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Apple Awarded Patent For iPhone Interface

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the can't-touch-that dept.

Patents 449

Toe, The writes "Apple's 358-page patent application for their iPhone interface entitled Touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics has been approved after more than two years of review by the US Patent Office. Apple's claims include: 'A computer-implemented method for use in conjunction with a computing device with a touch screen display comprises: detecting one or more finger contacts with the touch screen display, applying one or more heuristics to the one or more finger contacts to determine a command for the device, and processing the command. The one or more heuristics comprise: a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a one-dimensional vertical screen scrolling command, a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a two-dimensional screen translation command, and a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a command to transition from displaying a respective item in a set of items to displaying a next item in the set of items.' As Apple seems eager to defend their intellectual property, what will this mean to other touch developers?"

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Waiting.. (5, Informative)

adonoman (624929) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618069)

It means 20 years of waiting for the patent to expire before this kind of interface can be advanced at all.

Re:Waiting.. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26618107)

I agree with you. This is sad day. fracking fruit company.

Re:Waiting.. (4, Insightful)

zappepcs (820751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618123)

Sadly, I think you are right. Since I loathe iWTFever, I suppose I'll not be using any touchscreen devices anytime soon. Shame. This will be much like getting a patent on a brake pedal, IMO.

Sometimes a patent is not such a good thing for the public. I hope that this doesn't turn out to be one of those times.

Steve Jobs heart-lung transplant surgery next week (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26618447)

He's hanging in there. Hope he's got good insurance! Those heart-lung teams want lots and lots of moohla if you don't want your destination to be that pine box they got out back.

Re:Waiting.. (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26618467)

the other possibility is that with this type of patent, there will be swifter reform that rejects it

Re:Waiting.. (5, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618691)

Sometimes a patent is not such a good thing for the public.

I'm curious if a patent ever is a good thing for the public. it really only ever seems to do exactly this.

I mean, look at this. It's clearly Apple's IP. It's clearly a new invention.

It's also clear that Apple has already gained the competitive advantage a patent is supposed to provide, without the patent.

Which means that all the patent does, in this case, is retard progress for twenty years by preventing anyone else from beginning to compete with the iPhone. It's the difference between building new and exciting interfaces that start with the iPhone and expand beyond it, and instead having everyone else have to build ugly hacks to avoid infringing on that patent even when the iPhone is a horribly obsolete product.

Patents should last the amount of time it takes to bring a product to market. That's a year, maybe two or three. Not fifteen or twenty.

Re:Waiting.. (5, Insightful)

mysidia (191772) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618751)

Truly.

Where would we be if the creator of the first spider patented the concept of a spider building a searchable index of web sites, and a web form being utilized to query said database?

Google, Yahoo, etc could have never been born, due to the inevitable litigation that would kill those portals before they got started.

Re:Waiting.. (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618713)

This will be much like getting a patent on a brake pedal

Could be worse: collecting royalty on *every* tree grown. They are "emergency brakes".
       

Re:Waiting.. (3, Informative)

Corpuscavernosa (996139) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618151)

Dude it's only EIGHTEEN years (20 years from the filing date). See, doncha feel better now?

Re:Waiting.. (5, Insightful)

Sentry21 (8183) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618169)

Right, because Apple's been well-known lately to rest on its laurels.

The whole point of patents is to reward and encourage innovation. I don't recall having seen anything like the iPhone until the iPhone came out; all the companies since are just jumping on the bandwagon, and generally doing so pretty poorly.

The patent seems like it might be pretty broad, but it seems to basically cover touch 'gestures'. Developers should be able to innovate their way around that specific interface - unless, of course, no one else out there is up to the task of innovating.

Re:Waiting.. (5, Insightful)

fabs64 (657132) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618299)

Considering the rapid movement of the tech industry, doesn't 18 YEARS seem like a fairly significant time to stop anyone else from using your innovation as a foundation for further innovation?

Also "innovate their way around" is one of the craziest phrases I've ever read. We're happy to waste creative energy on getting around artificial restrictions now rather than simply creating?

Re:Waiting.. (1, Insightful)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618725)

We're happy to waste creative energy on getting around artificial restrictions now rather than simply creating?
Where by "creating", we mean "copying the thing apple created for us"?

Re:Waiting.. (2, Informative)

Shikaku (1129753) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618753)

Technology is pretty fast. 18 years in terms of technology, especially computers, is almost like an eternity. If we can't develop new touchscreens or other COMMON things because of patents, then patents are not very helpful. If it were up to me, I would make patents expire in 2 years concerning all things technological, including and especially software.

