Thursday, June 23, 2011

How Will Apple Use Its Recently Granted "Mother-Of-All-Multi-Touch Patents?"

Apple received a lot of attention yesterday after being granted what some are now calling the broadest and most sweeping patent for multi-touch displays ever.

Some contend that this could amount to it being virtually the mother-of-all-multi-touch-patents, effecting virtually every aspect of the market, so it's not surprising that Gizmodo's banner headline on the subject read: "Apple Now Owns The Display On Your Smartphone's TouchScreen."

Depending on how you view this particular patent, this is one patent that could really shake up the entire multi-touch market and not just for smartphones, but essentially for anything else that includes a touch screen that uses more than one finger for input, or gestures, including, of course, the horde of multi-touch tablets now entering the market to take on the iPad.

Apple's patent, U.S. patent number 7,966,578, according to PCMag, could be ".... A Huge Blow To Rival's" indeed. In fact, according to patent lawyers contacted by PCMag, they write:

"Apple's patent essentially gives it ownership of the capacitive multitouch interface the company pioneered with its iPhone, said one source who has been involved in intellectual property litigation on similar matters. That's likely to produce a new round of lawsuits over the now-ubiquitous multitouch interfaces used in smartphones made by the likes of HTC, Samsung, Motorola, Research in Motion, Nokia, and others that run operating systems similar in nature to Apple's iOS, like Google's Android, said the source, who asked not to be named."

After yesterdays disclosure, numerous people have been trying to downplay the significance and importance of the whole deal. They contend that it will never stand up in court, and since it could be so lethal to all of the iPhone and iPad copycats out there that the courts will most likely just end up invalidating the whole thing altogether. I even read somewhere where someone commented that, "This whole thing is ridiculous, how can Apple get a patent for something that already existed and that people have been using long before Apple ever did?"

The answer to the above question, is of course, kind of ridiculous in-and-of-itself, because the truth of the matter is that before the iPhone, there were NO such multi-touch products of any kind or description in the marketplace! None, el-zippo baby! And, naturally, since there were no multi-touch products of any kind in the marketplace there were naturally NO such multi-touch screens until Apple put the very first one in its very first iPhone!

Yes, I know, you know, and everyone else in the civilized world knows that there were 'touch screens' long before Apple ever used them, but they were NOT multi-touch, but rather simple one finger touch screens. The iPhone was the first device, and I mean the first one period, to ever use a screen that could handle and interpret two or more fingers or gestures. And being the first, it was the first to patent them and I don't care what Android, MeeGo, Windows, or WebOS fan boys might think or say about the matter.

Now, like most others, I really don't know how this "mother-of-all-patents" will eventually play out. Will Apple, as some say use it to "bully" its competition? Will companies think twice before deciding to rip off wholesale the iPhone's interface, and yes, you know who you are Google, Samsung, Motorola, Microsoft, etc., etc.? Again, I really don't know?

So, just how big of a deal is Apple's recently granted patent?

Well, in conclusion, the answer is that it's definitely big, and maybe even super big, but just how big or just how it will eventually all play out is anybodies guess.

Apple seems to have great success at acquiring significant patents, but so far it hasn't been all that successful in enforcing them. Since it was Apple and nobody else that first brought multi-touch software and multi-touch screens to the market, it is they who deserve the credit and the rewards that go along with those patents and hard work, NOT Google, Samsung, LG, Motorola, or whom ever, all of whom have thus far have been profiting from Apple's hard work with almost total impunity.


And that's my 2 cents 4 this Thursday, June 23, 2011

Patent illustration via: AppleInsider

9 comments:

Joshua said...

There were plenty of things that were muti touch before the iphone was released. I think you should actually know what your talking about before you say something.

http://multi-touchscreen.com/

Omg! Is he using up to 10 fingers!? And a year before the iphone was released.

University of toronto hand multi touch in 1982 wow thats a long time before the iphone.

Joshua said...

Was apple the hard workers who invented the first touch screen phone? no that credit belongs to IBM for the IBM Simon which came out in 1992. Every company will copy stuff off each other. look at the new Ios5 for the Iphone the notification center is the same as andriod that's how innovation works. You keep progressing with great ideas.

I am a lover of children's literature said...

Thanks Joshua for your comment. As far as the first touch screen goes, that's not the point, because it was Apple that invented the first 'MULTI-TOUCH' screen. Apple never claimed it was the first to invent a touch screen. They are similar, but different.
The notification that you say came from Android didn't.... if my memory serves me right, it actually came from the developer of a iOS jailbreak 'notification' system that predates Androids:

http://venturebeat.com/2011/06/03/apple-hires-jailbreak-notification-dev/

I am a lover of children's literature said...

Thanks again Joshua, but the link you provided is misleading. I've seen all this before, and you must know that Apple purchased FingerWorks which was the first company ever to commercially sell multi-touch devices, all others were just experimental!

