Flatworld Sues Apple Claiming Touch-based Patent Infringement

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Apple has been hit with a lawsuit from a company called Flatworld over claims that the iPhone, iPad and Mac maker is infringing on its touch-based device control patent. Flatworld lists most of Apple’s hardware in its lawsuit including iOS devices, laptops, and pointing devices.

Flatworld says Apple infringed on its touch patentsThe Flatworld lawsuit alleged Apple infringed on Patent RE43,318, according to Patently Apple, and that “Apple’s infringement of the ‘318 patent has been on a massive scale, and has taken place with actual knowledge of the inventions claimed herein.”

Flatworld’s patent describes “A system for manipulating images comprising a screen upon which an image is displayed,” which sounds similar to the basic gestures Apple uses in iOS and for trackpad navigation, although it doesn’t mention multi-touch. Flatworld said it developed and patented its touch-control technology as part of a test tool that let children “directly manipulate or move objects on the screen, and ‘hide’ them behind other objects.”

The company specifically lists the iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, sixth generation iPod nano, MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, the Magic Mouse when used with OS X 10.6.1 or newer, and the Magic Trackpad when used with OS X 10.6.4 or later.

Flatworld filed its case in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Apple has not commented on the case.

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Patently Apple states the patent was issued to Flatweorld in 1998.

Wikipedia states that track-pads were first used in the late 1980s and Apple first used them on the PowerBook 500 series laptops in 1994. Major manufacturers of Trackpads include Alps, Cirque, and Synaptics. Flatworld is conspicuous by their absence from this list. I assume these three have patents covering their devices.  One has to wonder why they aren’t suing the major manufacturers of trackpads. Why not the other computer manufacturers? Why not RIM and the other phone manufacturers that are using this concept?

Lee Dronick

Good pounts Geoduck.


Fe Fi Fo Fum, me thinks me smells a patent troll…..



Flatworld has no obligation to sue every manufacturer. They can choose to target Apple specifically, and authorize all other companies to freely license their patent.

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