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Displays Input Devices Iphone Patents Apple

New Apple Multi-Touch Patent Is Too Broad 310

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the they-usually-are dept.
adeelarshad82 writes "Nearly three and a half years later, Apple has finally been awarded the U.S. patent number 7,966,578, which according to the patent experts should worry rivals. According to exclusive interviews with patent experts, the incredibly broad patent puts Apple in a strong position when it comes to displaying content and using certain finger gestures on smart phones. The patent is so broad that not only will Apple's legal team target iPhone competitors but will also look to go after iPad and iPod rivals. Experts also discussed the scenario of Apple licensing its patented technology or for that matter, the courts completely scrapping the patent in public's interest."
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New Apple Multi-Touch Patent Is Too Broad

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  • Next thing you know, Microsoft will try to patent "waving" as it is used on the Kinect, and anyone who builds a motion detection gadget or system will have to have a license for "waving" issued from them.
    • I can think of a gesture that I'd like to wave at Apple and Microsoft.
    • by tooyoung (853621)
      I am no fan of software patents, but given the reality that we are living in, I think you are over simplifying quite a bit. A Microsoft patent for detecting and responding to waving wouldn't simply state "if the user waves, do XXX". Rather, the patent would cover a method for detecting that the user had waved, and then initiating the proper system response.

      If detecting a wave is so obvious, could someone please reply with the process that would be used to detect a wave? Please include how you detect t
    • Apparently different divisions of the USPTO have completely different thresholds for obviousness. I have a very hard time beliving that it wouldn't be obvious to people having ordianry skill in the art to come up with the same ideas. Especially in light of other existing patents.
      Very poor work by the USPTO!!!

  • They all do this. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @11:00AM (#36529740)

    If companies like Nokia can hold broad patents and require Apple to pay them $10 for every iPhone in licensing fees. Apple should be allowed to do the same to Nokia. The patent system has upheld these broad patents time and time again. If you want to do something in the publics interest, the entire patent system should be reformed.

    • Re:They all do this. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by recoiledsnake (879048) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @11:31AM (#36530324)

      Broad patents? Nokia holds some very specific patents related to the GSM communication hardware/software technology unlike Apple patenting a mechanism that has been around for ages. Example from 1991 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S8lCetZ_57g [youtube.com]

      • Someone explain to me, seriously, how the fuck is this kind of patent even granted? You can patent the very idea of allowing multipe touches on a touchscreen, no matter how it is implemented? Isn't that like patenting the idea of rolling to your destination, no matter if you do it by chariot, train, car, etc?

        • by hedwards (940851)

          You could patent the wheel, and the axle and you'd be there. Obviously, there's enough prior art that you couldn't do it, but if you were to be awarded that patent you would indeed get money for all those modes of transportation.

          • by DriedClexler (814907) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @01:13PM (#36532226)

            But Apple's patent wouldn't be like patenting the wheel -- it would be even worse. It would prevent you from having any remotely-circle-like shape that rolls (say, a decagon).

            That seems to be the pattern with all the worst patents: they claim an *end* rather than a means. Patents are supposed to protect the inventor of a *way* of doing something (such as a *way* of accomplishing multitouch, or of buying a product with one click), and yet they're being used to cover _anything_ that accomplishes some end goal whatsoever!

      • by s73v3r (963317)

        If that really is prior art, then the patent either shouldn't have been granted, or it just won't survive the first challenge.

      • by sdguero (1112795)
        Fyi, arguing with apple fanbois is pointless. It's like telling a catholic priest that god is a woman, or a prius owner that organic food isn't any better for them. Pointless.
      • by beelsebob (529313)

        At what point in this demonstration do they do the thing Apple has patented? I don't see any use of (a) multithouch (b) panning multiple frames around with different numbers of fingers.

      • by Simulant (528590)
        That video seems to be prior art. Is it not?
  • Unfortunately (Score:4, Insightful)

    by imamac (1083405) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @11:01AM (#36529748)
    Apple and others will continue to try for broad patents like this for the forseable future in order to protect themselves from crazy lawsuits made by others who have broad patents. Vicious cycle...
  • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @11:05AM (#36529824) Homepage

    Experts also discussed the scenario of Apple licensing its patented technology or for that matter, the courts completely scrapping the patent in public's interest.

