Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Is Apple's Multi-Touch Patent Valid?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the what-the-judge-says-it-is dept.

Patents 112

An anonymous reader writes "There is evidence that Apple's multi-touch patent application may have failed to list some prior art that showed gestures in multi-touch interfaces as early as the mid 1980s. Some of these examples even appear in the bibliography of Wayne Westerman's doctoral dissertation, and he's one of the inventors on the application's list. If true, that could leave them wide open for legal attack, should they try suing someone like Palm for patent infringement. Also, Apple may be infringing some key multi-touch patents owned by the University of Delaware — and co-developed by Westerman while getting his doctorate."

cancel ×

112 comments

Multitouch (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26766461)

Is Apple's implementation valid? No, it's FAGID

Haw HAW HAAAAWWWWWWW!

Perfect business model (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26766475)

I'm in the patent business myself, I recommend it.


1 File paper
2 Wait
3 ???
4 Profit?
N: GOTO 2
Y: !!!!

Re:Perfect business model (1)

masshuu (1260516) | more than 5 years ago | (#26769917)

The Redundant mod must be cause that person got in a goto loop.

REMEMBER PEOPLE, always go down with GoTo

heres a fix to the above:

int i = 0
1 File paper
2 Wait
3 ???
4 Profit?
N: if i 500 ? GOTO 2; i++ : return;
Y: !!!!

Prior art (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26766535)

On yeah. [goatse.fr]

Captcha was "bottomed"...

Re:Prior art (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26766637)

Yeah I think everyone has already seen your wedding snaps. How about you go find the honeymoon photo's and come back.

Re:Prior art (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26766737)

Here is a picture [lemonparty.org] I took at a LUG [wikipedia.org] a couple years ago

Backtrace (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26766563)

Before posting, read the ~450 comments on the previous article. [slashdot.org]

Re:Backtrace (4, Funny)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767209)

No.

I'd rather read exactly the same comments in this section.

Re:Backtrace (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26772863)

You couldn't even be bothered to count out 448 comments, could you?

Let's see if Apple's patent survives Slashdot (4, Funny)

Steve1952 (651150) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766581)

It will be interesting to see if Apple's patent survives the next few days of Slashdot analysis, or even the next few hours! If the Westerman thesis is relevant, than not citing it is unfortunate for them. My guess is that Apple will follow this discussion, and then file for continuations and re-examinations based upon what shows up here.

The Android G1 & Multitouch.... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26766733)

Interestingly, the G1 android phone has built-in support for multitouch, as demonstrated here [wordpress.com] . However, there are some issues which make it more useful for pinch-gestures than other types. (See here [wordpress.com] for a description of why this is.)

Multitouch "proof of concept" pinch-zoom support has already been incorporated [xda-developers.com] into unofficial Android firmware for the G1 (which incidentally is an AMAZING phone). If Apple's patent claims are busted-- and I'm still not clear on what types of multitouch it supposedly prohibits competitors from using-- it probably won't be long before we see multitouch show up on hardware that "officially" hadn't supported it previously.

Re:Let's see if Apple's patent survives Slashdot (5, Funny)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767213)

My guess is that Apple will follow this discussion

Considering the large number of unpaid sales and public relations staff Apple has here at Slashdot, I wouldn't be surprised.

Re:Let's see if Apple's patent survives Slashdot (2, Insightful)

Mistshadow2k4 (748958) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767835)

Not to mention the paid ones who pretend they aren't.

Re:Let's see if Apple's patent survives Slashdot (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26769479)

Re-examinations, and not continuations ... because if they get hammered on inequitable conduct, it could take down the entire family of cases.

Re:Let's see if Apple's patent survives Slashdot (2, Insightful)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 5 years ago | (#26771413)

Of course it is invalid we have had touch screens for years before the iPhone was introduced.

I sincerely hope (5, Informative)

Archimonde (668883) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766593)

NOT!

Or we'll have 20 years of touch screen stagnation. Great. Just as we are trying to get out of classic mobile phone layout stagnation.

Re:I sincerely hope (5, Funny)

es0vyr4fVY9LD8ub (1471907) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767327)

I'm sorry, but are you somehow implying that patent law can be used to hinder competition in a so called 'free market'? Shame on you, sir.

Re:I sincerely hope (2, Insightful)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 5 years ago | (#26770093)

"Patent Law" and "Free Market" are mutually exclusive terms.

Re:I sincerely hope (1)

jamesh (87723) | more than 5 years ago | (#26770985)

I hate the internet. I can't tell if you missed the sarcasm of the parent post, or if I'm missing the sarcasm in your post.

Re:I sincerely hope (-1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767589)

Or we'll have 20 years of touch screen stagnation.

IIRC, at least part of Apple's solution is specialized, patented, hardware. In fact, I think they bought a company to acquire the technology.

I'm not a fan of software patents, but I actually do support hardware patents even if it does mean that Apple gets to have the only decent touch screen for a while.

Re:I sincerely hope (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26769175)

Rubbish.

It was Apple that brought about this massive change in mobile phone layouts. The other guys have been in the business for year and years and nothing happened until Apple forced their hand. And the other guys still suck. Even after Apple gave them a 15 month lead on (between the Edge and 3G iPhones).

Apple will continue to produce devices that are better than everybody else. There will be no stagnation. The other guys will continue to suck like they always have.

Re:I sincerely hope (1)

supernova_hq (1014429) | more than 5 years ago | (#26769817)

Apple will continue to produce devices that are better than everybody else.