Re:Waiting.. (5, Informative)

Fallen Seraph (808728) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618437)

Right, because Apple's been well-known lately to rest on its laurels.

Yeah! Apple's multi-touch tablet notebook is totally the best thing on the market!
What's that? Oh, I'm sorry, I'm being told that they don't even have so much as a traditional tablet with a digitizer, let alone one with multi-touch.

Here's what you're not getting: From the looks of it, this patent basically gives them exclusive rights to a multi-touch gesture system. Now I ask you, how exactly are you going to make an alternative UI for a touch screen that does not use gestures? Or even different kinds of gestures for that matter. Gestures work because of innate instincts and preconceptions about the physical world, as well as our own assumptions. The law cannot change what works and what doesn't as a gesture. Do you really want to have, let's say 3 multi-touch devices, each of which are forced to use 3 different gestures for the same damn action just because they're from different companies?

In theory, patents are great, but in reality, they've never really worked the way they were supposed to. In the beginning, it was almost impossible to enforce a patent (see Evan's Mill, or the Cotton Gin), and now, it's too easy to do so. 20 years is a long damn time, and the end result is either going to be companies completely ignoring the patent, or Apple setting back any significant developments with this particular technology by DECADES. Think about it, decades.

You might not realize this, but multi-touch has been around since the early 80s, and one of the reasons no one's cared is because of the patent on it. The reality is that the person/group who invents an innovation is not always the person/group that can best bring it to market, or make the most out of it technologically. Hell, Apple's the one that bought out FingerWorks, the original patent holder for lots of other multi-touch tech, but wasn't really getting anywhere in their implementation. Now imagine for a moment that it was the other way around. A small company named Fingerworks wants to build the iPhone in the mid-00's, but can't because a giant company, Apple, holds the patent, but it kind of floundering in its use. Yeah, that's totally spurring innovation right there.


To be honest, I hope that Apple's just doing this to collect royalties.

Prior art. ??? (3, Interesting)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618483)

it seems to basically cover touch 'gestures'

Circa 1991-2 I was developing for an OS called PenPoint [wikipedia.org] , it implemented gestures using "hueristics".

Re:Prior art. ??? (1)

ConanG (699649) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618709)

Multitouch gestures?

I'm not saying there isn't prior art for what Apple has patented, but PenPoint doesn't seem to be it.

Re:Waiting.. (1)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618511)

I don't recall having seen anything like the iPhone until the iPhone came out

Well! That's enough for me! If zappepcs has no knowledge of Prior Art, then it can't exist!

Thanks for clearing that up for us. Everyone debating the merits of this patent can stop commenting & get back to work now.

Re:Waiting.. (1)

Bu11etmagnet (1071376) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618685)

The whole point of patents is to reward and encourage innovation.

What you say might once been true, but today the whole point of patents is to stifle competition.

"Protect the little man" is nothing more than propaganda. Companies accumulate patents in the same way that the US and the Soviet Union accumulated nuclear weapons: to make sure any patent attack can be retaliated. What chance does an individual inventor have ?

http://www.forbes.com/asap/2002/0624/044.html [forbes.com]

Re:Waiting.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26618741)

And the Apple trolls come out of the woodwork...

Re:Waiting.. (4, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618755)

The whole point of patents is to reward and encourage innovation.

And they have failed miserably at that.

Do you suppose Apple would not have built the iPhone if they couldn't patent its multitouch? Of course not. They'd still have first mover, it'd still have that Apple gleam, and everyone would still want one. And they'd still have carved a large chunk out of the smartphone market -- and expanded it into a large number of people who never wanted a smartphone before -- before anyone else even had a shot.

What this does is prevent other people from building on that work, without Apple's permission.

all the companies since are just jumping on the bandwagon, and generally doing so pretty poorly.

Gee, I wonder why? It couldn't have anything to do with Apple patenting so much of the iPhone that no one else can legally compete with it?

The patent seems like it might be pretty broad, but it seems to basically cover touch 'gestures'. Developers should be able to innovate their way around that specific interface

Let's pretend, for a moment, that Xerox had been smart, and patented the GUI. So now everyone has to innovate their way around the mouse?

Let's not forget: This is about promoting the general welfare, not the welfare of specific companies. And when someone locks some new development up for 18 years, consumers are the ones who suffer.

