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Patent Suit Targets Every Touch-based Apple Product 141

Posted by Soulskill
from the trollin'-trollin'-trollin' dept.
suraj.sun writes with news that a new patent suit has been filed against Apple over all of the company's touch-based products. From the article: "According to the complaint (PDF), Professor Slavoljub Milekic conceived a system that used a touchscreen that allowed children to move virtual objects around the screen, which he used to build interactive displays for the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, KY, in 1997, and filed for a patent on his design that same year. The patent in the suit, U.S. Patent #6,920,619 named 'User interface for removing an object from a display,' was issued by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office in 2005. According to the lawsuit, Milekic formed FlatWorld Interactives in 2007 to 'promote and commercialize' his invention. Curiously, FlatWorld was incorporated on January 2007, just weeks after Apple announced the original iPhone at Macworld Expo. In July 2007, just after Apple shipped the original iPhone, FlatWorld filed a reissue request for the patent, which appears to have been done in order to modify some of the patent's dependent claims."
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Patent Suit Targets Every Touch-based Apple Product

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  • Even More Curiously (Score:5, Interesting)

    by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn.gmail@com> on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:40PM (#39775597) Journal

    Curiously, FlatWorld was incorporated on January 2007, just weeks after Apple announced the original iPhone at Macworld Expo.

    Why is that curious? What's curious to me is that this patent was issued in 2005 and Apple began releasing infringing devices with massive publicity and advertising in 2007. Now five years later he finally gets around to filing suit? Just after Apple experiences the most profitable quarter in history of any tech company [slashdot.org] and the news outlets proclaim that Apple has too much money [slashdot.org]?

    Either this lawsuit was timed perfectly or Slavoljub Milekic has been living without human contact for five or more years until recently arbitrarily realizing that Apple has been infringing on his "intellectual property."

    Patents wouldn't be so bad if everyone who had them cleared their throat from the beginning and got all this out of the way and agreed upon ... right now the patent ecosystem is this mentality of having a huge patent war chest because if you're producing a lot of anything, you're infringing on someone's rights and the odds are you'll pay for it at the time you're making the most money. This is unfair that Apple priced out these devices and sold millions of them with the possibility that they may be paying a hindsight licensing fee for each device.

    On the other hand, it's nice to see Apple getting a taste of its own medicine [slashdot.org].

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:47PM (#39775675)

      Well, Apple had its most profitable quarter, a good indicator that a lot more people have been recently exposed to infringing apple products. Maybe one of them was Slavoljub?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:28PM (#39776165)

        Well, Apple had its most profitable quarter, a good indicator that a lot more people have been recently exposed to infringing apple products. Maybe one of them was Slavoljub?

        From the complaint:

        Slavoljub ("Slavko") Milekic, Ph.D. ("Professor Milekic"), is Professor of Cognitive Science & Digital Design at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

        Are we meant to believe that somebody who is a professor at a school right in the middle of the fifth-largest city in the United States has never once heard of the iPhone or an iPad or an iPod Touch, or seen them in action, until this last quarter? Someone who has a patent on touch devices and would therefore be interested in such things?

        Bullshit.

        • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Monday April 23, 2012 @06:05PM (#39776551) Homepage Journal

          Are we meant to believe that somebody who is a professor at a school right in the middle of the fifth-largest city in the United States has never once heard of the iPhone or an iPad or an iPod Touch, or seen them in action, until this last quarter?

          Is there a legal requirement that suit be brought immediately after infringement is noticed? I have no idea, but I guess it's one possibility.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @07:08PM (#39777075)
            No, there isn't. We also don't know if he has been trying to get them to buy a license and being blown off for several years.
          • Are we meant to believe that somebody who is a professor at a school right in the middle of the fifth-largest city in the United States has never once heard of the iPhone or an iPad or an iPod Touch, or seen them in action, until this last quarter?

            Is there a legal requirement that suit be brought immediately after infringement is noticed? I have no idea, but I guess it's one possibility.

            No, but it can limit the damages awarded. You aren't allowed to wait for several years just to let damages build up.

            • by PopeRatzo (965947) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @12:09AM (#39778939) Homepage Journal

              No, but it can limit the damages awarded. You aren't allowed to wait for several years just to let damages build up.

              So maybe that's not what happened here. Let's just see where this case goes, right? If this man's claim is valid, then he should be awarded damages and Apple should start paying him license fees or stop making iPhones. It might be very instructive if the intellectual property laws that corporations are using to beat people over the head became a two-edged sword. It might actually lead to some reforms.

              File this one under: If it's Good for the Goose...

              • No....