Maybe for UI's but the iPhones/iPods have some pretty mediocre sound quality, even with good headphones (which they also don't sell).

If you think your iPhone/iPod sounds nice, try picking up a comparitively priced creative player and plug in some high-end or even $30 inner-ear headphones and then we'll talk.

If this follows the Bluetooth patents scenario... (4, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766603)

Apple will end up paying the University of Delaware a few million, and then happily proceed unencumbered - which is what happened when the University of Washington's Electrical Engineering department took on Matsushita et. al.

and the iPhone trademark (4, Interesting)

Toe, The (545098) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766633)

Not unlike the word "iPhone" itself... which Apple announced they would use even though clearly Cisco already held [apple.com] the trademark to it.

Re:and the iPhone trademark (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26771155)

But Apple a doodely were the only one a doodely to make it work a doodely properly. (A doodley)

Re:and the iPhone trademark (1)

initialE (758110) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773101)

What would be interesting is if Cisco starts aggressively selling and marketing an "internet communications device" under the iPhone name.

Re:If this follows the Bluetooth patents scenario. (1)

Nursie (632944) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766655)

Which is a good thing, because it means that one tech giant can't control/restrict/ransom this sort of tech, and that the Delaware patents will run out earlier than the apple one would.

Hooray!

Re:If this follows the Bluetooth patents scenario. (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 5 years ago | (#26770287)

Apple got their multi-touch tech thru acquisition of Fingerworks, which had had it's own multitouch patents and sold products for 5 years before iPhone. And they still employ the original patent holder as far as I have read.

While there may be conflicting patents, like the patent office would not check what they've already given out, they bought recognized patents several years in advance.

Re:If this follows the Bluetooth patents scenario. (1)

nametaken (610866) | more than 5 years ago | (#26773071)

Was the University of Delaware responsible for the technology behind that TED talk on multitouch interfaces? I recall seeing that long before Apple used it. In fact, wasn't the Surface project announced before Apple did it?

âoeIt is inevitably infringing itself.â (1, Insightful)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766635)

Does this guy even know what patents Apple is licensing? Doubtful considering most are not made public. FUD?

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (3, Insightful)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766653)

Another thing...This guy doesn't know what he's talking about. FTA:

But a patent infringement case can only proceed once the Pre hits the market â" widespread expectations call for a May launch â" and Apple has analyzed the deviceâ(TM)s software for possible infringement.

Totally not true! You are liable for patent infringement once you make the patented invention. You don't have to sell it to become liable.

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (1, Informative)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766741)

Actually, you're wrong.

The sales of the patented technology deprive the original inventor of income that they are legally owed.

So you are not liable until you use the technology in commerce/public.

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (4, Informative)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766795)

No, you are only talking about damages. A patent is a right to exclude others from making, selling, etc.
35 U.S.C. 271(a):

Except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent.

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767287)

No, you are only talking about damages.

Bingo. You are only liable if you are depriving the IP owned from profit.

You may still be in violation but they cannot do anything until they can show damages, i.e. you can't be liable for something there are no damages for.

Where do damages come from? Commercial or public use (whether its educational or not)

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (3, Informative)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767341)

You are still incorrect. Liability does not turn on commercial activity. The patent holder could seek an injunction, which is often just as bad as financial damages. Apple could easily file an infringement suit against Palm to stop them from releasing the phone. Read the case Madey v. Duke [ladas.com] . What you are claiming is common and incorrect belief.

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (1, Troll)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767365)

That's why I specifically said "Commercial or public use (whether its educational or not)."

The IP owner has to be able to specifically show how the infringer did X which caused the IP owner to lose the ability to do Y.

Good luck telling a judge that you THINK someone is infringing on your patent in their basement for their own use and you want in on the action because you're legally entitled.

What are you, an RIAA lawyer?

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (3, Interesting)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767433)

The IP owner has to be able to specifically show how the infringer did X which caused the IP owner to lose the ability to do Y.

I don't know where you are getting this requirement that the patent holder has to suffer some type of damage. That is completely untrue. Read the statute that I showed you. There is nothing in it that says damages are required before bringing a lawsuit. Then read that case like I told you to.

Good luck telling a judge that you THINK someone is infringing on your patent in their basement for their own use and you want in on the action because you're legally entitled.

Suing someone who you think is infringing is a different issue. That has to do with discovery. But once again I will point out, a DIY inventor in his basement cannot use a patented invention for his own use/research without a license or the risk of an infringement suit. The argument here is that the DIY inventor should be forced to buy the invention from the patent holder before he is able to use/research it. Sure, no one would probably find out about a DIY inventor but that again is a totally different issue.

And since you asked, I am a law student. And as far as I know, the RIAA deals with copyrights, not patents.

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767507)

Please stay in school longer.

From your link:

The Federal Circuit disagreed and pointed out that in Roche v. Bolar[3] and other cases it had held that although an experimental use exception as crafted in the nineteenth century continued to exist, it was a very narrow one for example âoeto satisfy idle curiosity or for strictly philosophical enquiryâ.

and then

the act does not qualify for the very narrow and strictly limited experimental use defense.

So, as you can see, you were arguing for me the whole time, you just didn't know it. :)

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (3, Informative)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767763)

No. The court said that the exemption is extremely narrow and that Duke's activities did not allow it to use the defense (which the court defined as solely for amusement, to satisfy idle curiosity, or for strictly philosophical inquiry). Prior to this case it was believed that universities could experiment with patented inventions with no threat of an infringement suit.

The court noted that even projects undertaken without direct commercial application often âoeunmistakably further the institutes legitimate business interests ... These projects also serve for example to increase the status of the institution and lure lucrative research grants, students and faculty.

