Apple patents tamper-evident labels for iPods and iPhones

Apple patents tamper-evident labels for iPods and iPhones

Summary: Tinkerers, hackers and modders listen up: First it was water, then cigarette smoke, now Apple's threatening to void your warranty if you open the case.


Patent 1It's patent time here again at The Apple Core -- which means that it's time delve into one of the multitude of new patent applications filed by our favorite Cupertino computer company.

In its latest patent application Apple is trying to protect a specialized label that would be installed in hardware that tells Apple techs if the case of an iPhone or iPod has been opened or "compromised."

Apple notes that tampering with an electronic device can destroy it and that its new tamper-evident technology could save manufacturers "substantial costs." Apple also claims that without evidence of such tampering, manufacturers will be obligated to provide warranty coverage on tampered devices. An expense that the company would rather not incur.

The technology is not unlike the Liquid Submersion Indicators (LSIs) that Apple added to iPhones, MacBooks and keyboards about a year ago.

In knowledgebase article HT3425 Apple clearly disclaims warranty coverage on any portable or desktop keyboard that's been exposed to water:

Liquid submersion indicators (LSI) have been added to specific locations on current Mac portables and desktop keyboards to help determine if systems have been exposed to liquid. Damage due to liquid exposure is not covered by the Apple one (1) year limited warranty or the AppleCare Protection Plan (APP).

In HT3302 Apple further states that iPhones and iPods built after 2006 have LSIs that will show whether water or a liquid containing water has entered the device:

If an iPhone or iPod has been damaged by water or a liquid containing water (for example, coffee or a soft drink), the repair is not covered by the Apple one (1) year limited warranty or an AppleCare Protection plan (APP).

Apple's new patent describes the tamper-evident labels as being U-shaped or zigzagged and being made from paper, plastic, or a metallic foil.

In the event that the user nevertheless does fully or substantially open the electronic device, then the label tears or otherwise becomes damaged... Although such damage may be noticed by the user after opening the device, any repair or replacement of the torn or damaged label would ordinarily be difficult after the fact. In the event that the electronic device is ever exchanged, returned for repairs or otherwise provided back to the manufacturer or other authorized party, then the device can be checked to see if it has ever been opened since its initial issuance.

Who wants to bet that it's also a hologram?

The prolific teardown artists (and iPod parts and repair shop) at iFixIt worry that in its attempt to thwart tinkerers Apple is contributing to our disposable culture and adding more e-waste to our landfills, telling AppleInsider:

We wish Apple would a little effort into making iPods repairable, instead of forcing people to throw them away when they break. Recent iPods have become increasingly difficult to successfully repair.

Are tamper labels good business or just another way for Apple to void its warranty?

Tip: AppleInsider

Topics: Smartphones, Apple, Hardware, iPhone, Legal, Mobility

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  • Our favorite Cupertino company

    Always looking out for our best interests.
    • How exactly is it in your interest to have others defraud Apples warranty ?

      That just means it would be harder to finance a good service response
      for legitimate warranty claims. But then again that is not what this is all
      about for you? Is it MR. NonZealot.
  • more power to them

    I'm an overjoyed Apple care customer and whatever they can
    do to eliminate claims caused by things customers is not
    supposed to be doing sounds good to me
  • Big brother Apple, what a surprise.. nt

    • Big google supporter are we? - NT

  • It's their right

    Apple can put any conditions it wishes on the sale of its goods, particularly where warranty is concerned. If Apple doesn't want to sell iPhones to people wearing brown shoes, so be it. As long as consumers are made aware up front what those conditions are, no one has any cause to complain. If you don't like the terms, don't buy the product - it applies to Microsoft and it applies to Apple.

    For myself, I don't like the terms so I don't buy it. Others may feel that being taken care of by Apple trumps personal freedom; that's their right. I only hope that if/when Apple incorporates this mechanism into its products that consumers are made aware before the sale that the device is "tamper-proof" and tampering voids the warranty. If so, more power to Apple.