    Don't hate the player, hate the game. The problem isn't so much specifically that Apple applied for (and got) this patent. It's that the patent system itself is out of control and stupid, and encourages companies to apply for overly broad patents.

    I'm sure if Microsoft had a product in the works at that time, they'd have applied for this patent -- same goes for IBM, Google, or pretty much anybody.

    If the courts are going to start scrapping individual patents in the public interest, they should do this for a very broad set of patents which do nothing but patent something which lots of people independently came up with.

    Overhaul the patent system or fix the damned patent office ... but don't cherry pick which patents we figure should be over-turned so other companies can come out with products as well. Because there's a lot of patents which are just as fundamentally blocking to developing products as this multi-touch one.

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      true, and its only going to get worse untl the public, industry, judiciary and executive give a particular "finger gesture" to software patents, and especially broad ones like this.

      • by KarrdeSW (996917)

        true, and its only going to get worse untl the public, industry, judiciary and executive give a particular "finger gesture" to software patents, and especially broad ones like this.

        Too bad they can't since that gesture is patented.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by pandrijeczko (588093)

      Don't hate the player, hate the game.

      It's a shame then that they don't practice what they preach and "Think Differently".

    • No I think I can (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hellfire (86129) <(deviladv) (at) (gmail.com)> on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @11:24AM (#36530188) Homepage

      I personally hate gun makers for lobbing in a broken system to keep guns legal and to keep regulations at a minimum so they can sell as much as they can, but if I get shot in the leg by some person on the street, depending on the situation I think I'm well within my moral rights to hate the person holding the gun, no matter who gave it to them.

    • by geekoid (135745)

      The patent system lost its way when it had to pay for itself instead of getting money from a general fund.
      Once again, the republicans trying to push there flawed 'free market' approach to everything fails.

      • by s73v3r (963317)

        Wait, really? Got a source for that? Because requiring a government office to sustain itself, especially one with such a limited appeal but that requires expertise in just about every realm of science, technology and engineering, is beyond foolish.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by geekoid (135745)

      Also, you can hate the player. Stop giving excuse to these jackholes.

      The could play the game differently. They could push for a more rational system.

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by gstoddart (321705)

        Also, you can hate the player. Stop giving excuse to these jackholes.

        Fine, hate the player ... I don't care.

        The could play the game differently. They could push for a more rational system.

        Yes, they could push for that, and they quite possibly do.

        But when we see stories that say that Oracle figures Google owes them 6.1 billion dollars [slashdot.org], then you'd have to be an idiot to think that Apple would be able to simply not patent this stuff and sing kumbaya and pass out flowers. If someone patented this very thing, a

      • by s73v3r (963317) <s73v3r AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @12:05PM (#36530954)

        No, they really couldn't. It's basically the Prisoner's dilemma. If all agree to stop playing and reform, then things would work out better for everyone. However, because they are run by humans, that won't happen, because if even one company keeps playing, then all are fucked. And if only one stops playing, then that company is royally fucked.

        So no, you can't really single out a single "player" for hating.

    • .. corrected ...

      "It's that the American patent system itself is out of control and stupid" .

      Most of these patents do not actually apply to most of the world, but hobble systems anyway because it is too expensive to do a US and Non-US system ...

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        "It's that the American patent system itself is out of control and stupid" .

        Most of these patents do not actually apply to most of the world, but hobble systems anyway because it is too expensive to do a US and Non-US system ...

        Well, the way the US has been exporting the entrenchment of protection of copyright and IP into treaties [wikipedia.org], so that other countries are more or less responsible for policing this ... I disagree.

        The US of late has been making sure that copyright violations are pursued at a higher level

    • The main problem with these broad patents aren't so much that they hurt other big players, but it completely eliminates anyone else from entering the marketplace. Completely artificial barriers to the market place means that only the big players can make a profit. There can be a electronics designer who enters the marketplace with a new cool idea (like lets say infra red sensors for a cell phone and a 3d display so you can interact with it 3d by pressing virtual buttons) without them violating 300 extreme

  • by bennomatic (691188) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @11:09AM (#36529908) Homepage
    I've got your patent *right* *here*.
  • Mod me down, but... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Phleg (523632) <stephen AT touset DOT org> on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @11:13AM (#36529992)

    This is one of the few widely-publicized patents in recent memory that I think is probably justified.

