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Multitouch Gesture Patents Could Prevent Standardization

Soulskill posted more than 6 years ago | from the reach-out-and-multitouch-someone dept.

Input Devices 210

ozmanjusri brings us a Wired report on Apple's efforts to patent the multitouch gestures used on their laptops, smartphones, and tablets. The article discusses concerns over how this could affect the standardization of certain gestures in developing multitouch technology. We've previously discussed the patent applications themselves. Quoting Wired: "If Apple's patent applications are successful, other manufacturers may have no choice but to implement multitouch gestures of their own. The upshot: You might pinch to zoom on your phone, swirl your finger around to zoom on your notebook, and triple-tap to zoom on the web-browsing remote control in your home theater. That's an outcome many in the industry would like to avoid. Synaptics, a company that by most estimates supplies 65 to 70 percent of the notebook industry with its touchpad technology, is working on its own set of universal touch gestures that it hopes will become a standard. These gestures include scrolling by making a circular motion, moving pictures or documents with a flip of the finger, and zooming in or out by making, yes, a pinching gesture."

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210 comments

For more information (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22536842)

The nimp guys have got a spot on review [nimp.org] as always.

WARNING: GNAA (-1, Troll)

SirBudgington (1232290) | more than 6 years ago | (#22536884)

Don't click the link, it screws with your browser and is generally nasty.

MOD PARENT UP (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22537294)

I don't know why somebody modded it as troll, all he was doing is pointing out that the parent was a troll.

Re:WARNING: GNAA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22537748)

Don't click the link

My god man, how come you fell for the nimp.org link? New on the internet ? :)

In that case, I've got some urls you should burn into your retina before continuing...

Re:WARNING: GNAA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22538612)

Holy mother of God, talk about cheap karma...
 
For all we know, he could have posted it himself, but even if he didn't, a score 5?

How dare you (4, Funny)

suso (153703) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537162)

dictate how I can use my hands!

Technical terms (1, Funny)

dubl-u (51156) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537928)

Just so everybody knows, the technical term for the zoom out gesture is "pinch", and the term for zoom in is "goatse".

Re:For more information (2, Insightful)

MichaelKaiserProScri (691448) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537490)

Easy. Design device so that gestures are trainable. I will train every device I own the same way....

Re:For more information (2, Insightful)

milsoRgen (1016505) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537564)

Easy. Design device so that gestures are trainable. I will train every device I own the same way....
But what about the newbies and novices of the world? Who the very concept of gestures would be foreign?

Re:For more information (1)

leuk_he (194174) | more than 6 years ago | (#22538346)

Don't underestimate the power of default.

Middle Finger (5, Insightful)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 6 years ago | (#22536870)

I say they all deserve a middle finger gesture if they can't work out a sensible standard. Apple should especially be chastised for trying to patent this stuff. It's like patenting an 'x' for denoting closing a window.

It makes sense for competitors to collaborate on certain things to move the industry as a whole forward.

Re:Middle Finger (4, Insightful)

torkus (1133985) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537062)

Immagine if someone tried to pattent the double click? That's essentially what they're doing here.

Re:Middle Finger (1)

shogun (657) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537096)

If you can patent a single click [stanford.edu] whats to stop you patenting a double?

Not exactly... (2, Insightful)

Gription (1006467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537332)

They didn't patent the single click. They patented a process that was initiated by a single click. The process (method) is the point.

Re:Middle Finger (5, Informative)

fermion (181285) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537678)

What they are in fact doing is patenting a new method to interact with the computer. Interaction with the computer has become increasing complex, from a several switches, to a few dozen switches on a keyboard, back to a single switch that is used with a context sensitive position data, to a small touch area that responds to patterns of pressure and motion.

Apple is patenting the method that makes the touchpad functional. In a way, they have a reason to do this as they were innovating the touchpad while everyone else was adding buttons to mice and arguing that the touch pad would never be as good as the mouse. These people lack creativity. It is easy to add buttons to a mouse, or a scroll wheel, or add USB ports to a computer, or other trivia that most firms rely on to imply innovation. But the trackpad is now a competitor to the mouse, and unless one has had issues, I see the mouse and mouselike interfaces going away on anything that is not a desktop machine.