Just as an example: I'll bet Apple patented the magnetic cord of the MacBook. That means I won't be able to buy any laptop other than a Macbook for the better part of two decades which has that feature. And they also have iPhone-style multitouch in the touchpad -- probably won't be able to get that anywhere else, either.

Which means I've lost a significant amount of choice. Because I don't want a Macbook -- Linux doesn't run well on them, they have a single-button touchpad instead of two or three, the keyboard is an Apple keyboard -- great for OS X, sucks for anything else...

I think, we should just drop patents altogether. They cause more harm than good. It's still possible to exercise first mover's advantage, or compete on quality or price -- unless, of course, no one out there is up to the task of innovating in their business model.

Re:Waiting.. (2, Insightful)

Miamicanes (730264) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618183)

> It means 20 years of waiting for the patent to expire before this kind of interface can be advanced at all.

No, it means Google Android will be the only viable alternative to an iPhone -- in America, at least. Apple can stop HTC from cloning their UI, and they can stop American cell companies from distributing Android phones with an infringing UI pre-installed, but they can't do a damn thing to stop American Android users from downloading code to do it anyway from a server in Bulgaria, Vanatu, Russia, or anywhere else not subject to the long arm of American patent law.

Ditto, for allegedly-infringing open-source extensions for WinMo. Apple wants to sue someone who makes a free shell extension to let HTC phones look like an iPhone? Great... they're awarded 100% of the money he's ever made by selling his infringing product. Oh, wait a minute...

Re:Waiting.. (2, Insightful)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618399)

Actually, they could sue for damages. This could be in the thousands or even millions depending on popularity and what kind of mood Apple's lawyers are in.

Re:Waiting.. (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618597)

Which only works against people with stuff to take.

Re:Waiting.. (1)

michaelhood (667393) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618679)

Once a judgment is collected in a lawsuit, garnishment of wages or liens against assets is generally a viable option for the plaintiff.

IANAL

Re:Waiting.. (1)

TooMuchToDo (882796) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618705)

As I said before, "Which only works against people with stuff to take." If you have nothing, and don't plan on every making anything, you're fairly judgment-proof. Also, if you don't intend on continuing to live in the US, there are a host of countries out there that are pleasant to live in that won't honor a US civil judgment.

Re:Waiting.. (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618659)

Perhaps it will encourage more user modifiable, open designs then. Nah.

Re:Waiting.. (2, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618715)

they can't do a damn thing to stop American Android users from downloading code to do it anyway from a server in Bulgaria, Vanatu, Russia, or anywhere else not subject to the long arm of American patent law.

Except provide the iPhone as an alternative which doesn't force you to do those things.

And users don't particularly want to know or care about patent law. They'll just assume Apple is better or smarter than these other phones, and that the iPhone is better.

Re:Waiting.. (1)

Dupple (1016592) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618195)

It's a real problem, there will be varying implementations of touch interfaces unless apple licenses it. And apple don't license

Re:Waiting.. (2, Insightful)

Arethan (223197) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618239)

Nope! Go get a BlackBerry Storm. Touch screen device that is improved via mechanism to detect difference between touching a widget and pushing a widget. I used to have one of those other touch screen phones, and navigation was a complete pain in the ass. My new phone with the clicky screen is much better, and it still uses multi-touch for on-screen text selection purposes. Interface improved, patent improved, life goes on.

What we really need is some patent reform to keep up with modern engineering and manufacturing speeds. A 20 year patent is a little long these days since time to market from prototype is often well under 2 years. Maybe 5-8 year patents are in order. Long patent durations encourage competitors to embrace/extend. Short patents encourage the original patent holder to continue making improvements, rather than sitting on their duff.

Re:Waiting.. (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26618351)

Nope! Go get a BlackBerry Storm. Touch screen device that is improved via mechanism to detect difference between touching a widget and pushing a widget. I used to have one of those other touch screen phones, and navigation was a complete pain in the ass. My new phone with the clicky screen is much better, and it still uses multi-touch for on-screen text selection purposes.

Guffaw.

What we really need is some patent reform to keep up with modern engineering and manufacturing speeds. A 20 year patent is a little long these days since time to market from prototype is often well under 2 years. Maybe 5-8 year patents are in order. Long patent durations encourage competitors to embrace/extend. Short patents encourage the original patent holder to continue making improvements, rather than sitting on their duff.

Correct.

Re:Waiting.. (2, Insightful)

holt (86624) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618665)

Nope! Go get a BlackBerry Storm. Touch screen device that is improved via mechanism to detect difference between touching a widget and pushing a widget. I used to have one of those other touch screen phones, and navigation was a complete pain in the ass. My new phone with the clicky screen is much better, and it still uses multi-touch for on-screen text selection purposes. Interface improved, patent improved, life goes on.