You don't actually believe that Palm could argue that their phone development is solely for its amusement, to satisfy its idle curiosity, or for strictly philosophical inquiry do you?

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767779)

No, you are still incorrect. Experimental use as a defense is, as you quote, very narrow and extremely strict. An individual infringing a patent for his own benefit, i.e. to use the patented process or manufacture, does not qualify for an experimental use defense and is liable for damages.

There are only two lines of defense for the builder, and both are pragmatic and not legal in nature: (1) the patent holder must become aware of the infringement in order to file suit and (2) the patent holder must see it as worthwhile to engage in such a suit. Since the private citizen infringer is not likely to interfere with the market, and since he likely has no assets worth winning, there's little to be gained in the suit.

All of that changes once that person decides to share that information with others. IAAL, and the law student is correct, if sophomoric in fumbling around the language.

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (1)

Demonantis (1340557) | more than 5 years ago | (#26770477)

Good luck telling a judge that you THINK someone is infringing on your patent in their basement for their own use and you want in on the action because you're legally entitled.

What are you, an RIAA lawyer?

Actually under patent law you have to demonstrate that a profit was made that you should have been entilted to. Patents are more designed to promote the sharing of ideas by protecting the idea so its owner can cover his expenses for discovering/inventing it.

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 5 years ago | (#26770311)

many patents are process patents... equipment used to make something. That's what many of the electronics patents we see in the news really are... you can't make product A without overcoming problem B that needs tool C... prove you DIDN'T use that tool or pay up for the patent. You can infringe on patents you USE to make things that you don't directly sell.

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26768629)

You may still be in violation but they cannot do anything until they can show damages, i.e. you can't be liable for something there are no damages for.

Don't quit your day job to become a lawyer.

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (4, Informative)

Miseph (979059) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767027)

He is correct, patents do not require sale or commercial implementation by ANY party to be enforceable. Most patent holders won't go after DIY types who violate for personal use, but that's not because they have no legal ability to do so... rather it is because there is generally very little to gain by doing so other than bad publicity.

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (1)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767185)

Thank you. This is also why universities are liable for infringement when they simply use a patented invention in research. Example [ladas.com]

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767211)

Most patent holders won't go after DIY types who violate for personal use, but that's not because they have no legal ability to do so.

Actually, it IS because they have no legal recourse against DIY use of patented inventions. Patents only grant monopolies over commercial exploitation of an invention. You are explicitly allowed to employ the disclosed inventions for your personal use, or for educational purposes. You're just not allowed to sell or give it to others.

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (1)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767249)

No. You are wrong. Read the link I posted above you. Universities cannot use a patented invention without a license. Nor can a DIY inventor. Read the statute as well. There is no exception for non-commercial use. The statute prevents anyone other than the patent holder from making, using, offering to sell, selling or importing the patented invention.

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (2, Informative)

k_187 (61692) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767255)

35 U.S.C. 271(a):

Except as otherwise provided in this title, whoever without authority makes, uses, offers to sell, or sells any patented invention, within the United States or imports into the United States any patented invention during the term of the patent therefor, infringes the patent.

That make or use part pretty much says you're wrong. One can argue those as defenses, and you certainly aren't going to get much in terms of damages from a hobbist, but the rights granted in a patent is the right to EXCLUDE others as you wish. There is no requirement that any infringement be commercial.

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (1)

onecheapgeek (964280) | more than 5 years ago | (#26769363)

Assuming the patented invention was a device, one would assume that purchasing it would grant you authority to use it. If it was an idea, well...that's a whole nother can of worms that isn't popular around here.

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (1)

k_187 (61692) | more than 5 years ago | (#26772435)

Yes, there is a purchasing exception. If I sell you something that I have a patent on, or from someone that I have given a license to my patent, I am implicitly granting you a license to use it, resell it, etc.

Technically, you're not allowed to patent ideas, unless they are part of a process (which is the current requirement, see In Re Bilski for the full requirements, at least until SCOTUS picks it up), then you would be allowed to use, resell the total process. If you ripped out the "idea" from the rest of the process, it would depend upon their patent as to what you could do with that. That's an interesting concept though, if their patent isn't written correctly, it could be possible to pull out a computer program or algorithm by itself without infringing (the patent, says nothing of copyright).

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767281)

You are explicitly allowed to employ the disclosed inventions for your personal use, or for educational purposes.

Liar.

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (1)

binarylarry (1338699) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767315)

No, its not limited to commercial use. Any public display of the invention could be used to claim damages in court.

It's important to remember there is no criminal law being broken when you use a patent without a license. It's all civil.

So you have to be able to show damages to claim them from an infringer.

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (1)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767493)

Any public display of the invention could be used to claim damages in court.

Public display? You clearly have no idea what you are talking about. Public display is a copyright law thing, not a patent law thing.

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (1)

gnasher719 (869701) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767529)

Actually, it IS because they have no legal recourse against DIY use of patented inventions. Patents only grant monopolies over commercial exploitation of an invention. You are explicitly allowed to employ the disclosed inventions for your personal use, or for educational purposes. You're just not allowed to sell or give it to others.

And you are encouraged to do this, improve the patented method, and get a patent on your improvement.

Re:It is inevitably infringing itself. (1)

mr_matticus (928346) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767837)

Making an improvement does not cure infringement. Generally, you must still license the original patent in order to have clean hands in filing the improvement claim. The experimental use exception will not carry most patents through to the end. You can prepare a proof of concept under the extremely narrow and limited experimental use exception if you meet a variety of judicially-mandated standards, but you cannot prepare for introduction by beginning production, distributing prototypes to third parties for testing, or any other form of advancement.