OTOH, one reason that this patent may not cause too much trouble is that the engineering to make gestures happen may be expensive, and therefore we are much more likely to see cheap knockoffs, safe from the patents, rather than infringing duplication. For instance, MS did not go with a iPod style control on the original Zune, but the cheap click pad. Likewise, MS developed an affordable navigation pad on the new zune, rather than moving to a full touch screen model. Most manufacturers who wish to stay below the cost of the Apple product has done the same.

Re:Middle Finger (2, Insightful)

snl2587 (1177409) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537816)

But how is this more than simply a logical extension of computer interaction (and therefore not patentable)?

Re:Middle Finger (5, Informative)

PietjeJantje (917584) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537920)

Apple did not creatively innovate multi touch gestures nor mp3 players nor phones, they marketed it into a successful high-end products for "cool" people, which is something else. Multi-touch has been pioneered since 1982 (wikipedia). This is more equal to patenting double-click or one-click ordering. It's about creating a barrier of entrance to competitors.

Re:Middle Finger (1)

fph il quozientatore (971015) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537752)

Immagine if someone tried to pattent the double click? That's essentially what they're doing here.
Oh, I can't imagine that [slashdot.org] .

Re:Middle Finger (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22537068)

ThinkGeek should do a t-shirt: Patent this (finger image) Apple

Re:Middle Finger (1)

cp.tar (871488) | more than 6 years ago | (#22538210)

Since we're talking about multitouch gestures, I think the T-shirt should have both middle fingers on it.

Re:Middle Finger (5, Insightful)

Smallpond (221300) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537194)

There's nothing wrong with patenting a specific implementation, assuming it is a novel design. What is unfortunate about software patents is that I can't write a program to do the same thing done in a different way and avoid the patent, because software patents are on the idea. The implementation is usually described as "software means obvious to one skilled in the art".

Look back at Wang's patent on the SIMM. It only covered 9-bit parity modules. 36-bit SIMMS did not violate the patent. Hardware patents are forced to describe an implementation.

Re:Middle Finger (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22537292)

Perverted Arse-Fucking Lechery Jesus

There's another solution (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22536878)

License the gestures from Apple for a small per-device fee.

Re:There's another solution (1)

Gyga (873992) | more than 6 years ago | (#22536990)

Why should other companies have to pay for gestures? How can hand motions be patented. I can see the actual teach being patented but not the motions.

License from a Research Company (1)

StCredZero (169093) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537154)

The licensing should be low-cost and go to a research company, to fund more cool inventions!

Re:License from a Research Company (1)

Jeremy Erwin (2054) | more than 6 years ago | (#22538804)

Or to a technology licensing firm so they can fund more innovation!

Re:There's another solution (1)

DustyShadow (691635) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537330)

How can hand motions be patented. I can see the actual teach being patented but not the motions.
I haven't read the patent but I'm sure it involves the patenting of the method accepting those motions as inputs and then doing something after receiving that input. I highly doubt it would be a patent on the motion itself. If it is on the motion itself, the only person Apple could sue for infringement would be the consumer. Good luck with that. Damages = $0.

Universal? (4, Interesting)

Ctrl+Alt+De1337 (837964) | more than 6 years ago | (#22536958)

If there's a company that stands to lose from having a non-standard input scheme, it's definitely not the one that has >90% of the desktop market. I mean, if you not only have to learn a new OS, new shortcuts, in some cases new applications, and now a new input scheme, it seems that Apple would be erecting a new barrier to Mac adoption, not encouraging Mac adoption. If Microsoft implements gestures of its own (like what it has said it'll do in Windows 7), I'd bet those are more likely to become the standard than Apple's gestures.

Re:Universal? (4, Insightful)

theurge14 (820596) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537314)

On the other hand, Apple has the momentum. They've been shipping products with multi-touch features for almost a year now. The most Microsoft has done is demo something that they haven't even begun to sell yet. They're playing catchup just like the Zune is doing.

Re:Universal? (1)

davolfman (1245316) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537722)

Doesn't matter.

Phones have no brand loyalty, it's an element built into the economics of the industry and into the wear-and-tear of anything that goes in your pocket. Getting the SDK out so late in the game Apple doesn't even have vendor lock-in of applications to ensure domination.

As for notebooks that are now out I'll use a different analogy: The Diamond Rio was out in various forms years before the iPod. That still didn't prevent Apple's now massive dominance of that market. Early releases in a market are statistical outliers. It's pure adoption numbers that matter, not who gets there first.