You know, it's interesting. I have an iPod Touch and find its interface to be vastly superior to the Storm, which I have borrowed a few times from friends and thus had an opportunity to try out. However, I asked someone who was obviously not familiar with touch screens to type in their address on my iPod Touch the other day, and they had a very difficult time working out how to use the thing. They kept trying to push down on the "keys" and were frustrated when it wouldn't click. The idea that they just had to tap was apparently very difficult to comprehend.

On the other hand, to me (having used touch screen technology in general, and the iPod Touch / iPhone interface specifically), the "clicking" that the Storm implements seems forced and hokey. I thought it missed the point of the, "But there are no buttons!" complaint, since one still can't type without looking at the screen (i.e., one can't feel their way around the keyboard). I had not previously considered that it might be a more intuitive interface for someone who had never encountered touch screen technology before.

Re:Waiting.. (0, Flamebait)

Sheen (1180801) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618329)

Only if you live in the US! Nokia... SE... Siemens.. Im going to enjoy my superior europhones, have fun with the DRM and apple guys!

Re:Waiting.. (0)

dangitman (862676) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618503)

I hate to break the news to you, but these patents are also enforced in Europe, so you're in exactly the same boat.

Re:Waiting.. (2, Insightful)

Sheen (1180801) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618607)

As i understand, europe has different laws regarding patents not all countries in europe do even agree on how patents should be handled. An example is that a patent cannot be a obvious solution or evolution that everyone knew was going to be one day. Like, you cant patent the idea of wireless internet on airplanes, as its going to be a natural evolution of technology. Just like multitouch.

Re:Waiting.. (1, Funny)

m26k9 (993341) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618335)

I wish Steve Jobs can see my middle finger gesture.. I hope he hasn't patented that already..

Re:Waiting.. (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618395)

If Apple is willing to license the use of the patent for a royalty fee; sure, it can be advanced by other companies.

Re:Waiting.. (5, Insightful)

SanityInAnarchy (655584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618761)

If Apple is willing to license the use of the patent for a royalty fee; sure, it can be advanced by other companies.

Apple isn't even willing to allow an interpreted language on the iPhone. What makes you think they would be willing to relinquish control here?

There is no other way of implementing this (3, Interesting)

Morgaine (4316) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618499)

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.

Re:There is no other way of implementing this (1)

beelsebob (529313) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618737)

Perhaps that's why they patented using heuristics to solve the problem?

Re:Waiting.. (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618635)

Unless the patent is dismissed in court.

Soon the one-finger and two-finger salute will be patented.

Re:Waiting.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26618695)

Right, because up until now Apple hadn't been able to profit from their innovation?

This seems like a good example of how innovation itself gives sufficient head start to advantage a big company; the patent system only means that small companies cannot participate (unless they can afford patent-portfolio M.A.D.-ness). But how do we get this changed (considering it will obviously never be a hot-button issue for Joe Average, and modern "democracy" gives no vote on specific issues)?

Prior art is available (0)

bogaboga (793279) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618077)

In 2001, while on a visit to Toronto, Canada, I remember using a touch enabled computer screen at the employment center. It was a memorable thing to me since I had never seen such technology before. Isn't this an example of prior art?

Re:Prior art is available (2, Insightful)

KibibyteBrain (1455987) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618117)

This is even more confusing, since Apple bought the Fingerworks technology which already had a bunch of this technology in effect, well before the patent. I believe you are not allowed to publicly disclose a technology before filing for a patent if you want protection in most cases. Also, What is Apple Trying to accomplish? All I can see coming of this is a patent cold war, where companies like Palm and RIM will use their patents on obvious basic functions to threaten Apple similarly. Not to mention, some of the pioneers of PDA Phones like Kyocera who might see Apple messing around with lawyers as an invitation to sue them for the very basis idea behind their phone. Nothing good can come of this for anyone, Mr. Cook.

Re:Prior art is available (1)

WCguru42 (1268530) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618163)

I believe you are not allowed to publicly disclose a technology before filing for a patent if you want protection in most cases.

Nope, it's just a dangerous practice because once your technology becomes public anyone can try to get a patent in before you.

Re:Prior art is available (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618643)

Incorrect. Any detail of the technology you disclose is no longer patentable. I think what you are thinking of are trade secrets. Keeping the inner workings of your technology secret is dangerous, because someone else might come along and patent it.