                I am no fan of Apple, and really wish that Apple meets its comeuppance for the way they are being absolute douches with their lawsuits....

                However, this lawsuit is not something to jump with joy about either, because IF they are successful against Apple, they will hammer the rest of the industry....

                Therefore, I think this guy is a bigger douchebag than Apple, and he SHOULD loose.

          • There fucking SHOULD BE!

          • Not immediately but within a reasonable timeframe. It's called laches [wikipedia.org]. Five years is unreasonable assuming that the knew about it when the iPhone was announced.
        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @06:28PM (#39776759)

          Not at all, nor is it needed since this is not a trademark case this is a patent case. It is completely legal to wait until the infringer is making the most money to sue. It is also strategically intelligent.

          • by dkf (304284)

            Not at all, nor is it needed since this is not a trademark case this is a patent case. It is completely legal to wait until the infringer is making the most money to sue. It is also strategically intelligent.

            While the principle of laches [wikipedia.org] means that it is not a good idea (as a patent holder) to wait to contact the potential infringer until they've made a massive profit, if the holder and alleged infringer have been in contact (even if the alleged infringer has then just blown off the holder) then the principle won't hold. Legally, the defendant will know about the possibility of a claim against it and will therefore be able to take reasonable steps to minimize any potential harm.

            What's unfortunate is that it can

    • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:55PM (#39775769) Homepage

      Or it takes 5 years to assemble the paperwork, funding, and lawyers.

      I'm sure attorneys are just lining up to deal with the overwhelming defense Apple will surely have on hand, the sleepless nights before their work is torn apart in court, and the media circus if the case actually develops. There must also be rich folks out there just itching to donate money to a case against Apple, where a chunk of their other money is likely invested. Of course, everyone documents their ideas fully, with timestamps and complete lists of influences, too...

      All legal matters take time. Big legal matters take more time.

      • by HaeMaker (221642) on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:13PM (#39775965) Homepage

        Or they have been negotiating with Apple for 5 years to take out a license. Most of those negotiations are in secret since most end with an NDA.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Ever noticed how the NDA and DNA acronyms are made up of the same letters? It's a CONSPIRACY!!!

          • by Anonymous Coward

            Anyone notice how these are some suspiciously common letters? What are they trying to hide?

        • Or they have been negotiating with Apple for 5 years to take out a license. Most of those negotiations are in secret since most end with an NDA.

          Or maybe it just took this long for some patent trolling lawyer to sniff this opportunity out and make the good professor aware of the profit potential of this infringement.

      • by Assmasher (456699)

        Exactly, you don't just step in the ring with Ali because you think you can box... ;)

        • by Anonymous Coward
          Now you do.
          • Now you do.

            It depends on which Ali we're talking about. Muhamad Ali's daughter Laila boxes - she could probably wipe the floor with the average Slashdotter.

    • by million_monkeys (2480792) on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:56PM (#39775781)

      Patents wouldn't be so bad if everyone who had them cleared their throat from the beginning and got all this out of the way and agreed upon ... right now the patent ecosystem is this mentality of having a huge patent war chest because if you're producing a lot of anything, you're infringing on someone's rights and the odds are you'll pay for it at the time you're making the most money. This is unfair that Apple priced out these devices and sold millions of them with the possibility that they may be paying a hindsight licensing fee for each device.

      Maybe there ought to be a type of statute of limitations on retroactive claims? Something like you've got a year(?) to make a claim between when you know of or should know of the infringement. If you don't, then you're assumed to have granted a royalty free license. If at a later point you do want to assert your patent, you can't make claims for any past infringement and are required to provide a royalty free grace period for usage of the patent.

      • by nospam007 (722110) *

        "Maybe there ought to be a type of statute of limitations on retroactive claims? Something like you've got a year(?) to make a claim between when you know of or should know of the infringement."

        Since a simple photograph has such a limitation of 70 years after the death of photograph (where I live) , this should be something like 500 years maybe?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:57PM (#39775787)

      What's 'curious' to me is the following:

      In July 2007, just after Apple shipped the original iPhone, FlatWorld filed a reissue request for the patent, which appears to have been done in order to modify some of the patent's dependent claims.

      The phrasing there makes it sound a *lot* like the old classic submarine-patent tactic of applying for/getting a vague patent, and continuing to modify it to track the current state of the art in order to catch as many 'infringers' as possible.

      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by Altus (1034)

        How can you imply that they are doing something underhanded when they are suing apple?

    • by halfEvilTech (1171369) on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:26PM (#39776141)

      Except for those that read TFA - The patent is actually narrowly defined.