    It's hard to remember back to before the iPhone existed, but devices like it weren't even on the radar of any major phone manufacturer until after Steve Jobs' announcement. Sure, the individual technologies had existed, but real progress comes from combining [everythingisaremix.info] those technologies in completely unexpected ways. The iPhone was neither obvious nor derivative, and all the devices that have come since have benefited greatly from the research and development time and funds that Apple poured into the concept. This seems like exactly the sort of situation the patent system is meant for.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by OKK77 (683209)
      Ever heard of LG Prada? Probably not because I bet you hardly look across the ponds surrounding you.
    • Have to agree (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Space cowboy (13680) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @11:24AM (#36530190) Journal
      From the "expert" commentary in TFA:

      'Apple's patent essentially gives it ownership of the capacitive multitouch interface the company pioneered with its iPhone'.

      Well, ok then. Isn't that what patents are all about ? This is the system *working* as designed. You can argue that the system itself is broken, but this seems to be exactly how it ought to be, within our current frame of reference. Apple designed a totally new and radical way of interacting with phones, and patented it. Sounds ... reasonable.

      Simon

      • by ThinkWeak (958195)
        I'm all for hating Apple for their methods of controlling the consumer experience, controlling the device the consumer purchases, and controlling the content the consumer is allowed to put on their device. However, as much as it pains me to say it, Apple actually deserves this patent. They did spark a whole industry and we're all better because of it.

        I just don't want them to stomp on the rest of the industry with this patent, which they will do.
    • THe iphone was absolutely obvious and deriviative. The problem is all the phones that came before didnt have the full ecosystem to back it up. The iphone by itself is a an ok phone for the most part. its the software and ecosystem behind it that really drives the device. And Apple benefited greatly from seeing others mistakes and missteps too. The street goes both ways.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      What about companies that manufacture these touchscreen devices? Aren't they the ones who should be holding the relevant patents? Why is it that apple has the power to artificially limit the touchscreen manufacturer's market just over "use cases" ??

    • Touch screens have been in use for a very long** time in military applications. Nothing the PlayBook, iPad, Windows or Android tablets do of the gestures they use is new or unique. In a commercial space, maybe, in general no.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The iPhone was neither obvious nor derivative, and all the devices that have come since have benefited greatly from the research and development time and funds that Apple poured into the concept.

      You obviously missed the TED talk (from before Apple filed for the multitouch patent) where a researcher demonstrated a multi-touch interface. If you had seen that talk, you'd know that the iPhone is both obvious and derivative.

      If anything, Apple et al should be paying that researcher millions of dollars for resear

    • Sorry, but allowing Apple the ability to stifle competition by suing anyone who makes a rival product, which would end the potential for anything BETTER being created, is not only stupid but backwards thinking of the worst kind. We should encourage competition and rival products, not award companies who are the first through the gate with a free pass to take companies who want to compete to court. If you think that is what patents are for, then you should not be commenting on the patent system.

      The only thin

    • by khb (266593)

      Well put. The upside to the patent system is that innovation can be rewarded better than simple mimicry. Most of the post iphone devices ARE clearly derivative ... just as all keyboards are substantially similar.

      Obviously, whoever invents the first one does deserve to benefit from it.

      Perhaps Nokia and Microsoft will skip the legal posturing and just balance the $10/device "tax" Apple now pays to Nokia and balance will be restored to the Force.

    • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @11:40AM (#36530514)
      A full screen multi touch iPod was the number 1 rumor for years before the iPhone came out. Putting a GSM radio in it doesn't make it completely unexpected. Further, multitouch devices have been around for decades, including the associated (and obvious) gestures. See http://billbuxton.com/multitouchOverview.html [billbuxton.com]
      • by Phleg (523632)

        You do realize there's a giant fucking chasm between merely theorizing about a device and actually building it, right? The Jetsons had flying cars decades ago. Does that make the guy who figures out how to make it practical and widespread any less deserving of a patent?

