Apple Granted Critical Touch & Gesture Patent

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple a critical patent covering touch- and gesture-based interfaces on Tuesday. The new patent, number 8,239,784, describes mode-based graphic user interfaces on touch-sensitive devices, and includes features like pinch-and-zoom, page turns, and virtual scroll wheels.

Apple’s abstract for the ‘784 patent states it covers a method that includes “detecting a touch and then determining a user interface mode when a touch is detected. The method further includes activating one or more GUI elements based on the user interface mode and in response to the detected touch.”

Apple scores new multi-touch patentApple scores new multi-touch patent

The patent includes descriptions for detecting touches and gestures, then displaying interface elements and changing interfaces based on the current touch state. It also describes how the physical components that make up the system interact with the software-based interface elements — in other words, Apple has described the foundation that makes up the iOS experience on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Apple’s new patent is a win for the company since it now has yet another powerful tool it can use in defending its mobile devices and the interfaces that make them unique, and Apple has been actively taking on companies such as Samsung for what it sees as clear cases of infringement and design copying. The two companies are currently squaring off in a multi-week trial over those allegations with Apple claiming Samsung owes it US$2.5 billion for patent infringement while Samsung claims Apple owes 2.4 percent of all iPhone sales for using its patents without proper licensing.

There isn’t any word yet on whether or not Apple plans to use the ‘784 patent in any of its legal fights, although with the fundamental mobile device elements it covers, it’s a fairly safe bet the company’s lawyers are already working on deciding where it fits in with their courtroom strategies.

[Thanks to Patently Apple for the heads up.]