      "However, the patent quite narrowly claims a system used to "throw" objects off a screen when the "velocity of the touch exceeds a predetermined threshold," It also describes some specific gestures to move objects on the screen, none of which appear similar to gestures used in either iOS or Mac OS X.

      It's not clear from a cursory reading of the patent, nor from FlatWorld's infringement claims, exactly how Apple's products infringe. However, we discovered that some of Apple's own patents relating to the iPhone cite Milekic's original patent—it seems likely that the company was aware of the patent and did not believe its particular implementation of a touch-based interface infringed on its narrow claims"

      • by Sarten-X (1102295)

        The example gestures in the patent don't matter. It's the claims that do, and I don't see any requirement that the gestures fit a particular design. It is a narrow patent, but broad enough to possibly cover iOS's home screen, where you can "throw" a page of apps off, or any number of other places where swiping your finger across the screen scrolls to another view.

        There's enough wiggle room there for a court to work.

        • There's enough wiggle room there for a court to work.

          Clearly, someone thinks so. However, if the claim is really due to velocity, then the example you cite likely does not infringe: the act of replacing the current screen contents with a different page is based on the current screen's position at the end of the pan (drag). No matter how slowly you drag, if you release after a threshold point (probably half-way off, but it may be 51 or 52%, for all I know), it'll continue the movement and throw the old content away.

          Doesn't mean that there aren't any veloc

          • by thejynxed (831517)

            There are some in iOS itself. Use a slow swipe to move the content, see how it moves maybe a few lines at a time or possibly turns a page? Try using a faster swipe. It essentially "throws" the current content right off of the screen (super fast scroll) and replaces it with a usually pre-determined follow-up set of content. Really noticeable when interacting with lists, groups of images, the "app grid" etc.

            There is the normal "pan-n-scan" as I refer to it, and the more rapid content replacement that looks li

        • by Qzukk (229616) on Monday April 23, 2012 @08:59PM (#39778037) Journal

          It's the claims that do

          And claim 1 states:

          when the image is being dragged in response to the location inputs and the system detects that the velocity with which the image is being dragged exceeds a threshold velocity, the system responds by removing the image from the display without leaving any representative thereof in the display

          2-6 are all variations of 1. Claim 7 states:

          when the point being touched is being continually moved and the system detects that the velocity at which the point is moving exceeds a predetermined threshold velocity, the image being continually moved is removed from the screen without leaving any representative thereof on the screen.

          8-14 are all variations of 7. 15 states

          the computer responding to a continuing touch that moves the image across the touch screen such that when the computer detects that the velocity of the touch exceeds a predetermined threshold

          16 and 17 are variations on 15.

          If you do not use the velocity of the touch to decide whether something is removed from the screen or not, you do not infringe on the patent as stated. It remains to be seen whether this guy can sucker some jury with a Doctrine of Equivalents story.

          • by tricorn (199664)

            I was thinking about this as I read the claims. Is there a difference between a system that has a velocity threshold that, when exceeded, does something different, and a system that has a velocity threshold that, when not exceeded does something different? Logically, they're the same thing, legally I'm not so sure.

            Specifically, the behavior of any reasonable touchscreen behavior that includes dragging at all is that movement below a certain threshold is a touch, not a drag, anything else is a drag, not a

            • I haven't seen any Apple products that behave the way the claims are written. Dragging, then releasing while moving, imparts some momentum to the motion, but there's no threshold to that velocity.

              I had thought that too, until I tried flipping app pages on my iPhone. You can either drag slowly (including even stopping) past a certain point, and it will flip pages (position threshold); or you can drag quickly, but you don't have to drag very far, and it will flip pages (velocity threshold). Try different swipe speeds and you'll see what I mean.

          • The patent says it is restricted to "A digital system that may be used by children two years old and older. " All apple has to do is claim iphones are fro people under 2 years old.

          • by chrismcb (983081)

            It remains to be seen whether this guy can sucker some jury with a Doctrine of Equivalents story.

            Like many software patents, I question the novelty. How hard is it to go from sliding things around to "throwing" them off the screen? The code isn't complicated (even in 98) the concept isn't that complicated. Anyone with half a brain can come up with some of this stuff.

    • On the other hand, it's nice to see Apple getting a taste of its own medicine [slashdot.org].

      It doesn't matter at all. Do you see how much money Apple has? Apple will just settle with the trolls and and never worry again. But then the trolls are gonna start targeting others, e.g. Samsung, Moto, HTC, LG, etc., and it's just gonna crush competitors because they already have a precedent for high settlements. This is a little more problematic for companies that don't have the ridiculous margins that Apple does.