As for Surface? It's already being installed in at least one local hotel here. Just because it isn't a consumer product doesn't mean it isn't for sale.

Re:Universal? (2, Insightful)

typicallyterrific (934202) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537368)

I don't think so.

Microsoft doesn't have any significant marketshare of devices that accept touch input. Outside of tablets, I can't think of any serious product that currently exists that accepts that interface. It's not like new computers come with a Wacom tablet by default, or some other "touch-interface".

The iPhone and the Touch will be popular devices for years to come; I'd be very surprised if they don't significantly oversell tablet laptops, if only because they're cheaper, if they aren't already in that position. This is all reminiscent of the iPod's UI patents.

Watch for gestures to be supported big time in new Apple laptops.

Re:Universal? (0, Redundant)

Eddy Luten (1166889) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537370)

I have to agree. Plus, the technology that Microsoft has displayed [microsoft.com] seems more appealing to purchase and develop for, IMO.

Apple Is..... (2, Insightful)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537424)

Trying to become the new Microsoft by patenting its way to obnoxiousness.

Re:Universal? (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537506)

New to the latest round of OS wars? The fight is mainly about making nothing work with anything else, think diverging. Lets go with file formats.... mac has 'real' media garbage and their slew of drmed crap. Microsoft is forcing its own 'standards' onto the market to the detriment of everyone else... hey it was MS that hated/hates png files. My ipod gets updates that break the thing on purpose forcing people to reverse engineer all over again or me to use itunes (similar to if windows crashed for me using FF instead of IE, i'm sure theres something illegal there).. Oh yeah and MS is doing just that! vista sp1 breaks programs left and right even when they are actually compatible. Theres zune... hell all DRM is is to break compatibility with something that would normally work fine. Sad that you need to expend so much effort just to make products NOT work. My phone with windows mobile on it will only sync properly with windows, hell if i updated the thing itd probably break xp and only sync with vista. I'd say linux and more standards is the answer but since hardware companies try so hard to not sell their products they don't release any docs so OSS can't use them (graphics cards anyone?).

Whew that was refreshing. On a related note does anyone know of any standardization initiatives I can get involved in? The 8 different power cords by my ankles which could ALL be mini-USB is getting to me.

Re:Universal? (3, Interesting)

milsoRgen (1016505) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537672)

vista sp1 breaks programs left and right even when they are actually compatible.
If you look at the list from the article yesterday, it was a very small number of programs. A dozen or so? And all the companies had been notified in advance. And as I said yesterday, it's been long over due that Microsoft stopped hard coding little fixes and work arounds for improperly coded 1st and 3rd party software.

Sad that you need to expend so much effort just to make products NOT work.
I'm not talking about DRM or file formats, but I will say Microsoft has taken efforts over the years to ensure their products as well as others do work, take a look at the Win2k source code overview [kuro5hin.org] , granted that is Win2k but I don't think the development environment really would of changed all that drastically from then to now.

Just like the Zune...? (2, Funny)

TibbonZero (571809) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537834)

Apple does something, then Microsoft copies it and it will take off. Just like the Zune right?

Hang on... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22536976)

The upshot: You might pinch to zoom on your phone, swirl your finger around to zoom on your notebook, and triple-tap to zoom on the web-browsing remote control in your home theater

Isn't there a "non-obvious" patent test or something? I mean, c'mon... multitouch is a logical extension/derivative of the trackpad... I don't see how stuff like "swirl your finger around to zoom" can be considered anything other than totally apparent to anyone presented with the multitouch technology and given three minutes to come up with unique gestures for using it.

I bet a quick Ask Slashdot for prior art in 50s pulp scifi would bust almost all of these patents. ("Romulon 7 swirled two webbed fingers across the vid-screen. His home planet appeared.")

Re:Hang on... (1)

milsoRgen (1016505) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537520)

multitouch is a logical extension/derivative of the trackpad
Of that I do concur, however if the market was to fragment in such away to hurt adoption, would it really be that bad to use a well designed track pad with some wheels for zooming and/or scrolling? I know gestures have been gaining momentum over the years (I personally don't care much for them) and it saves space and what have you on smaller consumer electronics devices, but I prefer tactical feed back from my hardware when navigating or performing input.

Pinch to zoom? (1)

nurb432 (527695) | more than 6 years ago | (#22536982)

Swirl around your head to pan? WTF??

