Said best by a slashdot commenter -
There is no other way of implementing this .. and therefore Apple’s patent is invalid, as it fails the test of not closing off the only way of doing something.
Fingers moving about on a point-detection surface are inherently ambiguous in their meaning, and therefore only a heuristic method can handle the problem—a deterministic algorithm cannot.
The USPTO will happily allow you to patent breathing, but that doesn’t mean that it will stand up in court.
It will be interesting to see Apple try to defend their Imaginary Property on this issue.
Getting a patent approved and enforcing said patent are two largely different monsters, which could be lucky for us.
Here’s what I forsee happening in this domain - Apple will sue Microsoft for infringement on the MS Surface, or Palm for their gesture recognition algorithms in the new Palm OS, Microsoft/Palm will fight it like hell (hopefully), proving prior art and/or the above statement about unfair practice. God willing, we’ll get a patent judge who will determine that Apple’s patent is unenforceable for these reasons, and Apple will lose, allowing innovation in the field to flourish.
Or, if said judge can’t see the hand waving infront of his face, he’ll grant in favor of Apple, who will try to squash competition in the field and set everyone back 20 years as they wait for the patent to expire (by which time they hope to patent the next latest and greatest interface design, of course)
I’d have to assume that any patent lawyer worth their grits will be able to defend successfully against this obviously unenforceable patent.
Since it’s also fairly clear that this patent doesn’t cover any kind of particular device, it will still be profitable to build and sell multitouch systems (hardware and applications), which will continue to innovate - however the software driving them will have to be completely open source and fall under a GNU/BSD type of license - i/e no profit will ever be able to come from the software interfaces for said systems. This is a two headed snake, obviously, as it would certainly slow or stall innovation on the software side of things, but as Ubuntu / Suse linux have shown us recently, there is profit and motivation to be had alongside the open-source side of things. We’ll end up with what this community is already reaching for - a good, stable heuristic base for MT applications, which will help to keep the devices that use it open and accessible to the common developer.
I might just be optimistic here, but eventually good will come from this ridiculous patent - either the straw-on-the-camel that starts the war against an obviously broken patent system, or forcing the non-apple approaches to be open and accessible.
Lets all hope for the best here.
 Here’s a fixed URL for the Slashdot page: http://yro.slashdot.org/yro/09/01/27/024242.shtml