      This model just isn't sustainable. I think Apple is as evil as anyone else (full disclosure),

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:44PM (#39775631)

    This worked out so well for Apple the last time a Professor claimed patent infringement:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/05/us/david-gelernter-discusses-patent-claim-against-apple.html

  • by InvisibleClergy (1430277) on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:49PM (#39775709)

    ...it's lawsuits like these which make me want to get out of programming as a profession.

    • by JaredOfEuropa (526365) on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:13PM (#39775957) Journal
      I know what you mean... I'm close to releasing an app; it's for a niche market and probably small enough to fly under the radar, but I hate the thought of some random asshat coming along to levy a tax on my work, or for some corporation with a competing product to crush me in court. Just because the patent office saw fit to grant a patent for being somewhere first (rather than for hard work leading to a genuine invention), and because I have a 1-click buy button with rounded corners in my app. And yes, as a programmer in someone's employ, this can hurt you too, if the trolls decide to go after the cool startup or struggling innovator you work for.

      Way to foster innovation (which was one of the purposes of modern patents).
      • by w_dragon (1802458)
        I think history shows that the large companies will more often purchase a startup than kill it in court. A long court battle is an ongoing, never-ending cost with no guarantee of success. Even when MS was playing evil it was 'embrace, extend, extinguish', not sue out of existence.
        • by Tastecicles (1153671) on Tuesday April 24, 2012 @04:37AM (#39779925)

          it's not about winning in court, it's a war of attrition. When a small company/startup/individual runs out of money to fight the behemoths like MS in court over some ambiguous patent claim, then the guy with the larger coffer wins by default.

          Is this familiar to anybody: "To no man will we sell or deny justice"?

          It SHOULD BE for EVERYONE. It was one of the founding principles of one of the oldest legal documents in existence. What it means is that these legal wars of attrition are UNLAWFUL.

          I could rant all day about how the system favours the guy with more money, but none of you fuckheads listen. Just remember when you find yourself at the blunt end of Microsoft Justice: the cunt on Slashdot was right!

    • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:18PM (#39776031) Homepage

      ... and into the legal services industry ?

      Yes, I too hate that paper-pushing assholes are harassing every great mind into catatonic, stunting progress at every opportunity and forcing humanity into intellectual stupor.

      The problem isn't the practice of law, the problem is money. All this bullshit exists to protect and/or subvert wealth. If it weren't for money, nobody would give a flying fuck about patents and the thrill of creation would be sufficient reward to an inventor.

  • Seems to me... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Sparks23 (412116) on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:53PM (#39775743)

    ...that this would affect a lot more than just Apple if upheld. I understand Google's got a small interest in touch-based devices, too, and I seem to recall that Microsoft's considering maybe supporting some of this 'touch' stuff in Windows 8. (Sarcasm tag heavily implied there, which was hopefully clear.)

    Seriously, I feel that patents have become sort of like nuclear weaponry; you either try to amass enough weapons in your patent portfolio that the other side won't launch, as with mutually assured destruction between the big companies, or else you get held hostage by patent-troll terrorists who get ahold of a weapon and threaten to take out everything they can unless you pay them. Maybe we need the patent law equivalent of Jack Bauer to deal with patent trolling. :P

    • Re:Seems to me... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by gr8_phk (621180) on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:58PM (#39775795)

      ...that this would affect a lot more than just Apple if upheld.

      Yep, it would affect an industrial PC I used circa 1996 with a touch-screen to emulate a mouse. Yep, some things could be dragged around in a standard windows app with that setup. Hmmm I guess touch screens have been infringing this for a while now.

      • Re:Seems to me... (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Lumpy (12016) on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:06PM (#39775875) Homepage

        Yup. Every single Tablet made cince 1992 Starting with the Dauphin DTR-1 and all products made by Fujitsu in their stylistic line.

        There is more prior art on this than anything else. This guy is about to get pounded hard in the taint by Apple and the Courts.

        • Re:Seems to me... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by MightyMartian (840721) on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:23PM (#39776091) Journal

          But he shouldn't just be pounded hard. His lawyer should be disbarred. I'm thinking if you started tossing lawyers, you'd see a lot of less of this, from the big guys as well as the small.

          "Sure I'd love to defend your claim to have patented the lead or graphite filled stylus, but you see, I'll be disbarred for fraud and lose my livelihood, so take your pencil and shove it up your ass."

          • by Anonymous Coward

            I disagree. If it's easy to disbar lawyers it's easy to keep people out of the court by making lawyers fear for the safety of their livelihoods. If you're batshit crazy enough (see Jack Thompson) eventually you'll get disbarred, but making that process too easy could really step on justice and the system's ability to evaluate and correct itself.