If your patent for the improvement still requires that the underlying patent be involved, you still must have permission to use that underlying patent--you can't simply introduce the "improved" version fully of your own accord. Your patent covers only the improvement (the delta space between the original patent and yours) and not the whole apparatus.

The only value to an improvement patent without having ownership or a license to the underlying patent is to prevent the first patentholder from improving their invention in the way that you have patented. In this way, improvement patents are usually sold back to the patentholders of the underlying patent for money--the improver never actually does anything with it himself. The exception to this is for patents nearing expiration, in which case the improver waits until he no longer owes royalties to begin to act on the patent.

Re:âoeIt is inevitably infringing itself.& (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26771217)

What the hell does it matter it's frikin Apple so by it's very nature it has got to be

A: Crap
B: someone else's property
C: It's apple (CRAB APPLE)

Pick any three of three

Problems with patenting... (4, Insightful)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766697)

The problem with patenting multi-touch gestures is it can lead to a huge learning curve challenge. For example the Linux/Windows/BSD/etc multi-touch is going to be totally different than OS X's methods because of these patents, making it not only hard for people going to OS X but from people who primarily use OS X but can't use the gestures they are used to when on a different computer. This is similar to patenting QWERTY so every other keyboard manufacturer has to pick different keyboard layouts to typing becomes unbearable on different systems.

Re:Problems with patenting... (4, Interesting)

Zackbass (457384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767245)

On the other hand, the problems that patents present to progress along a line of design can actually work in our favor. I've run up against patents in the past and in working on an alternate way of solving the problem I run into a better solution. There's no reason that what was patented is the best solution, it's most likely just the most obvious. It's actually a cool little trick for forcing development out of local minima (assuming a cost function on optimality like all sane people do).

Random rant: I've found 90% of the patents I run into are stuff someone patented to sit on and aren't actively developing. Apparently actually making the thing and marketing it are too hard, it's much more efficient to patent a swath of bad ideas and try to force licenses upon those who actually want to make progress.

Re:Problems with patenting... (1)

Darkness404 (1287218) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767937)

But Apple seems actively marketing and developing the idea of multi touch (just look at newer MacBooks, and the iPhone/iPod Touch). The problem isn't that there won't be other ways to do it, it is that there will be too many ways to do something. For example, the qwerty keyboard isn't the most effective layout, but if it got (somehow) patented and everyone who wasn't using an Apple based system had to switch to Devorak or other alternative layouts, I imagine that typing speed would be hindered for a few years until people could regain their old speed back. While there are going to undoubtedly be better ways of doing multi-touch, if it isn't standardized, how good is it if the "natural" gestures or the gestures you are used to don't work?

Re:Problems with patenting... (1)

Zackbass (457384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768503)

I think my point applies to what you're talking about very well. If qwerty had been patented we might be using a better keyboard layout today rather than dealing with the momentum that qwerty has developed. I agree that the pickup will definitely be slower, but after the initial ramp up we'd have a better system for ourselves because of the forced diversity. Would the loss because of waiting a few years for multitouch schemes to fight it in smaller user groups outweigh the benefits of the eventual standardization on a better evolved scheme?

Also, I'm not convinced 'natural' gestures are the best way to do multitouch. When training for various sports it seems that the best techniques are those that don't seem natural at all but have been proven more effective. Things like pitching a baseball or swinging a golf club come to mind immediately.

Re:Problems with patenting... (2, Insightful)

bit01 (644603) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768357)

The problem with patenting multi-touch gestures is it can lead to a huge learning curve challenge.

To put it another way user interfaces are simply the language that computers and people use to talk to each other.

By allowing patenting language elements the patent office are promoting language splintering and all the problems that entails. Progressing the state of the art my foot.

Of course, the patent office claims that they don't allow the patenting of language elements but that's only their arbitrary definition of language. Another example of their almost complete inability of the patent office to distinguish words and ideas.

---

The patent system. The whole edifice is based on handwaving.

Re:Problems with patenting... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26771401)

Exactly, that is the whole point of patent system:
grant (limited in time) MONOPOLY over the invention.

So Apple (or anyone else with patent) is going to use patent tool to reap profits from granted rights to these uncompetitive practices.

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26766725)

Is any software patent valid?

Re:No (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766887)

The patent mentions "a device" in Apple's case. Its sufficient broadly worded to not tie it explicitly to software.

A more pertinent question: Can you patent a dance step?

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767251)

THIS!
This right here is the important thing.

Apple's patent is the worst patent i have seen in a very long time. (worse than Microsoft's emotiflags)

It is a serious example of patent abuse.
Things like this should NOT be patentable!
FIX YOUR PATENT OFFICES PLEASE.
Why won't people stand up to them?
Seriously, Slashdot could probably single-handedly turn around the thing, it is (mostly) filled with fairly intelligent people, quite a few lawyers as well, so i don't see why not.

Why hasn't anyone stood up to them and demanded change?

Interesting Analysis (4, Interesting)

rm999 (775449) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766765)

Engadget wrote a surprisingly well thought out analysis of the patent situation between Apple and Palm:
http://www.engadget.com/2009/01/28/apple-vs-palm-the-in-depth-analysis/ [engadget.com]

It's interesting that the motivations behind their patents aren't as obvious as they may seem. For example, Apple has several patents in the pipeline simply so they can tweak them later to specifically target Palm's Pre.

