The United States Patent and Trademark Office has granted Apple a new patent for a portable digital camera that can be controlled using a wrist-worn device. News of the patent has sent GoPro's stocks on a nosedive as investors fear Apple could snatch the action cam leadership away from GoPro.
On Tuesday, Jan. 13, GoPro's stocks fell $6.91 down to $49.87, or as much as 12 percent, following news reports of Apple's latest patent, which is for a "digital camera system with remote control." The patent says it is aimed at a weakness in GoPro cameras, whose final image quality is affected by the camera's lack of wind resistance. It also differentiates itself by being able to be controlled remotely through a wrist wearable, possibly the new Apple Watch that will hit retail stores this year.
Other patent details include underwater shooting capabilities, multiple camera lenses and the option to be mounted on helmets, scuba masks, surfboards, handlebars, dog harnesses and the like.
Reports from various media outlets claim that the patent was "filed by Apple in 2012," suggesting that the iPhone maker invented its own GoPro competitor. A report made by Patently Apple says the patent "appears to now incorporate intellectual property from Kodak," implying that Apple licensed technology from the film camera company to make its own portable digital camera.
However, as Apple Insider points out, a closer look at the patent's history reveals the patent was actually awarded to Keith Stoll Karn, Marc Krolcyzk and Kazuhiro Joza in 2012 before it was purchased by Kodak in 2012. Shortly afterwards, Kodak sold a collection of its patents in an auction to two consortiums led by Apple and Google in an effort to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Comparing the patent versions as awarded to Kodak and Apple shows nearly no difference, save for minor citation changes to keep the patent up-to-date.
Analysts say the patent should not worry GoPro investors about a big new name entering the industry. As Jan Dawson of Jackdaw Research says, Apple has a habit of snapping up patents but never really using the technology to create new products.
"Apple develops and patents lots of technology all the time," Dawson said. "Only a fraction of it ever sees the light of day in commercial products."
Alex Gauna, analyst at JMP Securities, agrees. Gauna says action cameras do not appear to be the logical extension to Apple's core product line of iPhones and iPads. He insists, after having seen GoPro's latest offerings, that it will remain the market leader in its sector.
"We look at it as a buying opportunity at JMP because what we saw out of the Consumer Electronics Show at Las Vegas last week is that GoPro remains the undisputed leader in the action capture device category," Gauna said.