        • Re:Seems to me... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Sarten-X (1102295) on Monday April 23, 2012 @06:23PM (#39776713) Homepage

          Oh, really? I don't recall any matching the patent's claims:

          When... the system detects that the velocity with which the image is being dragged exceeds a threshold velocity, the system responds by removing the image from the display without leaving any representative thereof in the display.

          In other words, swiping your finger across the display to go to the next page of apps. Note that it is not covering "any touch-sensitive device", or "any device with a dragging mechanism", or any such nonsense. The patent's pretty specific.

          The claims are the important part of the patent, not the Slashdot summary.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            My Fujitsu Stylistic 2300 running Windows 95 could do that.

            The Fujitsu software loaded on added a ton of very useful features for the pen device.

            The pen took AAAA batteries (one size smaller than tripple A) and was a radio transmitter.
            There was a button in the tip to click, and a button on the side that when held meant the tip was right-click.

            At the bottom of the screen was a drawing of some media controls.
            Specifically, if you tapped the left or right arrow, it would adjust the volume. A dot in the middle

          • Do you have an iPhone? Try dragging slowly and releasing. Works just fine. Doesn't appear to have any relation a "threshold velocity". I'm not saying you're wrong; there might be another place where Apple infringes, but if their case is built on the same assertion you've put above, Apple can easily win.
            • by Sarten-X (1102295)

              No, but I do have a company-issued iPad, which I use rarely. After I posted, I realized that the home screen also has the little dots indicating the current page, so that wouldn't be covered by the patent.

              • No, but I do have a company-issued iPad, which I use rarely. After I posted, I realized that the home screen also has the little dots indicating the current page, so that wouldn't be covered by the patent.

                Not sure that helps... The claims only recite an "image", which could be the display of one page of icons. It doesn't require that the entire screen changes. In fact, the specification talks about lots of graphical objects being shown on a screen, and being able to flick them away one at a time. So, the fact that the dots remain is irrelevant, since they could be considered a different image.

                • by Sarten-X (1102295)

                  I was thinking about the "leaving no representation" bit (or however it's worded). The more I think about it, the more I think of things that could go either way for the representation/disposal aspect, but I really don't know the system well enough to know if any are velocity-triggered. There's certainly some where the velocity controls how much is moved, so I could see a lawyer arguing that it counts. On the other hand, things like that could be argued to not really be disposing of anything.

                  Gee, if only th

            • the Home screen on my ZTE F930 utilises threshold velocities for scrolling screens. Drag the page slowly and it doesn't scroll. Flick it, and it scrolls.

  • ... for people to realize that patents on ways to accomplish a desired goal, particularly when the goal does not involve manufacturing or processing of any physical goods or materials, are fundamentally a bad idea?
    • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:06PM (#39775881)

      When the larger companies realize that they have far more to lose from patents than they have to gain.

      I hope this guy takes them for $20 billion.

      • by tyrione (134248)

        When the larger companies realize that they have far more to lose from patents than they have to gain.

        I hope this guy takes them for $20 billion.

        He's going to lose.

    • by billcopc (196330) <vrillco@yahoo.com> on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:26PM (#39776145) Homepage

      Regardless of application, I feel that all patents are a bad idea. Inventing something gives you an edge over the competition, not just because you're the first to do it, but because you possess intricate knowledge while your competitors are playing catch-up. If that means that a year from now, you will be driven out by market forces, then so be it. The way patents are used today, they artificially inflate prices by forcing producers to enter protectionist contracts, also known as "licensing". You're allowed to produce X widgets at Y price, under Z abusive terms, for the low-low fee of $(X*Y*n) or else we sue you for ($X*Y*2n)^4.

      Outside of the IP industry, this is often called racketeering. Instead of breaking your legs and smashing your shop like Little Joe and his thugs, IP trolls use weaponized tomes of law. I think I prefer the thugs, because it's harder to claim self-defense when you kill a gang of lawyers.

