Apple’s latest Multi-Touch patent a major or minor deal?

“So Apple got yet another patent granted today, and now there’s yet another media firestorm over whether it means Cupertino will be able to sue every other phone manufacturer out of business, or at least out of the business of making multitouch devices,” Nilay Patel reports for This is my next. “And, as usual, most of the hysteria is based on a fundamental misinterpretation of what the patent claims actually say, and what behaviors they actually cover in iOS.”

“[It’s] a pretty narrow patent, and I don’t think the big brains at Google or Microsoft (or Motorola or Samsung or HTC or whoever) will have a hard time engineering around it — it’s really just one specific type of multitouch interaction,” Patel reports. “I certainly wouldn’t call it an ‘iPhone patent’ or anything nearly so broad or sensational. That said, it’s certainly yet another arrow in Apple’s quiver of patents on the things that make the iPhone work the way it does, and Cupertino may well assert it against another OEM sometime down the line. But even still, Apple’s already locked in litigation against HTC, Samsung, and Motorola — one more granted patent isn’t going to swing the balance by much.”

Read more in the full article here.

Stephen Shankland reports for ZDNet, “The patent governs how content on the screen moves when you touch the screen. A one-finger touch might move an entire page around, for example, but a two-finger touch might move just content within a particular region that the patent calls a frame. The smaller frame could be any number of things — a scrollable list of items, a portion of a map.”

“The patent begins with a claim involving web pages shown in a stationary window, but other claims specify other tasks: word processing, spreadsheet, email or presentation documents; maps; and scrollable lists of items,” Shankland reports. “The patent covers this technology on a ‘portable multifunction device,’ described broadly enough to include not just smartphones, but also tablets and potentially other touchscreen devices, as well.”

“Apple’s patent starts out with a claim involving web pages, but later extends to word processors, spreadsheets, presentation software and maps,” Shankland reports. “‘It covers the basic user interface concept of moving touchscreen content with multi-touch gestures — not just one particular way to programmatically recognise one particular gesture for this purpose, but any or all ways to do so,’ [says FOSS Patent’s Florian Mueller]. ‘This patent describes the solution at such a high level that it effectively lays an exclusive claim to the problem itself, and any solutions to it.'”

Shankland reports, “‘Moving objects on a touchscreen with multi-touch gestures is a very essential function,’ he added. ‘I can hardly imagine that smartphones and tablets would be competitive in the future without multi-touch object-moving.'”

Much more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: MacDailyNews Take: Wherever iPhone knockoff makers infringe on their patented intellectual property, Apple should make them pay dearly.

We’ve been pushing the state-of-the-art in every facet of design… We’ve been innovating like crazy for the last few years on this and we’ve filed for over 200 patents for all of the inventions in iPhone. And we intend to protect them.Apple CEO Steve Jobs when unveiling iPhone, January 9, 2007

We like competition as long as they don’t rip off our IP, in which case we will go after them. We will not stand for having our IP ripped-off and we will use any weapons at our disposal [to stop it].Apple COO Tim Cook, January 21, 2009

We’ll say it agin, for the second time today: The amount of time patents and patent infringement litigation take is criminal. How useful is the patent system patent if companies can copy at will, amass market share, and operate businesses based on theft for years and years unabated?

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Andrew W.” for the heads up.]

Related articles:
Apple granted major iPhone Multi-Touch patent; rival smartphone makers could face big trouble – June 22, 2011
Apple awarded huge ‘multi-touch’ patent covering iPhone, iPod touch – January 26, 2009
Apple COO Tim Cook puts Palm, others on notice: ‘We will not stand for having our IP ripped off’ – January 21, 2009
Apple patent application details Multi-Touch™ swipe gestures for iPhone touch screen keyboard – December 26, 2008
Apple’s advantage: iPhone multi-touch patent – June 20, 2007
Apple’s iPhone well protected by patents – May 25, 2007


  1. Just waiting for the flood of emails claiming Apple’s enforcement of these patents will limit innovation. That’s bull. I think it’s effect ‘should’ be the complete opposite. What it will do is prevent competitors from riding Apple’s technological coattails and force them to develop something new & innovative. Just like Apple did in 2007. I say ‘should’ because my faith in Apple competitor’s ability to innovate is sorely lacking. It took Apple to innovate beyond the scroll wheel.

  2. Why is it that if you have some BS patent that says “information should travel over wires or fiberoptics” you get to sue everyone….. but if you have very specific images, functions and techniques, then the patent should be invalid and does not really apply, etc….

    Just curious.


  3. Honestly, Nilay asserts there is a media frenzy over this award and then sites two web sites making a big deal over it. Two qualifies as a frenzy? I do agree with him that this is not an all-encompassing multi-touch patent that is cause for their competitors to be overly concerned. It’s just a patent for single/multi-touch scrolling.

    Every article written about Apple is either over-the-top gushing or mean-spirited and then like clockwork, out come the commentors who either love or hate Apple.

    One thing is certain, Apple is very controversial.

  4. Just like Apple now has to pay Nokia. They all pull the same crap and Apple is no better or worse. Do something to increase shareholder’s value. Introduce the damn iPhone 4S or 5.

    1. I think you actually made the opposite point you meant to make. Apple paid Nokia because they were using Nokia’s patented tech. The reason for the lawsuit was because Nokia saw Apple’s huge cash pile and tried to extort them by demanding outrageously higher royalty payments than they were charging everyone else. Apple just wanted to pay what was fair.

      The issue with Android, Samsung, et al. is that they’re treading on Apple’s patented tech while blatantly copying Apple (case in point: point me to a phone that looked and worked remotely like the iPhone before 2007), not paying Apple a dime, and in lot of cases claiming they “innovated” it all themselves.

      Just my $0.02

  5. I believe Adobe had a situation like this where they were trying to claim certain interface conventions, sub-menus, or something like that.

    You can get away with patenting sex, but not a specific position.

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