Anyone else think we have gone way overboard here and need to return to a much simpler time?

standards which do not make sense (3, Insightful)

e**(i pi)-1 (462311) | more than 6 years ago | (#22536998)

> that it hopes will become a standard. These gestures include: scrolling by making a circular motion and move the finger up and down to turn the picture? Come on!

Re:standards which do not make sense (1)

aix tom (902140) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537450)

Seems to make sense to me.

Scrolling by moving up and down would mean that you reach the end of the touch area at the bottom or top and would have to re-position your finger. But you can keep up a continuous circular motion as long as you need to scroll.

OTOH it makes not much sense to keep something turning more than 360, so you are not as likely to run out of screen touch real-estate by doing that with up-and down movements.

Re:standards which do not make sense (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537762)

It doesn't make sense because the only thing I've ever used that scrolled using a circular gesture is an iPod and even that didn't make a lot of sense. Making one motion to create a different motion makes no sense. Besides, the running-out-of-real-estate-while-scrolling problem was solved a long time ago. My 4 year old laptop know to keep scrolling if my finger reaches the edge of the touch pad.

Re:standards which do not make sense (1)

Haeleth (414428) | more than 6 years ago | (#22538522)

It doesn't make sense because the only thing I've ever used that scrolled using a circular gesture is an iPod and even that didn't make a lot of sense. Making one motion to create a different motion makes no sense.
Ever reeled in a fishing line? Hmm, I do believe you do it by using a circular motion to cause another object to move linearly. Sounds crazy, I know, but most people manage to grasp the idea eventually.

Re:standards which do not make sense (1)

T-Bone-T (1048702) | more than 6 years ago | (#22538758)

Turning a circular motion into a linear one is an easy concept, it just isn't usually seen in computer. I, for one, have never seen a circular scroll bar.

Re:standards which do not make sense (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22537670)

What do you think you're doing when you're scrolling through your iPod?

Slashdot Icon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22537028)

Why isn't there a Borg Steve Jobs that accompanies this story?

Cleary Prior Art (0)

killmofasta (460565) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537060)

Dont New Your Cabbies have proir art?

Whatsistoyou! BaddaBing!

It will pass. (2, Funny)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537066)

Two fingered mouse gestures are a fad that will pass.

Ctrl +, Ctrl - has worked fine for zooming in and out for years.

Various CAD tool vendors tried to get people to use mouse gestures for years, but people stuck with the mouse+keyboard because it is a much more definite form of input.

Re:It will pass. (1)

Troed (102527) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537174)

Why do you believe all devices have and/or will have keyboards now and/or in the future?

Re:It will pass. (4, Insightful)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537244)

Why do you believe all devices have and/or will have keyboards now and/or in the future?


Because with the exception of phones and other "toy" devices most people need keyboards to get work done. I have never used a touch screen that I can type as fast and as accurate as I can on a keyboard. Also, most people know how to type on keyboards and the keyboard has been used ever since the typewriter. I don't see the keyboard going away anytime soon for any serious device.

Re:It will pass. (2, Interesting)

Troed (102527) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537336)

with the exception of phones and other "toy" devices ... that by far outnumber keyboard-mouse-and-monitor computers, and for large parts of the world will be the only "computers" they'll ever use. Besides gaming most tasks done on desktop computers could (and will) easily be done (albeit with better user interfaces - which is what the article discusses) on what is known as "Mobile Internet Devices" (webpads, mobiles, ... ).

The desktop computer as a separate box is a dead end, and the reason you're seeing many companies moving into "mobile" is because they know this.

Re:It will pass. (1)

tkinnun0 (756022) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537826)

with the exception of phones and other "toy" devices ... that by far outnumber keyboard-mouse-and-monitor computers
That would be a snappy come-back if only you could do twice the work with TWO cellphones.

Besides, I don't think any revolution in UI-design is going to turn a 9-5 job in front of a keyboard and a monitor into 30 minutes tapping into your webtop, 7.5 hours sipping latte.

Re:It will pass. (1)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537846)

that by far outnumber keyboard-mouse-and-monitor computers, and for large parts of the world will be the only "computers" they'll ever use.