      • by chrismcb (983081)

        Regardless of application, I feel that all patents are a bad idea. Inventing something gives you an edge over the competition,

        Patents are supposed to protect the little guy. When your competition has enough money to go to market TOMORROW and they just need to figure out that last little piece, and then you(the small inventor) figure it out. While you are scrambling for the money and infastructure to take your product to market, the big guys can jump on the band wagon immediately (because they stole your idea). You won't be driven out of the market in a year, you'll be driven out of the market today.
        The real problem with software

  • Yet another variation of the popular patent "do something we already know how to do, but on a computer". Now it's "do something we already know how to do on a traditional computer with mouse, but on a touchscreen". It's not like there weren't touchscreens before Apple's products of the last few years. There are even older Apple touchscreens [wikipedia.org], so old in fact that their patents have expired or are about to do so. The previous generation's touchscreens didn't catch on because the devices were too limited. They'
    • The patent covers something very specific: using the velocity of a swipe across a touchscreen to decide to remove an object / set of objects when a threshold is exceeds. Or in other words flicking / swiping through a collection of things, like the iPhone home screen or cover flow in iTunes. Ignoring whether the patent is valid or not (seems quite trivial to me) how is this "something we already know how to do, but on a computer"? It's a HCI gesture, not sure how it could be done without a computer...

      • by egamma (572162)

        The patent covers something very specific: using the velocity of a swipe across a touchscreen to decide to remove an object / set of objects when a threshold is exceeds. Or in other words flicking / swiping through a collection of things, like the iPhone home screen or cover flow in iTunes. Ignoring whether the patent is valid or not (seems quite trivial to me) how is this "something we already know how to do, but on a computer"? It's a HCI gesture, not sure how it could be done without a computer...

        You mean, like flipping through a book, you know, the ones made of dead trees? Moving a page out of the way to make the next one visible?

        Or, for that matter, like my dog attacking the toilet-paper holder, unrolling it onto the floor.

      • by MROD (101561)
        You mean like "Removing a photo briskly off a table using your finger tips, but on a computer"? ;-)
      • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:17PM (#39776009)

        Ignoring whether the patent is valid or not (seems quite trivial to me) how is this "something we already know how to do, but on a computer"?

        Because it's obvious to the first engineer who actually encounters the problem in the course of day-to-day work. Consider the Apple swipe-to-unlock patent, or Amazon's patnet on one-click purchasing. The only "innovation" in either case was the original idea... and you're not supposed to be able to claim ideas. The actual teachings of those patents are obvious to any undergraduate compsci student or interested amateur, much less someone skilled in the art.

        I haven't read the claims, but this patent sounds very similar. If the summary is accurate, then it is a typical USPTO rubber-stamp job... a patent on an idea, written to cover all practical implementations of said idea. Nobody wins but the lawyers when such patents are issued... and gee whiz, look who runs the country.

        IMHO successful patent prosecutions should be based on the plaintiff's ability to show willful infringement. Otherwise, patents are literally a (civil) instance of thoughtcrime.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          Also, what is the point of a touch-screen, if not to manipulate on-screen elements? Put's it in the obvious category.

        • Ignoring whether the patent is valid or not (seems quite trivial to me) how is this "something we already know how to do, but on a computer"?

          Because it's obvious to the first engineer who actually encounters the problem in the course of day-to-day work. Consider the Apple swipe-to-unlock patent, or Amazon's patnet on one-click purchasing. The only "innovation" in either case was the original idea... and you're not supposed to be able to claim ideas.

          You do know that neither of those patents actually claimed "swipe-to-unlock" or "one-click purchasing," right? They claim very specific implementations, which is why even with Oreilly throwing a $10,000 bounty at it, he couldn't knock down the One-Click patent.

          I haven't read the claims, but this patent sounds very similar. If the summary is accurate...

          All three of those phrases indicate your error.

          • by Man On Pink Corner (1089867) on Monday April 23, 2012 @07:41PM (#39777375)

            Actually, the only mistake I appear to have made was in crediting Apple with the swipe-to-unlock patent. It seems the truth is more complicated. [dailytech.com]

            Read that article and the associated claims, and tell me how, in your professional opinion as a patent attorney, the "progress of science and the useful arts" was advanced when the USPTO granted a 20-year monopoly on all likely implementations of the slide-to-unlock gesture.

            This oughtta be good.

            • Actually, the only mistake I appear to have made was in crediting Apple with the swipe-to-unlock patent. It seems the truth is more complicated. [dailytech.com]

              Read that article and the associated claims, and tell me how, in your professional opinion as a patent attorney, the "progress of science and the useful arts" was advanced when the USPTO granted a 20-year monopoly on all likely implementations of the slide-to-unlock gesture.

              This oughtta be good.

              Sure. First, you're begging the question - your question requires that "all likely implementations" are covered by this patent, which means that you're presuming there's no reasonable way to design around the patent. That's not true.

              Second, there's no requirement that an individual patent advances the "progress of science and the useful arts". Rather, that's the mission of the patent system (and copyright system) as a whole. Within that, however, there may be patents on gambling devices, butt-kicking machi

              • However, the required public disclosure advances the useful arts because it takes away the incentives to have trade secrets.