Also interesting pinch-zoom is not covered (1, Interesting)

SuperKendall (25149) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766817)

The most useful idea of all, pinch to zoom, is not in the Apple patent - that seems the most useful thing, but probably has a lot of prior art around it.

I think the Apple patent will stand but I don't think it will have much effect on the industry and other devices.

Re:Interesting Analysis (2, Interesting)

i.of.the.storm (907783) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766845)

That's pretty interesting, and probably the first and only Engadget article actually worth reading on its own merits. I think it's safe to say that if Apple sues Palm, both sides will suffer a protracted legal battle, but I think Apple has more money unfortunately, so it can use that to stifle innovation. But I guess it goes without saying that the patent system needs a huge overhaul in the digital age.

Re:Interesting Analysis (4, Interesting)

crmarvin42 (652893) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766977)

Apple is most likely not going to pursue Palm unless their hand is forced. I don't see anyone having a problem developing non-infringing multi-touch UI guidelines, or baring that lisencing them from Apple.

Legal battles cost money and risk having patents invalidated. They are the Big Stick in the line "Walk softly, but carry a big stick." By having the patent they can intimidate their competitors into using only obviously non-infringing multi-touch features. Thus maintaining the novelty of their device.

Besides, I fail to see how their patent can stifle innovation. They were awarded the pantent for doing something innovative in the first place. If Palm wants to stay competetive they'll just have to do some more innovating to keep up.

Re:Interesting Analysis (3, Interesting)

i.of.the.storm (907783) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767073)

According to the engadget article their patents are fairly specific and not overly broad, but if they were to sue Palm just for using multi-touch that would definitely be stifling innovation, and I don't see how that could be construed otherwise. If the patents prevent other companies from building on Apple's groundwork, that is also stifling innovation. It's not protecting their device's novelty so much as being lazy; why innovate when no one else can do anything similar to what you can do?

But the big stick analogy is good, as is the nuclear option analogy. I don't think either company really wants to enter a long and costly legal fight. I don't see why Palm would force their hand, but Apple has been threatening that they will "protect" their IP so if anyone would start the fight, it would have to be Apple.

Re:Interesting Analysis (1)

crmarvin42 (652893) | more than 5 years ago | (#26776201)

If Apples patent is fairly specific and not overly broad, it can only stop Palm from using the same implementation as Apple. If Palm, or anyone else for that matter, wants to implement similar functionality they'll be forced to develop a Novel, non-infringing implementation. This is innovation by it's very definition.

I agree that if Apple were to start suing anyone that attempted to develop multi-touch implementations that do not violate their patent, then they could be accused of stifling innovation. However, that hasn't happened yet and there is little evidence that they are planning on it. Most of this speculation is based on responses that were made during the quarterly conference call, and taken out of context to create the appearance that Apple has been threatening Palm.

Taken from roughlydrafted.com [roughlydrafted.com] :

Question: "Now a number of competitors coming for iPhone. Their own variance on customer experience, Palm Pre, Android, Windows. How do you think about sustaining your leadership in sector?"

Cook: "I would say, first of all, it's difficult to judge products that are not yet in the market. The iPhone has sold over 17 million units thus far. It's received the highest overall customer satisfaction from many different surveys. And we've said since the beginning software's the key ingredient, and we believe we're still years ahead on software. I would include with software the Applications Store ad you've seen the explosion with half a billion downloads.

When you think of having multiple variations of displays, of resolutions and input methods, and of hardware, it's a big challenge to a software developer and it's not very enticing to build a different app for every one of these things. But we'll see what people will do. We approached this business as a software platform business, so we've approached it fundamentally different than those who approached it only from a hardware point of view.

We are confident with where we are competitively. We're watching the landscape, we like competition. As long as they don't rip off our IP, and if they do, we'll go after anybody that does. I thought that might be your next question, so that's why I wanted to get that out."

Question: "Are you referring to Palm when you say ripping off IP?"

Cook: "I'm not talking about any specific company. I'm just making a general statement. We think competition is good, it makes us better. But we will not stand to have our IP ripped off. We will go after them with every weapon at our disposal. I don't think I can be more clear than that."


As to the idea that patents allow companies to be lazy b/c they no longer need to innovate, that's a valid concern. However, if you've followed Apple closely enough you'd see that it's not their style, at least not when Steve is at the helm. He was ousted originally, in part, due to his willingness to sacrifice the Lisa profit margins on the Mac, which was a lot cheaper and had much smaller margins and was more capable. Leaving Apple in the hands of those that believed milking the platform for all it was worth was a better business strategy than actually innovating. After Jobs' return, the company has placed innovation above all else and it has proved to be the better strategy for the company.

Now that Steve is at least temporarily out of the CEO chair, it is possible that the scenario everyone is afraid of will come to pass. However, I believe that there are enough intelligent people, in key positions that share his devotion to innovation over quick profit that the fears are unwarranted, at least for now. The trick will be maintaining that outlook 2 and 3 CEO's into the future.

Re:Interesting Analysis (1)

HumanEmulator (1062440) | more than 5 years ago | (#26769645)

Apple is most likely not going to pursue Palm unless their hand is forced.

Forced as in... Palm releases a phone with multi-touch? Steve Jobs said in reference to multi-touch at the initial iPhone unveiling "And boy have we patented it! [engadget.com] ", which sounds a lot like, "Don't expect to see this on anyone else's phone" to me.

Besides, I fail to see how their patent can stifle innovation.

