Apple Granted Core Multitouch Patent

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.]