                Fine, I think we're close to a meeting of minds on the subject. Can we agree that the patent system is a useful thing when, and only when, it gives inventors an alternative to hoarding valuable trade secrets? Without the "valuable" part, we don't need to incentivize the creation of new IP... and without the "trade secret" part, we don't need to reward the creation of an official pub

            • Actually, the only mistake I appear to have made was in crediting Apple with the swipe-to-unlock patent. It seems the truth is more complicated. [dailytech.com]

              Incidentally, the patent mentioned in that linked article doesn't cover swipe to unlock. Here's claim 1:

              1. A non-transitory computer readable medium storing a computer program with computer program code, which, when read by a mobile handheld computer unit, allows the computer to present a user interface for the mobile handheld computer unit, the user interface comprising:

              a touch sensitive area in which a representation of a function is provided, wherein the representation consists of only one option for activating the function and wherein the function is activated by a multi-step operation comprising (i) an object touching the touch sensitive area at a location where the representation is provided and then (ii) the object gliding along the touch sensitive area away from the touched location, wherein the representation of the function is not relocated or duplicated during the gliding.

              Since the unlock switch is relocated under your finger as you swipe, it doesn't infringe this patent.

      • by Altus (1034)

        throwing things across the screen with your mouse... or even off your screen is something I have seen quite a bit of. Why is a touch screen different? Particularly for a single touch gesture?

  • by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdo ... g ['ish' in gap]> on Monday April 23, 2012 @04:56PM (#39775779)

    Obviously he isn't claiming to have invented a touchscreen, since that long predates him. He presumably can't be patenting the idea of "using a touchscreen by touching it" in general, because that's the only way you can use one. Instead it seems to be an enumeration of lots of ways you can drag your finger along a touchscreen and produce UI events: it can move objects, it can produce zoom events, it can cause objects to disappear, to be replaced by other objects, whatever.

    My first reaction would be that this is a pretty obvious enumeration of things you can do with a touchscreen. But since courts seem to have a strange definition of what would be obvious to a person skilled in the art, a better angle might be to ask: is there video or discussion of someone using a touchscreen for manipulating objects on a screen prior to 1997? It seems the answer must be yes, but I can't find a smoking gun. By manipulating objects I mean dragging/panning/zooming, not interfacing with a "normal" GUI like touching buttons with your finger.

  • 1997? Bah! (Score:5, Funny)

    by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:00PM (#39775813)

    The Divinyls claim prior art from 1991.

  • Prior art: 1990 (Score:5, Informative)

    by jabberw0k (62554) on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:07PM (#39775883) Homepage Journal
    I was a programmer for the "Earth Over Time" interactive videodisc in 1990. Produced by Digital Techniques Inc., of Burlington Massachusetts for the Interactive Video Science Consortium, the system was designed primarily for school-age children, and installed in dozens of museums worldwide including the National Geographic in Washington DC. Earth Over Time featured a touchscreen display of Continents which the user could "click and drag" to re-assemble Pangaea, the prehistoric proto-continent. This multimedia application (called an "interactive videodisc" in the days before "multimedia" was a common word) won several awards including an ITVA Golden Reel and the Best Overall Achievement Nebraska Interactive Videodisc award in 1990. I also have implementation notes from the project in my files.
    • by Grayhand (2610049)

      I was a programmer for the "Earth Over Time" interactive videodisc in 1990. Produced by Digital Techniques Inc., of Burlington Massachusetts for the Interactive Video Science Consortium, the system was designed primarily for school-age children, and installed in dozens of museums worldwide including the National Geographic in Washington DC. Earth Over Time featured a touchscreen display of Continents which the user could "click and drag" to re-assemble Pangaea, the prehistoric proto-continent. This multimedia application (called an "interactive videodisc" in the days before "multimedia" was a common word) won several awards including an ITVA Golden Reel and the Best Overall Achievement Nebraska Interactive Videodisc award in 1990. I also have implementation notes from the project in my files.

      What about the movie Die Hard(1988)? He used a touch display in that to find which office his wife worked in so they were using touch displays that far back.

      • by jabberw0k (62554)
        Right, but the "Continents on the Move" section of "Earth Over Time" was specifically about a system for children that contained touch-screen dragging-and-moving, and knowing when to remove or "dock" an item.
    • by rossjudson (97786)

      Nice prior art. I poked around and found http://h10032.www1.hp.com/ctg/Manual/bpia2314.pdf, which describes pen-based gestures including drag-and-drop. I'm sure there are many more. The conceptual distance between pen and single-touch is very small.

