Could Apple’s Multi-Touch patents be a step backward for the industry?

“Apple [today] brought the gesture-recognition technology first introduced on the MacBook Air over to the new MacBook Pro systems, which will likely ship in much larger volumes than the MacBook Air and introduce many more of Apple’s customers to the idea of trackpad gesture recognition. The technology allows you to zoom in and out of pictures, for example, by using the same pinch-and-expand gesture used on the iPhone,” Tom Krazit reports for CNET.

“It’s clear… that the iPhone’s multitouch user interface is perhaps its greatest asset. And Synaptics, which makes TouchPads used in a wide variety of notebooks PCs, expects several PC vendors to introduce similar technology later this year on their own notebooks,” Krazit reports. “At CES, Synaptics introduced a new TouchPad that incorporates the same style of pinching and zooming… Microsoft is likewise hard at work investigating the potential for multitouch interfaces in computers.”

MacDailyNews Take: And Big Ass Tables.

Krazit continues, “Wired brought up an interesting point last week, however, as it looked into Apple’s chances of patenting this technology. Apple secretly acquired Fingerworks, a company started by two professors at the University of Delaware, in 2005 in order to get its hands on the MultiTouch fingertip recognition technology.”

“If Apple is successful with its patent efforts, and other PC and smartphone companies develop their own gesture-recognition technology in response, we could see a world where pinching on a MacBook might zoom, but the same gesture might close a window on a ThinkPad, or open a file on a mobile phone,” Krazit writes. “Would that be a step backward for the industry?”

Full article here.

Apple’s been ripped off quite enough over the years, thanks. If Microsoft, Nokia, or any other firm infringes on Apple’s Multi-Touch patents (or any other patents), Apple should, in the immortal words of our lawyer, Buck Finagler, junior partner with Dewey, Cheatham & Howe, “Sue ’em ’til their asses bleed!”

Let Microsoft pinch to zoom in. Click “Start” to Shut Down. Same difference.

To find out which of the cool iPhone features has been patented by Apple and are now protected from replication and which ones you can expect to be copied soon by the likes of Nokia, Samsung or Motorola, we’ve combed through the U.S. Patent and Trademark database and checked all relevant Apple’s patents.

And we came to a conclusion that this time Steve Jobs did his homework and most of the key features that make iPhone an iPhone will not be easily copied by competitors. This applies to Multi touch display, the idea to use full screen of the device for User Interface, scrolling, zooming and other finger gestures, soft on screen controls, multifunctionality, proximity, ambient light sensors and many other functions.

Steve Jobs exclaimed [in front of a slide displaying “200+ patents” during Macworld Expo 2007’s iPhone-dominated] keynote, “And boy have we patented it!” it was not an empty boast. The have indeed PATENTED it. And though not all of the claims have received patent protection yet and even less of them may withstand scrutiny in court if Apple decides to enforce them, many of the claims should should stick.Unwired View, May 2007


  1. Patent what? Apple didn’t invent multi-touch! They adapted it to their design. So the others will find a way to go around those Apple patents and integrate multi-touch in their devices… take a look at MS Surface if you don’t believe me.

  2. So this guy thinks patenting the process of multi touch commands that apple uses is a bad idea, so all other company’s should be able to use them freely?

    HOW ABOUT A LICENSE?!?!?!?!?!!?

    if a company doesn’t want to develop its own multi touch commands then they can ask apple for a LICENSE for theirs. THAT is how IP is protected, and how the business world works.


  3. “Multi-touch is neither a game changer…”

    @ Lurker_PC,

    Even though Apple didn’t invent it, that multi-touch thing is game changer. It’s not just a matter of look & feel, or intuitiveness. It’s about being able to develop all kind of applications for a device (e.g. iPhone), and develop a specific GUI for each and everyone of them. I mean, there’s no limitations in the flexibility. The screen will adapt to your need in terms of display and control. And with all the sensors, there’s a lot of things we’ll be able to do that remain unseen.

    I trully think the release of an SDK for a multi-touch device will show the full potential of that “useful feature”, as you called it. Developers’ imagination will take care of making the revolution happen. Just like for the mouse, the applications will make it breakthrough invetion.

  4. Much ado about nothing I assure you. This is no more a step backward for the “industry” than defaulting your icons to the left vs. the right, or collapsed windows in a dock vs. the Start menu, or telling your computer to save or open a document with a voice command vs. double-clicking – It’s nothing… Really.

  5. @ Jeff:

    Without patents, R&D;changes from an investment to flushing money down the toilet. Why invest in the R&D;if someone can just come and take your idea once you’ve perfected it, be it software code, or a chemical compound, or hardware, or a service. Ideas and innovations need to be protected, period.

  6. @ Mac+

    You do bring up a good point. Multi-touch does have the potential to become a game changer – with new software and hardware updates. My comment was meant to describe today’s portable computers from Apple. The inclusion of multi-touch does not really affect the typical interaction between a person and the computer. Yes multi-touch alters the interface in a few specific applications for a few specific functions but overall is limited in it’s applicability. As the applicability and useability of multi-touch grows, so does the possibility of multi-touch becoming a true game changer. As of today, multi-touch is a usual (and fun) feature of the portable computers.


  7. Unfortunately, Apple (and other companies) are forced to patent everything they touch at this point whether for ulterior motives or not. Otherwise, some other doofus will come along and patent Apple’s techniques and sue the pants off of them.

    That whole Amazon one-click patent was/is ridiculous.

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