Apple Granted Core Multitouch Patent

| News

Apple was granted a core multitouch patent on Tuesday, a patent covering one of the key ways that touches on a touch interface get transmitted to the operating system. More specifically, the patent covers the way an oscillator signal interacts with a signal, and it could become a key patent in Apple’s patent war with Google’s Android and Android device makers.

Apple Patent Figure

Patent Figure
(Click the image for a larger version)
Source: PatentlyApple

According to PatentlyApple, which found the patent, Apple’s patent application laid out the case for why the company’s invention was necessary. The filing claims that the existing resistance touchscreens at the time of the filing offer single point-of-contact touches that inherently limit function.

Apple’s solution was to develop a capacitive touch display that can then use an oscillating signal to register and track multiple touches on the display. It was a significant advancement at the time, and PatentlyApple pointed out that this was one of the “200+ patents for new inventions in iPhone” that Steve Jobs bragged about in the January 2007 Macworld keynote that introduced iPhone to the world. The application was filed in January of that year just prior to the keynote address.

200+ Patents

Steve Jobs Touting the “200+” Patents Protecting iPhone Inventions
Photo by John F. Braun (Check out our full gallery from the 2007 Macworld keynote for more photos)

The patent lays out a number of claims, including descriptions of single event and multiple-event touches, a “method for tuning a local oscillator of an event-sensitive device,” an “event sensor device,” a “circuit for generating an oscillating signal,” and other related topics.

Apple has been embroiled in a bitter patent dispute with Android device makers, a battle that has served as a proxy for the company’s broader fight against Android as a whole. Apple has accused companies like Samsung of “slavishly copying” Apple’s iPad and iPhone, and the late Steve Jobs promised thermonuclear war to stop what he has characterized as a wholesale rip-off of Apple’s inventions.

This patent could prove key to that battle, but it will have to hold up, and it would only help Apple if other companies have used these same methods to achieve their own multitouch displays. Being newly granted, Apple has yet to try to wield this patent, and it remains to be seen if the company will.

[Updated at 8:26 PM with additional information and details.]

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3 Comments

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Android and me links to this story for their own take, which concludes:

It?s like that story, The Boy Who Cried Wolf. Every patent suit against Android is touted as the one that will end the platform. But that?s not what happens. So the townspeople don?t even listen anymore. They just don?t care. I think we?ve finally reached that point.

I could not agree more. Apple would do much better to turn its copiers toward Redmond and pilfer its licensing strategy with Android. It would bring better karma to Apple.

AdamOutler

Brad, you realize that most of Apple’s patents are worthless right?  They basically take what’s already there, add a bell (no whistle), then patent it.  It’s this strategy that keeps them losing. 
They’ve had what, 100 patents in the last few months they’ve been bothering other manfuacturers with..  and they have won what, 2.. 3?  They were minor victories..  Apple is 98% marketing and 2% innovation. 

Real innovators like Samsung and other companies don’t brag, patent, and copyright every single thing they do.  Apple is practically using the patent office like a little girl uses twitter.. “And I got a new pencil, and I sharpened it, and then i went to the bathroom”. 

They didn’t get a patent on “Multi-touch”.  They got a patent on their latest revision of multi-touch.  Multi-touch was invented in 70s.  Here. read this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-touch

This is yet another worthless Apple patent.

Bryan Chaffin

Adam, you are, of course, welcome to think that Samsung is innovative while Apple is not?though I personally think that requires a staggering effort at denying reality?but I suggest that your belief that Samsung “and other companies” don’t patent and copyright their own innovations out of some grand effort at taking a higher road is purely delusional.

To wit: Samsung has almost 12,000 mobile phone related patents, while Apple has less than 2,000.

Tom’s Hardware says that in 2011 Samsung has been issued more patents in the U.S. than any other tech company, including IBM (which also has a FAR larger portfolio than Apple). Between August 1st and November 10th alone, Samsung was issued 2,324 patents. Not all of those were for mobile phone-related technologies, but that 10 week stretch still represents more patents than Apple has in total in the category.

I think you should reexamine your preconceptions.

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