagates in other directions inside the light guide.
"An example of applying this principle is a keypad structure that includes an essentially planar light guide as well as light sources that are configured to selectively cause light to propagate inside the light guide in at least two distinct general directions. Coincident with the location of at least one key, a surface of the light guide has direction-dependent outcoupling structures. If light is made to propagate inside the light guide in a first general direction, light is coupled out at the location of said key in a first way. If light is made to propagate inside the light guide in a second general direction, light is coupled out at the location of said key in a second way, which is different than said first way. For example, in the first-mentioned case the light coupled out at the location of said key may appear to a human user as a first illuminated character, and in the second case the light coupled out may appear to the user as a second, different character.
"In order to create conditions in which light from an essentially point-like source at an edge of a light guide does not spread into all angles but is significantly collimated, it is possible to design the edge form of the light guide near to the light source so that reflections from nearby edges limit the angles into which light will propagate.
"The exemplary embodiments of the invention presented in this patent application are not to be interpreted to pose limitations to the applicability of the appended claims. The verb 'to comprise' is used in this patent application as an open limitation that does not exclude the existence of also unrecited features. The features recited in depending claims are mutually freely combinable unless otherwise explicitly stated."
For additional information on this patent, see: Ahlgren, Pentti; Laitinen, Pauli. Changing Graphics in an Apparatus Including User Interface Illumination. U.S. Patent Number 8740443, filed
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