I haven't traveled outside of the US for a while, but here in the US, I have never seen anyone type a major report via a mobile device (iPhone, Blackberry) or an internet tablet (N800, etc.) About the most I have seen anyone do with them is make very minor edits to reports and check their e-mail. However, most people who work on the road use a laptop to do most things rather then thier mobile device or internet tablet.

Besides gaming most tasks done on desktop computers could (and will) easily be done (albeit with better user interfaces - which is what the article discusses) on what is known as "Mobile Internet Devices" (webpads, mobiles, ... ).


Ok, show me how someone types as fast on a "Mobile Internet Device" then a laptop or desktop computer... I for one have never seen anyone be able to type as fast and those that can usually have a keyboard on them. Also, for many people with larger fingers, typing on even a laptop-sized keyboard is painful for them, not to mention how hard it will be on smaller touch screens.

The desktop computer as a separate box is a dead end, and the reason you're seeing many companies moving into "mobile" is because they know this.


How is it a dead end? With a desktop computer I get a lifetime of around 4-5 years without upgrading RAM, hard drives and other components. Not to mention how easy it is to change operating systems (just pop in a CD and reboot) and to upgrade applications (sudo apt-get upgrade if your on Debian/Ubuntu) and maintenance tasks. With "Mobile Internet Devices" you get a lifetime of around 2-4 years if you are lucky, you can't usually upgrade RAM or flash memory. Its a pain to change operating systems and you even need to in order to use newer programs unlike the desktop/laptop. And setting up the device is a headache In most you have to synchronize all your data via a host PC, download programs usually from the host PC (and most are shareware/trialware or other proprietary products) and sometimes sign them. Mobile devices right now are a joke. You can't get most of your work done on them, the price to performance ratio is just sad, they need a host PC and if you have a smaller laptop why not just use that instead of getting a mobile device that will become obsolete in 2-4 years?

Re:It will pass. (1)

Troed (102527) | more than 6 years ago | (#22538042)

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/20/world/asia/20japan.html?hp [nytimes.com]

vs

Mobile devices right now are a joke

You might want to realise that the US is a bit behind, but the trend is clear.

(Disclaimer: I work as a researcher in the mobile industry)

Re:It will pass. (4, Interesting)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 6 years ago | (#22538638)

After just taking a tour of a major college campus my bet is that the small and/or cheap laptop is going to be the new standard.This was a very affluent campus,and the students could afford any mobile device they wanted.The ones on the cells,with the exception of those blasting off a quick text,were simply using them to chat with their friends.But everywhere I looked I saw the small Apple laptops and the Asus EEE laptops.I mean EVERYWHERE,the grounds,break rooms,student centers,all over the place.I figured the Apple would be popular,but I saw nearly as many of the Asus.I even asked a girl in the break room what made her get one."It is just too easy to use,and I don't have to freak if I scratch it like I always did when I took my macbook out".And if that girl from OLPC comes up with an under $200 laptop,give it up.


The reason I believe that laptops haven't become as popular as they could is the price.Just like that girl with her macbook folks are scared of breaking their expensive laptops.But a cheap,easy to use,and lightweight laptop that you can just chunk in your bag without freaking if it gets scratched? That thing will take off,as we have seen somewhat with the Asus,and will will definitely see if they come out with an under $200 laptop.And like the above poster said,folks can just work faster with a keyboard.They have used them all their lives,they know the shortcuts they use the most,and are generally happy with them.While I can see gestures becoming popular on things like mp3 players and cell phones,I think ultra cheap,ultra portable laptops will become the "must have" of the next 5-10 years.As always my 02c,YMMV.

Re:It will pass. (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | more than 6 years ago | (#22538828)

>Why do you believe all devices have and/or will have keyboards now and/or in the future?

I don't, but such devices aren't for doing real work on. They're for making phone calls, listening to MP3 or browsing the internet. They are a waste of space if you want to write a few thousand lines of python.

Re:It will pass. (2, Insightful)

kerohazel (913211) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537266)

I'm very curious as to how someone is supposed to easily ctrl + and - on a tablet or a small gadget. Mouse+keyboard only works on devices with mice. 2 of the 3 device categories mentioned do not typically have mice, and the third (laptops) frequently do not - the one I am typing on right now does not. If I had a single standard way to zoom, move text around, etc. - like a scroll wheel on a mouse - I might be more inclined to use this laptop for my regular day-to-day activities. As it is, I'm only using it right now because I have to.