No one else can create a multi-touch phone, so Apple doesn't have to keep up its pace of innovation. The Palm Pre received so much press, because it could potentially push past what the iPhone is capable of. If it isn't released a stagnant current version of the iPhone could remain king.

They were awarded the pantent for doing something innovative in the first place.

Actually they just bought the company, FingerWorks, that Wayne Westerman and cohorts founded.

I like Apple. I hate the US patent system. Let's do something.

Re:Interesting Analysis (1)

crmarvin42 (652893) | more than 5 years ago | (#26776291)

It sounds a lot more like "Create your own, you can't have ours!" Historically, Apple believes that MS ripped off much of their IP for windows. They were just reinforcing the point that they weren't going to let it happen again.

Anyone else can develop a multi-touch phone, they are just going to have to come up with a unique implementation that is innovative enough to be non-infringing. Or in short, Innovate.

The Palm Pre has received so much press because the press likes to pit Davids against the current Goliath when ever they can. It sells more papers, gets more page hits, and ultimately makes them more money. The Palm is an unreleased piece of equipment, where much of the functionality hasn't even been finished yet. It's impossible to know how good something is if it is currently vaporware. I'm not saying can't be good or even better than an iPhone, but the iPhone is real, and available today. The same cannot be said about the Pre.

You are being unnecessarily pedantic. Once Apple purchased FingerWorks, the patents and innovation became Apple property. Integrating the technology from the FingerWorks acquisition and creating the iPhone was no small feat, and I'm sure that a lot of the relevant patents were applied for after the acquisition.

Re:Interesting Analysis (1)

garote (682822) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768333)

Oh my god! They actually spoke with a PATENT LAWYER about patent law?? Isn't that, like, cheating?

I dont get this (1)

alexborges (313924) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766791)

I only skimmed through the text of the patent. Now, what I dont get is how can they claim infringement if the patent includes a speciffic set of heuristics, without proving that webOSs (this sounds so funny in spanish: means eggs) is using precisely those?

Haha! (2, Funny)

kkrajewski (1459331) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767777)

Dibbs!! "huevOS: it's a kick in the eggs!"

No (2, Funny)

hackstraw (262471) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766865)

Next question.

But seriously, what difference does it make if apple patents this or not? I mean, no other GUI comes close to Apple's.

An example of this, was that I was not going to finish this post because this stuff is dumb, and people would come back saying that Apples UI is not that great, so I closed the tab. Safari asked if I wanted to close the tab because I was in the middle of filling in this form, with the default being Close (not OK, Cancel, or whatever).

I love multi-touch. I used to like having a mouse on a laptop, but now that multi-touch is here, its simply better than a mouse. Much more intuitive and less of an issue with RSI with a scroll-wheel.

I hate to sound too much like an Apple geek, but their software is so nice, that I'm always finding new things in it. Its almost like being with a person that you like. You are always learning something new about them. And I guess the inverse is true, that when you get bored with them, you find someone else.

I'm done hugging my MacBook :)

Back to multi-touch, I think that it should be allowed to be used by anyone. Its simply nice.

Re:No (1, Flamebait)

icebike (68054) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766929)

> I love multi-touch. I used to like having a mouse on a laptop, but now that multi-touch is here, its simply better than a mouse.

Perhaps for small notebooks, (or tablets), but realistically its simply too slow and disruptive with larger screens to be waving your entire arm around just to click a button. It also requires a very sparse interface to allow for imprecision of touch.

Much as a mouse can be compared to poking at machine together with a stick, multitouch can be like trying to assemble small parts while wearing mittens.

Re:No (2, Insightful)

neuromanc3r (1119631) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767773)

> I love multi-touch. I used to like having a mouse on a laptop, but now that multi-touch is here, its simply better than a mouse.

Perhaps for small notebooks, (or tablets), but realistically its simply too slow and disruptive with larger screens to be waving your entire arm around just to click a button. It also requires a very sparse interface to allow for imprecision of touch.

I'm pretty sure the gp was talking about multi-touch on his notebook's touchpad or multi-touch in general, not about touchscreens.

Re:No (1)

PenGun (794213) | more than 5 years ago | (#26769695)

No sweetie. It's a troll. You and some moderators are dangling on his hook, nice one too. But then I am just a critic.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767295)

I like a lot of things about Apple's UIs, but I have to point out that they are far from perfect. Apple's multi-touch makes it too easy to make unintended gestures - e.g., every so often when I browse on the web, I notice the font size has changed; wiping dust off of the track pad leads to going back in the browser history.

The worst thing about their multi-touch, though, is that there's no granularity to the gestures preferences - it's either all on or all off. That means every gesture which doesn't fit a particular user's usage patterns reduces the overall value of their gestures UI. For me, it makes gestures of marginal value.

I could write a book analyzing all the other flaws in their various OS and application UIs, but it's a bit too off-topic for here. Some of the very rudimentary features missing from the Apple's flagship iTunes app and store boggle my mind - e.g., you can't search through specific categories on the store, playing an album on repeat requires either creating a new playlist or typing in text.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767739)

Wait, what? The word on the close button in Safari reminds you of how great multitouch is because Apple has the best GUI?

I think your train of thought got lost somewhere in the wilderness of your fanboyism.

Re:No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26767781)

you are such an apple-mo troll.
Apple used FREE BSD and X to do what they have.

These patent mongering lawyer-theifs
are immoral monopolists.

Re:No (1)

forkazoo (138186) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768291)

An example of this, was that I was not going to finish this post because this stuff is dumb, and people would come back saying that Apples UI is not that great, so I closed the tab. Safari asked if I wanted to close the tab because I was in the middle of filling in this form, with the default being Close (not OK, Cancel, or whatever).