Re:Prior art is available (2, Informative)

atraintocry (1183485) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618323)

It's a patent on the iPhone interface as a whole, not touch screens.

Re:Prior art is available (1)

dangitman (862676) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618525)

All I can see coming of this is a patent cold war, where companies like Palm and RIM will use their patents on obvious basic functions to threaten Apple similarly.

But that's exactly what we've already got. It's been going on for a couple of decades at least.

Re:Prior art is available (3, Insightful)

Sentry21 (8183) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618141)

Touchscreen devices are far older than 2001; the distinction here, I believe, is that it detects 'one or more' touches and applies heuristics to them (presumably to determine gestures such as pinch, twist, etc.), and then acts on the results of those heuristics.

Re:Prior art is available (1)

calmofthestorm (1344385) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618241)

Great...so my multitouch tablet just got patented out of innovation. Ah well.

Re:Prior art is available from ... Tom Cruise (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26618443)

Minority Report (2002)
iPhone multi-touch (2007)

I for one, welcome our Thetan overlords.

Re:Prior art is available (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618625)

Heuristics is just a buzzword you add to any patent application to make it sound more innovative. All it means is that the software makes a good guess based on less than perfect data. It would be impossible to make a decent touch screen without heuristics.

My company makes the microchips that Apple uses for their touch screens, and our app notes describe some basic heuristic algorithms for properly detecting fingers. I think the only reason we don't count as prior art is because their patent says it's done as a "computer-implemented method".

Re:Prior art is available (2, Informative)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618171)

Sounds like an old Tektronix X Terminal we were workig with at least a decade ago. It was equipped with a touch screen and I know we had various gestures mapped to scrolling functions.

Re:Prior art is available (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618321)

Shut up, traitor. Tektronix traveled through time to steal that technology from Jobs' private R&D sanctum...

Consequences for competitors? (4, Informative)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618103)

While many people paint Apple as a friendly company, (who wouldn't sue a school [treehugger.com] ), the fact is that COO Tim Cook said recently [techcrunch.com] (at a quarterly earnings conference call):

We approach this business as a software platform business. We are watching the landscape. We like competition as long as they don't rip off our IP. And if they do, we will go after anyone who does.

and

I don't want to talk about any specific company. We are ready to suit up and go against anyone. However, we will not stand for having our IP ripped off.

Re:Consequences for competitors? (3, Informative)

dangitman (862676) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618121)

Yes, but not everybody thinks that the concept of Intellectual Property is inherently evil.

Re:Consequences for competitors? (1)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618445)

Yes, but not everybody thinks that the concept of Intellectual Property is inherently evil.

Sure - hardly anyone thinks all Intellectual Property laws are inherently evil, but threatening that you "are ready to suit up and go against anyone," is not the actions of a company that's as ethical as Apple like to present itself.

Re:Consequences for competitors? (1, Insightful)

dangitman (862676) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618549)

but threatening that you "are ready to suit up and go against anyone," is not the actions of a company that's as ethical as Apple like to present itself.

How? If your ethical system agrees with patents and enforcing them in court, then it's perfectly ethical. It's certainly legal.

Computer-implemented? (4, Funny)

daybot (911557) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618109)

A computer-implemented method...

Oh God, is iPhone becoming self-aware?

Re:Computer-implemented? (1)

microbee (682094) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618441)

Sure, otherwise why does it have an "i" in the name. (just to clarify it DOES NOT mean "idiot")

Re:Computer-implemented? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26618729)

no, i'm not. really.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (4, Insightful)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618127)

Apple is the new Microsoft.

Re:Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (1, Flamebait)

djupedal (584558) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618197)

> Apple is the new Microsoft.

LOL

MS couldn't come up with anything nearly as sophisticated as the iPhone... And their 'Surface' table - funny that it doesn't have anything to do with touch.

MS abuses from the point of a bully, far from anything groundbreaking and you throw Apple into the same bag - hilarious, simply hilarious.

Re:Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (0, Troll)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618215)

It's not about innovation, it's about evility.

Re:Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (1)

daybot (911557) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618219)

LOL...MS couldn't come up with anything nearly as sophisticated as the iPhone

Er, I think the GP was making a point about Apple's business practices - i.e. innovation-stifling, monopolistic, evil.

Re:Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (5, Insightful)

jwdav (1003969) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618513)

I don't believe any company has lost as much money as Apple due to not having proper patents and enforcing them. Microsoft alone built a large part of their business courtesy of Apple's prior ineffective enforcement, from Windows to QuickTime and a lot in between.