    Carl Rapson
    • No, it's not

      [i]Apple can put any conditions it wishes on the sale of its goods[/i]

      Wrong. If they said "We are only going to sell to white males aged between 20 and 25" they would be (a) stupid to reduce their consumer base and (b) sued so fast that they would likely fold.

      It can put conditions on warranty repairs, but it can't put [b]any[/b] condition on who it sells to.
      • Yes, it is.

        I'm willing to bet that magcomment has never produced any intellectual
        property for commercial use, has no patents or even trademarks.

        Apple is right to do this, and people should feel lucky that apple allows a
        user to transfer the license of their software w/o requiring the new end-
        user to pay a license transfer fee. License transfer fees are quite
        common in high-end computer industry.
        • So....

          You contend that if Apple said they would not sell to, say, blacks or hispanics, that would be perfectly legal ? I don't think so.

          I was responding to the comment that they could put whatever condition they want on the sale of the product. They can't. They can, as you point out, put restrictions on what happens to the license after sale. But that's not what I was pointing out.

          And, for the record, I don't have any patents or trademarks. But again, that's not what we are talking about.
        • Your new car...

          So, it would be OK for all the car manufacturers to weld their hoods closed and when you need a new battery, you have to throw the car away...
          • I agree, within reason.

            Your example is good for user replacement of parts. However, there are people that enhance their car's performance and add dangerous aftermarket parts and this damages car and this is not warrantied under car warranty. Also intentionally driving your car into the wall and then asking the car manufacture is not warranty.
            I agree that computer manufactures should allow maintenance of certain items in the computer. However, there are some incompetent people that damages the computer and the want the computer manufacture to repair this at computer manufacture's expense for no good reason.
            The problem is that iPhone and most MacBook and MacBookPros have removed all normally user accessible parts like the battery, RAM, and hard drive so putting these "tamper evident" devices doesn't help.
          • Not so...

            While the iPod and iPhone have no user serviceable parts, that's not true
            for the notebooks. if you go to:


            Look on page 37 there are instruction for replacing the hard drive
            in an Apple notebook. On page 44 There are detailed instructions on
            replacing the RAM.
          • Yup.

            I've got a MacBook Pro and when I ordered it, it only came with 1GB of RAM. I didn't want to pay the $600 to max it out with 4GB, so I bought my own RAM online and put it in myself with the instructions from Apple.

            In my old PowerBook G4, I put in a DVD SuperDrive, new RAM and an upgraded hard drive. All with instructions from Apple's website and iFixIt.

            These were all fairly easy repairs and my PowerBook worked well for another couple of years before I decided to upgrade. Apple or a reputable service provider would have charged me hundreds of dollars to do these services (at least). I think it's a bit unfair that Apple would void the warranty if the seal is broken. If I replace the hard drive in my computer and 3 months later the screen just quits working, I think Apple should have to replace the screen under warranty, assuming I did nothing to harm it.

            It's like all or nothing. I'm opposed to it on computer hardware. As for the iPhone/iPods, they're such a pain to mess with anyway that I wouldn't care if they sealed them shut forever. I could never see entering my iPhone or iPod for any reason other than to tamper with it so I think it's a good idea for Apple to protect themselves from that.
        • re: Yes, it is.

          I am certain that Apple would collect license transfer fees if there was a feasible way to do so. I don't feel lucky at all.

          An iPod touch is not a Cisco router. Apple doesn't know who its "licensees" are any more than Metallica does. Can't say that about Cisco, and when you know who your licensees are, and can bind them individually and identifiably, the transfer fee is very feasible.

          Apple would be just as likely as Cisco to leave money on the table: not very likely.

          Whether the OP has any patents or trademarks could not be more irrelevant. When you buy an iPod, it's a sale transaction. It's no different than buying a burger at a restaurant.