I just want to jump in and say "me too." Seriously, using verbs on buttons instead okay OK/Cancel is such an obvious interface improvement, and yet probably 90% of dialog boxes I see are OK/Cancel or Yes/No. I say death to whoever thought of the dialog box UI paradigm of "throw a paragraph of meandering text which mentions several different actions at the user, and then OK and Cancel." I think some of the philosophy of OO programming leaked out and rotted the brains of UI designers and convinced them computers should be built of objects instead of actions. The bastards.

Re:No (1)

essinger (781940) | more than 5 years ago | (#26770475)

An example of this, was that I was not going to finish this post because this stuff is dumb, and people would come back saying that Apples UI is not that great, so I closed the tab. Safari asked if I wanted to close the tab because I was in the middle of filling in this form, with the default being Close (not OK, Cancel, or whatever).

I just want to jump in and say "me too." Seriously, using verbs on buttons instead okay OK/Cancel is such an obvious interface improvement, and yet probably 90% of dialog boxes I see are OK/Cancel or Yes/No. I say death to whoever thought of the dialog box UI paradigm of "throw a paragraph of meandering text which mentions several different actions at the user, and then OK and Cancel." I think some of the philosophy of OO programming leaked out and rotted the brains of UI designers and convinced them computers should be built of objects instead of actions. The bastards.

Probably would have been a more powerful example if IE's tab dialog didn't also default to the verb "close."

is it me or... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26766919)

Does this, once again, show that patents on software ideas provide no benefit, what so ever, to the public?

I hope this gets overturned, or else, as another poster pointed out, we will see fighting among vendors and stagnation in an otherwise cool technology, which will leave us, the end user, not buying new stuff, because there is nothing to buy. Or not buying because you can only get incompatible versions from two or three big companies.

And for those who think that patent law exist to benefit the inventors, I must remind you that the rationale for patents in general, is to increase the number of publications on technical methods, which should apparently be a good thing.

I'd rather have the patent system shut down... simply because reverse engineering is a better option. Now hold on before you go ballistic on me here: With patents we know how it is done, but we can't do it anyway. Without patents, it takes some effort if the inventor has kept it a secret, but if we succeed we can do it. Samba is good example of this. And at lest in the computing world, keeping things a secret is A) Very difficult (BlueRay's BD2 DRM mechanism comes to mind), and B) Not always an option in an interoperable world.

And don't give me the "without patents vendors won't invest in research"-crap that i hear all the time... Yes they will! Because merchants are merchants who are merchants. As long as everyone competes under the same terms, there wont be much of a change: Companies still need to come up with something new and exciting to sell. The gizzmowiz of the day has to be smarter and faster and slicker than what the other company sells. That wont change, regardless of the approach to patents.

Some might actually argue, that without patents we will see *more* research being done, simply because smaller companies are not up against Big Iron who has 60,000 patents, of which a significant portion is broad and general purpose.

At least that is my two cent...

Re:is it me or... (2, Insightful)

floodo1 (246910) | more than 5 years ago | (#26770279)

To put it simply as "publications on technical methods" misses what I think is a key point about patent theory.

In protecting the inventor from having his idea "stolen" (so to speak) the patent system gives the inventor incentive to disclose his idea, thus establishing "publications on technical methods". Imagine someone who invents something, but never tells anyone because if he tells someone they (or someone down the grapevine) can take his idea and effectively prevent him from profiting from it.
In effect the only reason to invent things is to give them away, because in most conceivable situations there are others that have better positions in the market to gain market share at the inventors expense.
This conception of incentive is further borne out through licensing, whereby the inventor can be compensated while the "others that have better positions in the market" actually produce, and profit from the idea. In this way the inventor AND the other businesses can all profit.

Further consider that this protection is not unlimited and patents eventually expire. The inventor is granted a limited time of exclusivity afterwhich the idea is free.


Obviously I would hope that people would want to give their ideas away and not have to worry about being compensated in exchange, but n a capitalist system patents are relatively reasonable. In order to assure that all inventions are available they sacrifice time. For a time only the inventor is rewarded exclusively, afterwhich period the idea is free. In a non-patent system time is of the essence so all ideas are free from the get-go, but the tradeoff is that some inventions are lost, perhaps to be discovered at a later time, or possibly never to be conceived of again! (however unlikely)

The idiocy of arguing not-even-filed claims (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26766969)

So we're supposed to argue not-even-filed patent defenses ... a bunch of non-lawyers. Ridiculous post.

BTW, there are lots of patents with "prior art," including Amazon's one-touch. I am a patent attorney. I have no idea how this patent will fare but this discussion is a waste of time.

Apple WWDC demo and AT&T (1)

mondotom (703921) | more than 5 years ago | (#26766987)

Apple did a ATG Human Interface Group project that publicly demonstrated a mac tablet (not newton) gesture interfaces at WWDC, early 90's. The tablet was a pen and one finger, both could be used at same time but only one finger (single layer of ITO). Not long after AT&T gave Apple a multi-touch (five fingers) transparent panel using a XY matrix ITO, it was integrated into tablet. At about the same time, Apple discussed with a display manufacturer about developing a mixed mode display, modify the XY display drivers to sense fingers as well as drive display. cool stuff

Some Background Information and Thoughts (2, Informative)

Grond (15515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26767013)

Here are the University of Delaware-owned patents: 6,323,846 [google.com] and 6,888,536 [google.com] . Two other early Westerman patents (6,570,557 and 6,677,932) were assigned to FingerWorks, which was bought by Apple a few years ago.