        • by Missing.Matter (1845576) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @12:17PM (#36531172)
          True, but this is not a patent for multi touch technology; this is a patent for multi touch gestures. "An N-finger translation gesture is detected on or near the touch screen display. In response, the page content, including the displayed portion of the frame content and the other content of the page, is translated to display a new portion of page content on the touch screen display." In other words, touch and drag. People do this with a mouse, and it's intuitively obvious to they layman how the finger can be used instead.
    • by pscottdv (676889)

      It's hard to remember back to before the iPhone existed...

      It's not hard for me to remember watching "Minority Report" in 2002 which demonstrated every gesture in this patent. And as part of a user interface, no less.

      • by s73v3r (963317)

        Yeah, but that doesn't really hold up in a patent lawsuit, as it's not an actual implementation of the idea. It's just a rendering. You'd have to show a device actually using it.

        • by mark-t (151149)
          The point of it having appeared in a movie previous to that point does not demonstrate any actual prior art, of course, although it should be sufficient to demonstrate that it was obvious.
    • Apple's own Newton combined most of the same features into such a device years before.

      If you need a GSM example, the Palm offerings come to mind.

      The IPhone's unique feature was eliminating nearly all input aside from the screen. Mind you they did that on the Newton as well.

      The Newton supported gestures, by the way. Some of my fav's were in text editing: stroke upward over a letter to capitalize it. Stroke across the screen below your text to create a new entry. zig-zag over a word to erase it.

      No, I don'

    • Um....the iOS gestural interface is the very definition of derivative and obvious.

      We need a gesture for navigating to the next page! How about swiping the screen like when you go to the next page like in a book? Wow...How did you come up with that?

      The interface is primarily derived from manipulating tangible objects in the real-world. How much more derivative can one get?

    • by MrSteveSD (801820)

      It's hard to remember back to before the iPhone existed, but devices like it weren't even on the radar

      I remember looking at the Onyx Concept Phone [youtube.com] with some excitement. It pre-dates the IPhone.

    • by DeadCatX2 (950953)

      The iPhone was neither obvious nor derivative, and all the devices that have come since have benefited greatly from the research and development time and funds that Apple poured into the concept.

      I disagree with great fervor. Smartphones were clearly the next step in the evolution of mobile phones. I'm not sure if you're aware, but there were smartphones before Apple made one. They benefited greatly from everything that came before them.

      It takes a lot of time to design and test a product. It needs to go

    • by organgtool (966989) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @12:57PM (#36531900)

      This is one of the few widely-publicized patents in recent memory that I think is probably justified.

      It's hard to remember back to before the iPhone existed, but devices like it weren't even on the radar of any major phone manufacturer until after Steve Jobs' announcement. Sure, the individual technologies had existed, but real progress comes from combining [everythingisaremix.info] those technologies in completely unexpected ways. The iPhone was neither obvious nor derivative, and all the devices that have come since have benefited greatly from the research and development time and funds that Apple poured into the concept. This seems like exactly the sort of situation the patent system is meant for.

      When it comes to multitouch, Apple didn't invent shit! Apple was just one of the first companies to use the multitouch technology developed by a German company called Balda AG. The only thing Apple did was create software that took advantage of the one intended purpose of Balda AG's technology. If this patent is as broad as the summary makes it out to be, then Apple's patent may cover almost any use of Balda AG's multitouch technology. That would mean that all of Balda AG's customers, and possibly customers of any other type of multitouch technology, could be at risk of violating Apple's broad patent.

      Sure, the individual technologies had existed, but real progress comes from combining those technologies in completely unexpected ways.

      If Apple had to create some new technologies in order to integrate this multitouch screen, then those specific technologies would be worthy of patents. However, the only thing Apple did was place the screen in the iPhone and write software that made use of its one intended purpose - multitouch. How can anyone argue that using a technology for its one intended purpose is worthy of a patent?

      The iPhone was neither obvious nor derivative, and all the devices that have come since have benefited greatly from the research and development time and funds that Apple poured into the concept

      Please explain what new technology Apple invented for the iPhone. I frequently hear claims such as yours, but no one can seem to provide specific technical details of why the iPhone was not derivative. Yes, it revolutionized the smartphone market, but it was far from a technological revolution. The best technological components of the phone were the multitouch capability (we already established that technology was not invented by Apple) and its nice glass screen surface (thought to be made possible also by Balda AG's touchscreen technology).