The fact is, if Apple had not done multitouch first, they would have nothing to patent.

Since they had the vision, did the R&D, bought a few companies and released an actual product incorporating the technology, it would seem they are entitled to a patent on that work. If there is nothing unique or prior art in the patent, it will not stand anyway.

Re:Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26618289)

Right, because taking two fingers, touching something, and twisting them around to get a reaction is non-obvious to the general population. Who (besides some sort of Cupterino based genius) could devise such a clever thing? On second thought, I think I see why the guys at Apple claim this is some novel idea. You see, THATS how you troll.

Re:Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26618309)

And their 'Surface' table - funny that it doesn't have anything to do with touch.

Isn't it, though? Witness the first words of the Wikipedia article on Surface:

Microsoft Surface (Codename: Milan), is a multi-touch product from Microsoft

The first time I saw a multi-touch table, though, wasn't from Microsoft. It was in 2001. I don't remember where. It made Slashdot at the time. And it had what this patent describes.

Re:Meet the new boss, same as the old boss (1)

fabs64 (657132) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618313)

Did you miss the 80s and early 90s or were you just not here?

Scrolling patent... (2, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618155)

It's basically a patent on how Apple handles scrolling on the iPhone. They've patented:

- Using a touchscreen to scroll in one dimension
- Using a touchscreen to scrollin two dimensions
- Using a touchscreen to shift between items in a list

Basically, scrolling in your address book, in Safari, and coverflow. The "heuristics" are all about analyzing the inputs and motions in the context of the application, and not interaction with any onscreen element.

Now it's HTC, Google, and Palm's turn to scramble for prior art. The attempt to claim this with single inputs even, however, may weaken the basis.

IANAPL. HAND.

Re:Scrolling patent... (1)

shank001 (1352821) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618527)

'A computer-implemented method for use in conjunction with a computing device with a touch screen display comprises: detecting one or more finger contacts with the touch screen display, applying one or more heuristics to the one or more finger contacts to determine a command for the device, and processing the command.

So in plain english he is saying is:

I've developed a program which will know where you touch on a touch-screen(which is basically a touch-screen-driver). Didn't we have this in the linux before? This can be considered Prior Art right?

Let me elaborate:

a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a one-dimensional vertical screen scrolling command,

Implies that you can have vertical scroll. (Openmoko has this. You can do a vertical scroll on the home page)

a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a two-dimensional screen translation command

Which is basically like the HTC Diamond Touch doing effects like compiz.

a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a command to transition from displaying a respective item in a set of items to displaying a next item in the set of items.

Which says that you have a gesture to go to the next item. (again Openmoko already has this. The illume keyboard changes the keyboard format on slide)

When most of the code is out there, how can this patent be granted!

heuristics are out. (1)

NonUniqueNickname (1459477) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618187)

Heuristics, by definition, are just an educated guess. If you write software that gets it right without guessing you can circumvent the patent entirely.

Besides, didn't the palm pilot already do that for Graffiti back in the 20th century? Sans multi-touch of course.

Patent to the touch (2, Funny)

ArtificialPulse (1462259) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618205)

Can you patent a hand gesture? A little birdie told me one for these guys...

"one or more finger contacts" (3, Funny)

bschoate (129588) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618229)

This patent seems pretty bound to fingers, so multi-touch toe interfaces are wide open, folks!

Re:"one or more finger contacts" (1)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618457)

Tomorrow's headlines: Doctor's say athletes foot and planters warts have become worryingly common in the pas few months...

Re:"one or more finger contacts" (1)

dwarfsoft (461760) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618521)

You think THAT is the issue... just wait until the Toe methods are patented... then the competing devices are ones that only men can use... and you don't wanna know what kind of diseases suddenly became worryingly common in those months. *shudder*

Re:"one or more finger contacts" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26618661)

Yes, and also hybrid interfaces toes-fingers-tongue-brew seem to be free. Thank gods!

Prior art? (2, Informative)

xlotlu (1395639) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618301)

How about the Palm gestures [wikipedia.org] ?

Re:Prior art? (1)

skyphyr (1149207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618375)

Not to mention the idea of stretching something has been around forever. Plus there's a small piece of prior art (albeit theoretical) that some people may be familiar with http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0181689/ [imdb.com]

Re:Prior art? (1)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618461)

Technically it was not a "touch" interface, since the user never actually "touched" the screen.

Re:Prior art? (3, Informative)

StreetStealth (980200) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618453)

This could get really ugly really quick.