Anyway, all of the Westerman patents are for the capacitive touchscreen itself and the accompanying software, not the multi-touch gestures covered by the recently granted Apple patent. It could very well be that the company that designed the screens (Balda [balda.de] ) or the company that manufactured them (TPK Solutions [tpk-solutions.com] ) has licensed the U of Delaware patents. Even if the screens are unlicensed, it could be that they do not infringe or that the Delaware patents are invalid. Given the amount of money that Balda, TPK, and Apple have riding on the iPhone, it is very likely that lots of due diligence was done on these issues, especially with Westerman working for Apple now.

Even if the Delaware patents are valid and infringed, it is quite likely that Apple's contract with Balda/TPK Solutions includes an indemnity clause that puts Balda/TPK on the hook rather than Apple. In the post-eBay v Mercexchange world, it is likely that the University of Delaware would be unable to enjoin Balda, TPK, or Apple, leaving it only able to collect damages and future royalties. Even if an injunction were to issue, I'm sure the University would be happy to negotiate a licensing agreement since it does not practice the patent itself. Finally, even if the University were to stonewall Apple, there are lots of other companies that make capacitive touchscreens that could fit the bill for the iPhone.

Now, let's turn to the issue of the prior art references omitted from Apple's patent application. Contrary to a popular misconception, there is no affirmative duty to submit every last possible prior art reference to the PTO, only those that are known to the applicant and material to patentability (that is, that could have made a difference in the PTO's decision). It could be that the submitted references covered everything that the Pierre Wellner reference disclosed, in which case the Wellner reference would be immaterial. Or it could be that the Apple patent only claims subject matter that is patentably distinct from the Wellner reference, in which case, again, it would be immaterial.

Yes, these are all potential issues, but determining the outcome will depend on a lot of information that is not publicly known (such as any Balda/TPK Solutions/Apple licensing deals with the University of Delaware) or that ultimately has to be determined by the PTO or a court (e.g., whether the University of Delaware patents are valid or whether Apple's patent is unenforceable for inequitable conduct). As a result, both of the linked articles are rife with speculation and conjecture. For now, this is pretty much a non-story. Come back if some of these patents are found invalid during reexamination or if Apple gets sued.

Re:Some Background Information and Thoughts (1)

tyrione (134248) | more than 5 years ago | (#26771357)

Nah! Not in the land of Slashdot, when it's clear by the myopic rants that Apple couldn't have possibly done background work and we should expect this corporation to collapse by such lack of effort in T minus 20 years and counting.

Victory over innocence (1)

virtualflesh (1438407) | more than 5 years ago | (#26768089)

Oh, look. The 'innocent' little Apple Corp is just like every other trendy do-gooder - appeals to the mass that dislike wealthy companies, and they themselves end up being no different. I won't say I told you so (or will I?).

Re:Victory over innocence (0, Troll)

daath93 (1356187) | more than 5 years ago | (#26770417)

I just cant buy Apple for reasons too numerous to mention, but the major one lately: Someone save me from your fanboys! I sit on the commuter train and everyone has the same plain white headphones stuck in their ears. I walk by a Starbucks I see table after table of people dressed by old navy sipping coffee and blogging on their plain white macbook.

I saw one the other day that someone put a Che Guevara sticker on and it suddenly became very clear...Apple's vision of 1984 is finally here!

Color bar? (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#26771461)

You mean someone using a laptop that isn't black or headphones that aren't silver actually annoys you?

You related to Henry Ford or something?

Re:Color bar? (1)

daath93 (1356187) | more than 5 years ago | (#26779367)

Where you drew that conclusion from my text is beyond me. Let me restate for clarity...they were all plain white apple stock issued headphones, which is how you can make an educated guess that they are using some form of apple issued music device without me searching each individual persons pocket.

Re:Victory over innocence (1)

virtualflesh (1438407) | more than 5 years ago | (#26779805)

The thing that really gets me going is seeing all of my friends fall prey to the same thing that drove other 'big companies' to stardom. A rebel company, a 'different' look; break the trend, try this hot new brand. You won't look like the shmoe next to you... ...caveat emptor: soon they will look just like you and take away that cool new identity. Don't give identity thieves another reason to pursue you. Corporate America owns you (even me at times although I fight boldly). Take back control of your lives. No matter how successfully they've earned your trust, fooled you into thinking theirs is better than theirs, trust that The Goal of every company is profit alone - their identity, not yours.

MIT Media Lab has prior art (3, Informative)

FranTaylor (164577) | more than 5 years ago | (#26770799)

Look into Dave Sturman's research in the mid 80's. He was using a Dataglove for gestural research. The Media Lab made a demo tape of him using gestures to pick menu items. I probably still have a copy of it kicking around somewhere.

What patents should be valid? (1)

argent (18001) | more than 5 years ago | (#26771465)

The whole question of the validity of the current patent system should be the topic here, not whether Apple is likely to abuse it... so far as I know Apple's only used their patents defensively (have I missed something?).

one thing different couldchange a business process (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 5 years ago | (#26774839)

Some company patented a chapter out of PhD thesis adding one innovative claim to 12 existing steps. Neither I or my university had the resources to battle it - it wasnt a big money maker. Happens a lot.

Re: (1)

clint999 (1277046) | more than 5 years ago | (#26779243)

The patent mentions "a device" in Apple's case. Its sufficient broadly worded to not tie it explicitly to software.A more pertinent question: Can you patent a dance step?

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...