          I think it's pretty clear McDonalds would be in trouble (or Best Buy or even the Apple store) if it refused service to people with brown shows, red hair, green eyes or whatever.

          Now, I know some will have an issue with it being a sale transaction and not licensing. Think about it. Users don't enter the end user contract until they get the product home and agree to it. Even though they have to agree to get past the screen and actually use the product, at the store counter there is no agreement. It's a sale.

          Also, there is no more intellectual property in the iPod touch than there is in a Kodak digital camera. I would not be surprised if the Big Mac embodies IP. We know it carries a trademark. The presence of IP does not give sellers new rights to refuse service to anyone they want.

          none none
      • Of course

        You're right, it would be stupid to reduce their consumer base, but it's their right to do so if they wish. A lot of Apple supporters here at ZDNet in fact praise Apple for doing exactly that - not catering to the unwashed masses. It keeps Apple's market share (in PCs, anyway) small but happy - no dealing with pesky clueless consumers.

        You're second point, about being sued, is a result of our lawsuit-happy society, not any inherent restriction of Apple's rights. The point is, Apple SHOULD be free to sell to whomever it wants, under whatever conditions it wants. If Apple were to put such a restriction on sales of their products, my personal response would be to not buy their products and maybe even speak out against them. I see no need to sue Apple over that; simply don't give them your money.

        Carl Rapson
        • They could face legal consequences for discriminatory actions

          If they refused to sell to a minority, I guarantee you it would be a legal issue since they are a publicly traded company. A privately owned for-profit corporation may be able to get away with that.
          Michael Kelly
      • Am I the only one?

        That got what he said?

        [i] If Apple doesn't want to sell iPhones to people wearing brown shoes,
        so be it. As long as consumers are made aware up front what those
        conditions are, no one has any cause to complain.[/i]

        The example was not meant to be factual, just hypothetical. I am sure if
        Carl was trying to be factual, he would have used the Apple vs. Psystar
        case. Where Apple limits the use of OS X to their own hardware. I could
        be wrong, but I understood what Carl was saying.
    • re: It's their right

      [i]Apple can put any conditions it wishes on the sale of its goods, particularly where warranty is concerned.[/i]

      It can put any [i]reasonable and legal[/i] conditions on the warranty. It can't, for example, condition its warranty promise on the posting of a $1 million bond by its customers.

      none none
      • On that note.

        Apple, Microsoft, Nikon, Toyota, etc., are not responsible to repair
        products damaged by the end user. IF they offer a pay for service deal
        on items, that is one thing, but to deny warranty claims due to neglect
        and abuse is perfectly legal. Drop a $1,000 digital camera in your
        pool, do not expect it to be covered under warranty.

        Here's a side note you may find interesting. In the late 80's and early
        90's; Nissan Motor Corporation instructed the Nissan dealers to
        inspect 4WD drive pickups for signs of "off-roading". If the dealer
        found signs (mud in the frame, scraped and bent skid plates, water in
        the differential, the warranty on the vehicle was voided. Ford, Chevy,
        Dodge, Toyota did the same. I heard about this from Mechanics at few
        dealerships. So this is nothing new or outrageous. I have seen people
        that will abuse their vehicles and expect the dealers to fix them under
        warranty. Also check the warranty on a motocross bike, you will find
        there is no warranty, as it is considered a racing machine. From the
        Honda website:
        "Models Covered
        Honda Protection Plan coverage is available for new Honda ATVs and
        select Honda Motorcycles [b](excludes all CRs and competition
        CRFs*)[/b] that are still under factory warranty. Honda Protection Plans
        are also available for Certified Pre-Owned vehicles that are obtained
        from your Honda Dealer's inventory. The maximum term length for
        pre-owned models is 24 months.

        *Honda Protection Plans are not available for CR, CRF-R and CRF-X
  • Another Apple "innovation."

    "Warranty void if seal is broken." Geez, I've had these stickers on my
    Thinkpads and Dells for years.

    Once again, Apple is just following others. ;)