Was Apple just awarded a patent on multi-touch?
Posted: 26 January 2009 11:38 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I just discovered on the US Patent site that Apple was awarded what looks like a patent on multi-touch. I blogged about it, but to be honest I’m not sure that I’m interpreting the patent correctly.  I was hoping that people on this forum could take a look and provide feedback or correct me or whatever. It’s pretty scary in my opinion.  What impact will this have on multi-touch in general?

Here is a link to my blog for those interested:

http://theclevermonkey.blogspot.com/2009/01/apple-successfully-patents-multi-touch.html

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Posted: 26 January 2009 06:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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From my (admittedly noobish) interpretation, this is an extension of already existing patents for their single-touch heuristics.  That is to say, the patent is on the heuristics and not any particular device or class of device.

This, in my opinion, is a glowing example of exactly why the US patent system is broken and shambled.  To make an analogy, this is basically like patenting a certain way of using a hoe to till your garden, but not the hoe nor the garden.

I’d have to assume that the heuristic engines used by both tBeta and Touchlib (the latter especially, since the source code is openly available), predate this patent request, and specifically this patent extension, and would not be considered derivative works.

This could be both good and bad for the community, or the enterprising of us who wish to make a living off multitouch technology - on the good end, Apple can’t swoop down and say we’re all infringing their patent if we try to build and sell a multitouch device based on the software and guiidances of this forum and others like it.  On the bad end, if they do try to swoop down and claim infringement, you’re going to need a damn good lawyer.  An expensive one.  One that’s probably going to broker a deal and get your little startup bought up by Apple.  Wait, which end was the bad end again?

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Posted: 27 January 2009 11:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Well I just noticed this discussion on Slashdot http://yro.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/01/27/024242&from=rss

This is a sad day for all of us if Apple really does own a patent on multitouch interfaces.

Another reason why I loathe (and I do mean hate) Apple.

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Posted: 27 January 2009 12:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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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.

[edit] Here’s a fixed URL for the Slashdot page: http://yro.slashdot.org/yro/09/01/27/024242.shtml

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Posted: 27 January 2009 01:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I don’t think open source software is any less effected by this patent than proprietary software and devices. There is nothing inherent in open source that allows it to violate US patent law.  What is more likely to happen, if the Judge cannot see the hand waving in his face, is that other countries will develop multi-touch where Apple has no patent. I expect the EU and Asia to lead in that regard.  That’s not so bad, but remember you cannot import goods that violate a patent in the US so it effectively sets the US back but not necessary the rest of the world.  Nice work, Apple. You just bit the hand that feeds you.

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Posted: 27 January 2009 01:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Not only have the patented it,

They are attempting to TRADEMARK it!!!!!

http://news.worldofapple.com/archives/2007/07/08/apple-attempting-to-trade-mark-multi-touch/

AAAHHHHHh

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Posted: 27 January 2009 02:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I’m betting a fail at the trademark issue.

I see Jeff Han also has patents pending http://www.perceptivepixel.com/ . I wonder for what exactly..

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Posted: 27 January 2009 02:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I am also confident this will be overturned in court.... eventually.

It disgusts me that Apple could be awarded a patent like this in the first place. This is the reason the US is lagging in innovation compared to Europe and Asia and it will not get any better until we reform this ghastly patent system.

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Posted: 27 January 2009 02:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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yea me too.

I’ve just made a blog called ‘defying apple’. I need everyone here to go and help me spread the word that apple has patented Multi Touch.

http://www.defyingapple.jckd.co.uk

Please comment!!

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Posted: 28 January 2009 04:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Here is a link to a great article that puts the Apple patent in perspective for the NUI group community:

**
So does Apple have the market cornered on multitouch? Probably not, according to Steven Henry, an intellectual property attorney who specializes in computer-related inventions for the Boston-based law firm Wolf Greenfield. Henry says that while a patent may generally present obstacles to new inventions, often a patent will, in fact. encourage innovation and “spur others to be creative and devise alternatives.”

“Many times, those alternatives prove superior to the original, patented invention,” Henry says. “If the Apple patent threatens other products, that can either be because those others independently developed the same technology before Apple’s became public, or because they took a “me too” approach. If the latter, why should Apple not be able to stop them from capitalizing on its inventiveness?”
**

Read full article link:
http://www.pcworld.com/article/158481/article.html?tk=nl_dnxnws

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Posted: 28 January 2009 05:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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This article is pretty dismissive of the threat posed by this patent. I hope that’s justified because I don’t think the industry can rest on its laurels while Apple proceeds to patent and trademark the concepts of multi-touch.  The thing is you can’t really get around gestures as an input method to touch screens - that leaves you with just point and click and even that can be considered a gesture and therefor in violation of the patent.

I can understand that from an outsiders perspective this seems like “much ado about nothing” but when you understand the essence of the patent is about gestures in general on a touch service its just plain bad news.

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Posted: 29 January 2009 05:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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That last article sounds like Apple propaganda.

Apple did not invent multi touch. Its been around for a long time. Jeff Hans demo at TED showed how you could use multi touch gestures to visualize information before Apple even filed their patent. All Apple did was add multi touch to an OS. Big deal. They didnt exactly innovate a new idea, they just took an existing idea and made a great product with it. They deserve the mobile market share they were able to gain in only 2 years. But they do not deserve to own the concept of a multi touch OS. Despite what that pcworld dipshit says, this is not encouraging innovation. It is Apple trying to bully everyone out of a market it already dominates with a technology they didnt develop.

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Posted: 01 February 2009 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Another interesting article that pokes holes in the Apple patent

http://i.gizmodo.com/5142445/dissecting-apples-multitouch-patent-can-it-stop-palm

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Posted: 01 February 2009 11:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Actually this article is pretty good. Gizmodo did some serious reporting.

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