As far as multi-touch being invented at Toronto University goes, let me quote from Wikipedia, which I'm assuming you got your info:

"Multi-touch technology began in 1982, when the University of Toronto's Input Research Group developed the first human-input multi-touch system. The system used a frosted-glass panel with a camera placed behind the glass. When a finger or several fingers pressed on the glass, the camera would detect the action as one or more black spots on an otherwise white background, allowing it to be registered as an input. Since the size of a dot was dependent on pressure (how hard the person was pressing on the glass), the system was somewhat pressure-sensitive as well.[2]"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multi-touch

Now you have to admit, that's a lot different than how the iPhone works. Apple has the patents for multi-touch, but not all multi-touch devices, but just for mobile screens, such as phones and tablets! Let me quote from the source above:

"Apple acquired Fingerworks and its multi-touch technology in 2005. Mainstream exposure to multi-touch technology occurred in 2007 when the iPhone gained popularity, with Apple stating they 'invented multi touch' as part of the iPhone announcement,[12] however both the function and the term predate the announcement or patent requests, EXCEPT FOR SUCH AREA OF APPLICATION AS CAPACITIVE MOBILE SCREENS, WHICH DID NOT EXIST BEFORE FINGERWORKS/APPLE'S TECHNOLOGY (Apple filed patents for in 2005-2007 and was awarded with in 2009-2010)." (emphasis mine)

Apple does own the term "multi-touch' as far as trade marks goes, but only owns the patents for multi-touch when it comes to mobile screens, since FingerWorks was the first to bring multi-touch to the place where you could actually buy them, unlike all of the other multi-touch devices that were mostly experimental and unavailable to the public.

Joshua said...

Peter the man who came up with MobileNotifier the replacement for apple's notification center released it in late 2010. The pull down notification center has been on the android os since the release of android on the nexus one in 2008.

I know apple didn't invent the touch screen. I guess I'm just sick of hearing about apple saying they invented something when they didn't it just really bothers me for some reason.

I know it's very different but it's still multi touch. Not all multi touch and touch screens work the same way, some detect focused heat that comes off your finger and others have a screen that slightly bends

I am a lover of children's literature said...

Thanks Joshua for the info on Peter's notification for iOS,and your comment.

Again, Apple never claimed to have invented multi-touch, but only the version that goes on mobile devices.

All companies copy, and that's ok. It's not ok, however, when that copying violates someone else's patents. Patents are only good for 15 years, and then anyone can use them. Apple brought out multi-touch on mobiles and tablets at a cost of who-knows-how-many-millions of dollars and should be able to reap the rewards.

To give an example, of tablets before and after the iPad, simple go here:

http://obamapacman.com/2011/08/ipad-tablet-obvious-design/

For the smartphone, before and after the iPhone, go here:

http://obamapacman.com/2011/08/iphone-design-obvious-vs-android-history/

Again, thanks Joshua for you comments, much appreciated.

ryanp said...

today apple succesfully won an initial injunction in Australia blocking the Samsung Tablet. This essentially paves the way for Apple to block any other mobile device using a multitouch display in Australia, possibly granting them the ability to have a monopoly on the smartphone/tablet industry there.

I feel that Apple should be able pantent an implementation of an idea, but not something as broad as a multi touch interface for a mobile device. The idea and use of multi touch has been around for a while, and while it was not on a mobile device yet, the idea already existed. Apples method of deploying this idea should by all means be protected, but not the actual idea of having a multitouch interface.

If this were applied to other cases, what would happen? Should only one TV manufacturer by able to have a thin TV because they patented the idea first? Should a technology like server virtualization only be given to one company because they patented the idea first? What about the idea of digital music? should one company be able to patent the idea of a digitized copy of music?

To all of these questions I would answer no, but the implementation should be protected. The digital music FORMAT should be protected, the technologies designed to implement virtualization should be protected, the technologies allowing flat screens should be protected.

However the ideas should not, just because someone patented it first. Apples implementation of a multitouch screen should be protected. Whatever technologies they created should not be used by others unless they license them. But the idea should not be.

ryanp said...

today apple succesfully won an initial injunction in Australia blocking the Samsung Tablet. This essentially paves the way for Apple to block any other mobile device using a multitouch display in Australia, possibly granting them the ability to have a monopoly on the smartphone/tablet industry there.

I feel that Apple should be able pantent an implementation of an idea, but not something as broad as a multi touch interface for a mobile device. The idea and use of multi touch has been around for a while, and while it was not on a mobile device yet, the idea already existed. Apples method of deploying this idea should by all means be protected, but not the actual idea of having a multitouch interface.

If this were applied to other cases, what would happen? Should only one TV manufacturer by able to have a thin TV because they patented the idea first? Should a technology like server virtualization only be given to one company because they patented the idea first? What about the idea of digital music? should one company be able to patent the idea of a digitized copy of music?

To all of these questions I would answer no, but the implementation should be protected. The digital music FORMAT should be protected, the technologies designed to implement virtualization should be protected, the technologies allowing flat screens should be protected.

However the ideas should not, just because someone patented it first. Apples implementation of a multitouch screen should be protected. Whatever technologies they created should not be used by others unless they license them. But the idea should not be.

I am a lover of children's literature said...

Thanks Ryanp for your comment. As you may know, the patent system is going through some major changes, and that includes the fact, whether we like it or not, that it is no longer who came up with an idea first that matters, but who patents and implements it first!

The only company that I know of that actually had multi-touch products on the market was FingerWorks, who built input devices such as keyboards, and Apple as you know bought them out.

Multi-touch patents that Apple can use are for only mobile devices, if someone wants to put it in TV's, radios, desktops, etc., Apple's patents don't or won't apply.