  • Here we go, the patent troll merry-go-round...
  • Prior Art? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Yvan256 (722131)

    Apple Newton, 1993 [wikipedia.org].

    Doesn't it count as prior art? Not to mention all the other touch devices that had been available before the Newton.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You could drag and throw things on a Newton?

      Why is everyone pointing to previous touchscreen devices? This isn't a patent on touchscreen devices, it's a patent on a gesture. It's also silly as hell, but that beside the point.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @05:54PM (#39776439)

    (Std. disclaimer: I am a registered patent attorney, but I'm not your attorney. If you need legal advice, find an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.)

    The independent claims of this patent appear to focus on touching an item on the screen and "throwing it away" by moving it fast. Despite the hyperbole in other comments here, it doesn't claim all touchscreen systems.

    Can anyone think of a system that allowed deleting items from a touchscreen by "throwing them away" before June 12, 1997?

    • Since you're a patent attorney, maybe you can help me clarify this. Isn't a patent supposed to cover a specific implementation, not just the idea? Isn't this patent just an idea? I would bet that under the hood, iPhone is significantly different than this touchscreen device from 1997.

      For example, I couldn't patent the idea "Creating Electricity from Sunlight". That would cover a huge range of implementations: solar panels, molten salt plants, etc. But I could patent a specific design of a solar panel that
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 23, 2012 @06:04PM (#39776537)

    Hello? Yes, this is the Office of Licensing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. You might have heard of us? Yes, that M.I.T., professor. It has come to our attention that your patent 6920619 is based on Intellectual Property that is the undisputed creation of this Institute.

    Yes, that is correct. No, I'm sorry, but your pathetic attempt to rip off the "Put That.. There" project has not escaped our voracious I.P. monetizing department. Yes, I realize you obtained a patent in 1997 for this. It's not our fault that both yourself and the Patent Office failed to make note of the P..T..T project, which has continuously been a research project here since 1979, generating over three dozen major peer-reviewed papers and at least four PhD thesis.

    No, we don't take "I didn't know" as valid remuneration. We do take Visa, MasterCard, Discover, AmericanExpress, Diner's Club, and other credit cards. The entire contents of your bank account will also be a start.

    Yes, you plagiarizing twit, your Patent is invalid. Yes, we have a lot more lawyers than you (we get them from Harvard, at wholesale prices). Yes, you owe us for copyright infringement, too, since your interface design (as documented in the patent submission) is a direct copy of the 1990s work in P..T..T , and U.I. and industrial design is copyrightable (big shout out to Apple, there!).

    We await payment in the sum of a mid-size country's G.D.P., and no, we don't take first-born children. That would be Harvard.

    End-of-line.

  • I think deep down, really deep down. I sort of wish that Apple fails to defend against this lawsuit. I am just so sick and tired of seeing the lawsuits spew from Apple with no real repercussions while still able to stand on the high ground and look down on people who dare to accuse them of infringing on patents. It disgusts me and honestly, I fear for any future where the everyday man can't even consider developing an item or the next big thing for it most likely will infringe on some random patent down the
  • 1. Find some obscure patent for doing X with Y using Z.
    2. Post a story titled "company/person patents doing X!!!".
    3. Commenters scramble to write their own post listing the obvious prior art for X without reading the article, and therefore finding out about Y or Z.
    4. Fetch the popcorn and watch the page hits grow.
    5. PROFIT!

    • This kind of story repeats itself over and over again. Even after several posts have pointed out that the new insight here, which it's not clear to me that Apple infringes now, is about deleting something when it moves faster than a certain speed, we get more posts about just touchscreens. Is there some way to mod down the author of this story?
  • idiots... all software patents should be void as they're just mathematical algorythms when it gets down to it... your stupid patents office should be disbanded for the harm they've caused by allowing both software and method patents...
  • there were many touch screen devices before this one, so that's one issue out of the way. The real killer is that this is clearly a patent for a child's toy, as stated clearly in the patent docs. What would breach the patent would be an app that mimicked the processes described in the patent. iOS looks pretty safe, as does a hundred other touch driven devices.

  • So...we've had touch screen interfaces for years. Frankly I'm a little vague on the differences between using a stylus and not using a stylus, which in my mind brings us WAAAAY back to Apple's Newton project from the dawn of time. But even since then, I remember in the late 90's early 00's touchscreen monitors, overlays for monitors being used in education, tons of kiosk type systems at trade shows. My point is that I find it extremely difficult to believe that the first time this was done was 2005.

    My

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