Apple awarded key "multi-touch" patent covering the iPhone

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Apple last week was awarded a monstrous 358-page patent covering the touch screen, graphical user interface, and methods that combine to define the iPhone user experience.



Dating back to September of 2007 and granted last Tuesday,*U.S. Patent No. 7479949*lists many inventors; notably, Apple co-founder and chief executive Steve Jobs, iPhone software director Scott Forstall, and FingerWorks co-founder Wayne Westerman.* (FingerWorks*was responsible for gadgets with an opaque surface that could respond to gesture controls before being acquired by Apple to aid its multi-touch efforts several years ago.)



The filing is essentially a summary and overview of all the technologies that come together in the iPhone.* In the patent, Apple claims coverage for the device itself, the way gestures like pinches and zooms are detected, and the software the device runs.* Also mentioned are many other different details and aspects of the multi-touch user interface, such as a finger swipe, a two-thumb twist, and a method of determining which object was intended when a touch seems to cover both.



Apple interim chief executive Tim Cook recently promised to aggressively pursue any company or person who "rips off" Apple's intellectual property, and this patent affords the Cupertino-based iPhone maker the footing it would need to mount any such defense.



In detail



In setting a tone for the filing, Apple described how portable phones received more and more pushbuttons to control new features, but the inability to adapt the input methods to match the application running is a problem.* Thus, a touchscreen device is a better choice; however, gestures can be difficult to interpret or translate into the commands the user actually wants the device to perform.







"Accordingly, there is a need for touch-screen-display electronic devices with more transparent and intuitive user interfaces," the filing reads.* These improved devices can take input and interpret it as "precise, intended commands that are easy to use, configure, and/or adapt.* Such interfaces increase the effectiveness, efficiency and user satisfaction with portable multifunction devices."







Future features?



There are also some interesting aspects of the filing that may hint at future plans for the iPhone and iPod, such as "a blogging application" and "a digital video camera application" -- both of which have been mentioned in previous coverage of the patent. Similarly, voice-activated dialing could someday be a feature, as the document refers to audio circuitry that "converts the electrical signal [from human sound waves] to audio data and transmits the audio data to the peripherals interface for processing."



Apple mentions a touchpad for activating or deactivating functions.* The patent describes it as a "touch-sensitive area of the device that, unlike the touch screen, does not display visual output.* The touchpad may be a touch-sensitive surface that is separate from the touch screen or an extension of the touch-sensitive surface formed by the touch screen." *



Interestingly, this is a feature Palm is already touting about its upcoming Pre handset.* According to Palm's press release: "[The Pre has a] gesture area, which enables simple, intuitive gestures for navigation."* The gesture area is separate from the touch screen.



Final Observations



Along with covering the iPhone, the patent filing is notable for referencing 40 other existing patents, and for naming Jobs first among its inventors.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 94
    MacProMacPro Posts: 19,383member
    Good news indeed for AAPL share holders
  • Reply 2 of 94
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 9,477member
    Palm Pre, get ready for the onslaught. Apple is gonna get you.
  • Reply 3 of 94
    expatexpat Posts: 110member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post


    Palm Pre, get ready for the onslaught. Apple is gonna get you.



    Exactly - Apple's legal team is going to be very busy - I guess they found another way to up their profit margin.
  • Reply 4 of 94
    Actung: 'Granted' is not the same as 'Valid'.



    You have to assume there is a mountain of prior art associated with touch interfaces and the patent is almost certainly invalid. Of course they don't know that word in East Texas.
  • Reply 5 of 94
    tenobelltenobell Posts: 7,014member
    Whether Apple can sue or not depends on if Apple is allowed to patent finger gestures in general and irrespective of the technology used. Or if Apple can only patent finger gestures and how they are achieved with the iPhone's particular capacitance technology.
  • Reply 6 of 94
    g3prog3pro Posts: 669member
    Great way to innovate, Apple. Patent the obvious, and sue anyone who tries to improve.
  • Reply 7 of 94
    nasseraenasserae Posts: 3,166member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by merdhead View Post


    Actung: 'Granted' is not the same as 'Valid'.



    You have to assume there is a mountain of prior art associated with touch interfaces and the patent is almost certainly invalid. Of course they don't know that word in East Texas.



    Apple did not patent multi-touch, they patented a way those gestures are detected.



    Quote:

    In the patent, Apple claims coverage for the device itself, the way gestures like pinches and zooms are detected, and the software the device runs.



  • Reply 8 of 94
    tenobelltenobell Posts: 7,014member
    Apple also has a patent that displays words that appear like the word you are attempting to type. You are able to choose the word you are attempting to type among words that look like the word you are attempting to type. It seems like this works better than the current predictive text method.