Then your mention of CAD is completely irrelevant. CAD requires a great deal of precision and control, and is not likely to be used often even on laptops, let alone the smaller devices. Reading an email, on the other hand, just needs a simple way to manipulate the screen. Who cares if it is a very coarse method of control, as long as it enables me to quickly get to what I want?

Re:It will pass. (1)

TechyImmigrant (175943) | more than 6 years ago | (#22538754)

>Then your mention of CAD is completely irrelevant. CAD requires a great deal of precision and control, and is not likely to be used often even on laptops, let alone the smaller devices. Reading an email, on the other hand, just needs a simple way to manipulate the screen. Who cares if it is a very coarse method of control, as long as it enables me to quickly get to what I want?

I don't consider it to be irrelevant. Mouse gestures in CAD tools are a precursor to the multitouch hand gestures, in that the motion is interpreted by the computer to decide what function you want. People that interact with CAD tools all day has the choice between mouse gestures or the traditional mode of using the mouse to point and the keyboard to select the function to apply at the point. The latter proved much more efficient and mouse gestures didn't become popular.

Similarly, on a laptop with a mouse pad, I'm way more likely to hit ctrl+ to zoom in than mess around with two hands on the pad. It may make sense for keyboardless devices, but such devices are usually not things you do real work on. They are for browsing, listening to music and making phone calls.

 

Re:It will pass. (1)

JimNTonik (1097185) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537990)

Maybe you can help me find the CTRL key on my iPhone?

Pinch was in the original multitouch demo. (3, Insightful)

argent (18001) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537094)

The original multitouch demo used pinch to zoom in and out on images and on the workspace. How can Apple patent it after that?

Re:Pinch was in the original multitouch demo. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22537966)

It goes back to before there were any demos, as far as I know. It goes back to the 80's, to research done by Bill Buxton (whose overview of multitouch history [billbuxton.com] is very informative). In fact, it may even go back further to 1982, according to "Tog" [asktog.com] (see the section on "Multi-Touch Interface History"). So, there's no way Apple could have any (legitimate) patents on this particular gesture.

Some others have suggested that these patents wouldn't be a big deal, as one could always use different gestures. The problems with this suggestion is that not all gestures are equal. Some are more natural than others. The pinch gesture, for example, is as natural as it gets: it's merely a logical extension of dragging, as what you're really doing is just dragging two points with two fingers. It doesn't feel like a "gesture", but simple direct manipulation. Look at how successful this gesture has been. It may even have been invented several times independently. I, for one, would not give up the "pinch". Thankfully, Apple has no legal ground to stand on with respect to that gesture.

Re:Pinch was in the original multitouch demo. (2, Interesting)

tgatliff (311583) | more than 6 years ago | (#22538026)

Patent law specifies that you have 1 year after the "release" of a product to patent its technologies. It is also quite easy to get around this, however, as I would assume MS showed with their FAT filesystem patent. I am still baffled how they actually got a patent on such old technology. I would agree that Apple patenting such trivial items goes contrary to the original intention of the patent system, but it is my belief that the problem is with the patent laws and not with how Apple is using them.

In short, we need a congress that will actually try to update the patent laws to make them relevant in todays world. Actually specifying digital copyright laws would be a nice bonus as well. Unfortunately, though, considering the death grip that the corporate world has on our US government right now, I strongly suspect nothing will change anytime soon. In fact, I think we will need a major economic disruption for any real change to occur, and I do not see this happening anytime soon...

I'm Crushing Your Patent! (4, Funny)

Black Art (3335) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537164)

I think "Kids In The Hall" have prior art here.

Re:I'm Crushing Your Patent! (1)

value_added (719364) | more than 6 years ago | (#22538358)

I think "Kids In The Hall" have prior art here.

ROFL. It's never ceased to amaze me that someone hasn't yet sat down and determined how it's possible that a joke whose premise is based entirely around the antics and unknowable reality of a delusional psychotic can strike a chord in millions of perfectly normal people.

Come to think of it, that almost sounds like I'm talking about Steve Jobs.

Defensive patenting FTW (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22537172)

My first thought was that this is a great way to avoid the submarine patents that seem to be around nowadays.
At least if they get a patent, they have the PTO behind their claims of originality.

And yes, patenting gestures is double-plus stupid - yet another sign of the need for reform.

up to their old tricks again (5, Insightful)

nguy (1207026) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537186)

In the 1980's, Apple tried to claim ownership of all modern GUIs; they lost on a technicality.