Palm has essentially been wielding the nuclear stick of patent-MAD [precommunity.com] with its most recent response to Apple patent saber rattling.

Of course, perhaps a patent armageddon is just about due right now.

Isn't that what patents are meant for (1)

youcantwin (1459567) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618333)

I did not RTFA so I don't know how much this patent covers but nobody can deny that Apple came up with an innovative good interface that everybody is trying to copy now.
Sure it sucks to be a copycat now but maybe it will push these people to innovate like Apple did.

If the patent does not include every single interface using some kind of touch or multi-touch technology (which it might...) there is still room for innovation.
It's sad that nobody came up with a clean UI like that before but you have to give credits to Apple for that.
I really like the iPhone UI but it's far from perfect. I could think of lots of different ways to improve on that.
If I can do it, I'm sure some phone makers can do it too.

Impress us!

Re:Isn't that what patents are meant for (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618385)

I really like the iPhone UI but it's far from perfect. I could think of lots of different ways to improve on that.

If I can do it, I'm sure some phone makers can do it too.

Can you really think of any improvements that don't involve scrolling or submenus? Remember, if I patent a wheel, and you then patent a bicycle, you still can't make any bikes without my permission. Apple has patented using your fingers to scroll in one or two dimensions, and using your fingers to enter a submenu. That means that no other company can have any sort of touch screen-based scrolling or menus for the next two decades, no matter what sort of improvements they may think of.

If this patent stands, it pretty much guarantees that touchscreen technology will stagnate and die.

Hope (4, Insightful)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618409)

I sincerely hope they are willing to be generous with license agreements to competitors since Apple products suck.

Yeah, I said SUCK. I already have my DragonArmor vest on, the windows are boarded up, and I think I will survive the siege with a few tons of hot pockets. I await the storm...

Apple has been so disappointing as they have repeated Sony's mistake about obsessively locking down their products. The iPod on its own is a great product. The software support for it is horrible and Apple has made it incredibly difficult to use anything but iTunes to manipulate the music stored on MY FREAKIN DEVICE. iTunes does not offer the features and abilities I want and I have always found it to be unstable on every system I have put it on.

There are plenty of other examples, but I don't mention this to bash Apple. Truly I don't. I mention this since it would make it nearly impossible for competition to survive the LawyerPult over at Apple HQ.

If nobody else can use this technology for 20 years (possibly more since we are going nutso over IP protection) then Apple will have far less motivation to make a great product, develop better software for those products, and service them.

It's the beginning of a monopoly over a human interface. Any company having that makes it bad for the consumer, but Apple has demonstrated to me, that it already does not care about my needs as a consumer.

Re:Hope (4, Interesting)

Toonol (1057698) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618749)

I don't use a Mac, I use Windows primarily. So my exposure to Apple software is iTunes and Quicktime.

I can therefore say that every bit of Apple software I've used is atrocious, as bad as anything from Microsoft. I'll mitigate that some by saying that the ipod UI is fine; I don't find it particularly better than most other mp3 players, but no worse.

I guess that you really need to switch completely over to Apple, to really get the benefits; maybe the Windows versions are partially crippled. Still, while I wouldn't go so far as to say Apple products suck, my experience with them sure isn't selling me on them.

What the patent means (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26618429)

Apple has been given a patent for applying heuristics to the touch screen interface. Any interface that does not use heuristics (an educated guess)but instead uses exact or even relative positioning will not infringe this patent. touchscreen displays have been around for a long time, touchscreens which use traditional UI elements (buttons, sliders, etc) are safe. Even some heuristics would be hard for apple to defend because as anyone who has worked with touchscreen interfaces can tell you, you have to do a lot of guessing to figure out what the user is doing. Absolute on/off is easy, but sliding fingers around the display, holding a finger down for an extended period of time (timeout on shutoff for instance), even using a slider requires some heuristics. My guess is that Apple will use this as the deeper patent but concentrate on specific gestures for their main defense. Using this more generalized patent will be tough as the interpretation of when heuristics come into play, especially since there is a lot of prior art around single finger interactivity will be very subjective and open apple up to having the patent overturned.

Cool can we now blow away the fakes? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26618469)

Hopefully this puts a few nails in the coffins of the Chinese counterfeiters. The amount of fake iphones out there on eBay are numerous.

Other products developed while patent pending? (1)

shtrom (1251560) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618481)

what will this mean to other touch developers?

What about those which developed products with similar features while the patent was under examination?

To they just put their blueprints in the bin and try to find another idea?