      This seems like exactly the sort of situation the patent system is meant for.

      Not even close! That is unless you can provide specific details of new technology that Apple invented in the iPhone. Otherwise, the iPhone was simply an integration of other company's technologies with a nice software interface. Yes, it was extremely popular, spurred incredible interest in the smartphone market, and is worthy of all of its success, but patents are not granted based on the results of popularity contests.

  • http://tinyurl.com/dhh3nu [tinyurl.com]

    Patent that, bitch.

    • My thoughts exactly! In fact, I had assumed that Apple licensed the multi-touch interface from Han, since his TED talk preceded the iPhone's release by half a year or more. How the HELL could the patent office have missed that?

      • Not that I'm supporting this patent, but it could be possible that Apple has documented evidence of working on this patent well prior to any of Han's evidence. I'm not a patent lawyer, but it's my understanding that the patent award isn't solely based on the filing date, but rather the "date of the invention". So if you invented something in 2001 and filed in 2007, someone who talks about it in 2006 isn't creating prior art.

        My understanding is that the filing date can be many years after the invention
        • That may be so, but it begs the question... if you invent something in 2001, why would you wait until 2007 to file your patent application?

          • by s73v3r (963317)

            You wouldn't; that'd be stupid. However, there generally is some delay between when you actually invent the thing, when you file the patent, and when the patent is grant. Lawyers need time to write the application, patent clerks need time to review it. 6 years probably wouldn't happen, but one or two might.

            On the other hand, some of your researchers might have created something in 2001, but the company didn't think it was worth the time and money to patent it. Then a few years later, the winds of tech start

      • Because talking about something in public first, does not mean that you were the first to work on it.

        Apple probably has prior art that preceedes the TED talk that just wasn't public (they are infamous for their secrecy after all). I haven't looked at the patent in question, but if Apple had evidence that they were working on this prior to the TED talk in 2006, and Han didn't already have his own patent application in to the patent office, then the patent office missed nothing.

        From what I've read earlier
        • 2006? There are multi touch technologies and implementations that date back to 1976. Obscure yes, but you don't deserve a patent on something just because you popularized it.
    • by UnknowingFool (672806) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @11:26AM (#36530228)
      A few things to note that in the broadest reading of the patent, it applies to portable devices. Second is while Han had probably been working on multi-touch for years and first demonstrated it in 2006, Apple acquired FingerWorks in 2005 specifically for multi-touch products and technology.
    • by s73v3r (963317)

      Was that before or after the stuff FingerWorks was doing before they were bought by Apple in 2005?

  • The patent is so broad that not only will Apple's legal team target iPhone competitors but will also look to go after iPad and iPod rivals.

    They could. They might. They might not.

    Just because they got the patent tells us nothing about whether they will use it offensively (double-meaning intended) or defensively.

  • "...or for that matter, the courts completely scrapping the patent in public's interest."

    This. Let's hope for this.

  • Seriously, how is this news? The article title is clearly an opinion. Just because your Kool-Ade is opensource doesn't make groupthink healthy.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Wednesday June 22, 2011 @11:45AM (#36530610) Homepage

    Since the beginning of touch sensitive technologies, people have been putting more than one finger on the surface for a very long time. And while it didn't work, users were WISHING it worked because those clumbsy mistakes can be annoying. Wishing for multi-touch does not make for "prior art" but I think it qualifies as "obvious."

  • These are the first two claims which actually describe the covered material.

    1. A method, comprising: at a portable multifunction device with one or more processors, memory, and a touch screen display; displaying a portion of web page content in a stationary application window on the touch screen display, wherein the portion of web page content includes: a frame displaying a portion of frame content, and other content of the web page, comprising content of the web page other than the frame content; detecting

  • Touch screens were around well before the iPhone/iPad came along. I was dragging files around on a Sony tablet well before people had even dreamt of an iPhone. Multi-touch wasn't implemented only because touchscreen technology of the time wasn't capable of it. Hell, Minority Report depicted multitouch 5 years before the first iPhone. I'm sure others have had the idea well before then.

    In light of this, how can Apple's patent be deemed anything but obvious?

    Aren't even touchscreen gestures patented? How is tha

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