    Apple's current predictive text on the left, the alternate predictive text on the right.
  • Reply 9 of 94
    pk22901pk22901 Posts: 153member
    Sorry. How's this obvious?



    They patented a whole language of gestures, shipped, and conquered!



    Along the way, Apple bought/hired the leading multi-touch researcher and all his intellectual property. He continues his work at Apple and gets Apple's muscle behind his baby. (Note that he was not ripped off or mugged in any way.)



    And finally, for $64,000, imagine Apple never did multitouch.



    What year would multitouch reach the market penetration it enjoys today?



    a - 2012

    b - 2015

    c - 2018

    d - never



    Thanks for your time. Enjoy the obvious.
  • Reply 10 of 94
    pmjoepmjoe Posts: 565member
    Great, more junk patents. Somebody stop the madness please.
  • Reply 11 of 94
    pmjoepmjoe Posts: 565member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by pk22901 View Post


    Sorry. How's this obvious?

    [...]



    Thanks for your time. Enjoy the obvious.



    http://www.billbuxton.com/multitouchOverview.html
  • Reply 12 of 94
    I wonder what Palm's defense would be if Apple were to peruse litigation. Both companies have clearly stated that they will go to great lengths to protect their intellectual property, but Apple seems to have the upper hand here. Not only has Apple (seemingly) patented a variety of the multi-touch gestures found on the Pre, but Apple has also patented the gesture area found on Palm's new product. A part of me believes that the Pre will not ship in its current form. Another part of me, however, believes that Palm is not ignorant enough to produce a product that violates a plethora of patents (or a few very large patents).



    This will certainly provide some litigious excitement after Apple wins the Psystar suit.
  • Reply 13 of 94
    tbelltbell Posts: 3,146member
    I do not think it was to obvious. People forget part of this patent is based on the works of Fingerworks, which was in operations for years before the iPhone came out.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by g3pro View Post


    Great way to innovate, Apple. Patent the obvious, and sue anyone who tries to improve.



  • Reply 14 of 94




    What does this mean for Microsoft, Windows 7, and Surface? Will Microsoft have to pay Apple or what?
  • Reply 15 of 94
    ivladivlad Posts: 742member
    Im so happy iPhone has all its rights now. I was wondering why Apple was so quiet when all those copycats made rip-offs. Now people have to ask permission or INVENT something new. This is a great start for competition. Too bad Apple clones all the great minds. =)



    September 2006, means iPhone was first fully touch-screen phone. Sorry LG.
  • Reply 16 of 94
    Apple acquired Fingerworks and continued to advance their research of multi-touch guestures and touch for mobile devices. They really shook things up when they introduced the iPhone so they deserve to be the one product that leverages that innovation for sometime. That's fair I think. It was their interface design that really worked well and was fun and easy to use. It makes their product desireable. So why should everyone else get to copy that right away?
  • Reply 17 of 94
    It is quite typical, especially for larger organizations, to write an overbroad patent covering everything from the alphabet to a special way of breathing to enhance product useage. The patents are then challenged by other interested parties. Because a large company may have lawyers "unto the third generation", it is extremely expensive for smaller companies to contest the entire patent. Different groups will attack the patent piecemeal. Over the years, one company may finally get a judgment that the original filer only has right to the cross-bar of the letter "e". Another will secure a finding that the original company only has rights to hiccups.

    In the same way that increasingly complex financial products eventually bankrupted much of our financial system. The defense of overbroad patents will bankrupt us all and stifle competition.



    Would I care if touch-screen technology was delayed twenty years? No. It's "neat", "cool", "rad", "sick" but not essential.
  • Reply 18 of 94
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by lkrupp View Post


    Palm Pre, get ready for the onslaught. Apple is gonna get you.



    Ugh. Palm's Pre isn't even for sale yet. It's no threat.
  • Reply 19 of 94
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by macosxp View Post






    What does this mean for Microsoft, Windows 7, and Surface? Will Microsoft have to pay Apple or what?



    Highly unlikely unless Microsoft were to infringe in part or in whole on this patent. Patents are a tricky art, and few are really masters. Even the examiners are constantly confounded by the arcane details in patent applications.
  • Reply 20 of 94
    Quote:

    There are also some interesting aspects of the filing that may hint at future plans for the iPhone and iPod, such as "a blogging application" and "a digital video camera application" -- both of which have been mentioned in previous coverage of the patent. Similarly, voice-activated dialing could someday be a feature, as the document refers to audio circuitry that "converts the electrical signal [from human sound waves] to audio data and transmits the audio data to the peripherals interface for processing."



    Frankly, this part of the story sounds like voice-to-text translation. I've always wanted on the fly dictation that could be instantly sent as either a voicemail or text e-mail.
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