I'm actually quite interested, if anyone has an idea, in the answer to this question: if you release a product before you get the patent, and concurent makers release similar products before said patent is granted, doesn't that constitute prior art?

Working in a research lab, we are regularly reminded that we should not publish patentable ideas before having patented them, as such publication would constitute prior art voiding any subsequent patent.

Anybody has clarifications?

Re:Other products developed while patent pending? (1)

artor3 (1344997) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618585)

Disclaimer: IANAL, all this info is based on seminars on IP that I have (been forced to) attend.

What about those which developed products with similar features while the patent was under examination? To they just put their blueprints in the bin and try to find another idea?

Yes, unless they had already filed a provisional patent, which essentially says, "We're working on X, but don't have it developed enough to patent yet." In that case, so long as they file for the actual patent within a year, they will be the ones who end up getting the rights to the invention. Of course, only the details covered in the provisional will be granted to them.

I'm actually quite interested, if anyone has an idea, in the answer to this question: if you release a product before you get the patent, and concurent makers release similar products before said patent is granted, doesn't that constitute prior art?

If you release a product, or even announce technical details, before you apply for a patent or a provisional, then your own invention now counts as prior art which will prevent you (or anyone else) from ever patenting it. If I start selling time machines today, and apply for the patent tomorrow, I'll get rejected as there is prior art (fortunately, in that case I can just refile the day before I started selling).

However, if you applied for the patent, and then the other company made their device, and then you received the patent, you can stop the other company from making any more of their device. Since your patent was filed before their device existed, there was no prior art.

Working in a research lab, we are regularly reminded that we should not publish patentable ideas before having patented them, as such publication would constitute prior art voiding any subsequent patent.

As I said above, that is absolutely right. Once information is available publicly, it is considered no longer novel, which means that no one can ever patent it. Not even the inventors who released the info.

Kinda agree with apple on this one (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26618489)

if I read the summery right on this, apple is not patenting touch-screen technology, but rather how the device handles certain touch commands. Touch screen devices have been around for years, yet they really amounted to nothing more than pressing a button on a screen. The iPhone adds response to multiple pressure points being contacted at once, such as the pinch-and-pull method for resizing content. Apple advanced the technology more in three years than it was in the previous 20. I say, let them patent it, and let people pay them for their patent

Basic touch screen plus Firefox mouse gestures? (2, Informative)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618587)

Ok, so the first version of Firefox's "Mouse Gestures" came out on July 26, 2004 https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addons/versions/39#version-0.9.20040725 [mozilla.org] . Which is before this patent was filed. So if we found evidence of someone using mouse gestures with a touch screen monitor, would that constitute prior art?

Re:Basic touch screen plus Firefox mouse gestures? (1)

nwoolls (520606) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618647)

"The Opera web browser has recognized mouse gestures since version 5.10 (April 2001)."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mouse_gestures [wikipedia.org]

Re:Basic touch screen plus Firefox mouse gestures? (2, Informative)

citizenr (871508) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618649)

Ok, so the first version of Firefox's "Mouse Gestures" came out on July 26, 2004

you mean Opera Mouse Gestures ... Opera 5.11 April 2000.

Apple or OSS methodology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26618615)

I think this may be the difference between Apple and the OS community, while Apple patents, the Open Source developers would have been pushing to make it a design standard.

Patents sucks (1)

yowlanku (1169499) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618619)

Patents sucks, specially when companies goes blind against development and feels they are knowledge and innovation overlords. Isn't it a subtle version of antitrust. Its like a genocide.

Software patents make Baby Jesus cry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26618633)

So if I want to use a touchscreen of any fucking sort [ONE or more touches?!?], I have to get a license from Apple now?

FUCK. THAT. SHIT.

*Files a patent for patent trolling*

Heuristic defn: a commonsense rule (1)

MeridianOnTheLake (691931) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618675)

The definition of a heuristic is a commonsense rule (or set of rules) intended to increase the probability of solving some problem. Ok, so heuristics -- commonsense rules -- can be patented now. This is so far from the original patent intent that they should basically now be considered as a legal stand-over right rather than as a protection of a novel invention.

Prior Art: Jeff Han's multitouch display at TED (4, Informative)

Paul Bristow (118584) | more than 5 years ago | (#26618701)

Don't you think Jeff Han might just have some prior art on this? This link http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/jeff_han_demos_his_breakthrough_touchscreen.html [ted.com] shows his multitouch interface more than a year before Apple came out with their iPhone and before the Apple patent was filed.
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