Multitouch as an input method goes back a long time; it wasn't put to much use because the hardware was expensive and GUI library developers were still coping with bigger issues.

Apple shouldn't be allowed to monopolize multi-touch, in any shape or form: not only would it be bad public policy, Apple simply didn't invent this stuff. Pretty much the only patents that should be valid in this space in 2008 are patents on better multi-touch hardware and low-level firmware.

MS surface did it? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22537226)

Didn't the microsoft surface have a bunch of the same gestures as the iPhone? How can they say their ideas were original?

Why make a standard? (2, Insightful)

winmine (934311) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537240)

Why isn't it just another setting? Sure, the defaults could be generally agreed upon. But why make everyone use the same set of pinches and twirls? I thought this new technology was supposed to obsolete rigid things like keyboards.

Re:Why make a standard? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22537972)

Obsolete keyboards? Hah! Nobody's come up with anything better than the good ol' fashioned keyboard for at least 40 years, if not longer. Sure, keyboard technology has improved... I guess what I'm getting at is that these technologies may be good supplements to the keyboard, but nothing's going to be replacing it any time soon. Writing out sentences, etc is just too much of a pain on anything else. ...and predictive text entry techniques only get you so far. When you're doing something like writing a C program, such things are more a hindrance than a help.

How about customizability? (4, Interesting)

Angst Badger (8636) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537304)

It probably wouldn't kill device manufacturers to make the gestures on their devices customizable. That way, if you are used to the Apple gestures, you can use them; otherwise, you can use the defaults or whatever else you prefer. That would make Apple's patents irrelevant, as well as leave Apple at a disadvantage with its One UI to Rule Them All philosophy.

This is good... (1, Insightful)

alchemist68 (550641) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537318)

The Apple patents are good for business and the rest of the computing arena, as they will spur creativity and growth as a work around to the patent issues, assuming no one wants to license the patents. After many years of being in the Slashdot community, I am really struck by the number of members who still chant 'It should be FREE, it should OPEN, bring this GOOD to the masses...' I can see the case for intellectual property protection and for open standards. Fine, then if people like Apple's intellectual property enough to make it a standard, then pay the licensing fee until the patent expires. There's no harm done in that, and based on the number of iPhones and iPod Touches that sell, it appears that the masses approve of the device and its technology. My point is that we live in a free market economy, people, nerds especially who have developed personally enough to have familes need to make money from their ideas by working for big business. You're not going to make money writing code for free / developing a 'new human interface standard' for free by living in your dark, damp, parents' basement. We all have to grow up, developed, and become a cog in the machine. Of course, one always can be a big cog or a little cog, sometimes we can choose that too, other times the choice is made for us.

This submission was made on an iPod Touch.

Re:This is good... (4, Interesting)

Wolfbone (668810) | more than 6 years ago | (#22538166)

The Apple patents are good for business and the rest of the computing arena, as they will spur creativity and growth as a work around to the patent issues, assuming no one wants to license the patents.
Your claim that the Apple patents (and patents like them) are a good thing is, unsurprisingly, unsupported by the evidence.

http://researchoninnovation.org/ [researchoninnovation.org]

I am really struck by the number of /.ers who fall for naive patent system mythology, though I don't blame them for it. However, to any /.er reading this who is pro-free market but who has listened to some of the woo churned out by the pro-software patent cranks and been made to feel uneasy about taking an anti-software patent stance, I say this: do a little nerdish studying of the subject (patent system economics), "dismal science" though it may be, and you'll come to realise you could've trusted your instincts about software patents in the first place. You won't feel you have to be an apologist for crap patents like these Apple ones anymore, you'll have facts and economic science to back you up, and you'll feel a lot better - I know I did.

Re:This is good... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22538462)

My point is that we live in a free market economy
Bullshit! Patent monopolies are antithetical to a free market economy! You're a lying liar spreading disinformation and the usual propagandistics myths about the patent system. While patent monopolies exist, a free market doesn't.

The patent system exists to establish barriers to market entry and form oligopoly. It exists to keep the corporate psychopaths in power. It needs to be abolished, and a free market economy finally created.

You know the way people often go "Oh, soviet communism, that wasn't real communism?". Similar applies to American "free market" capitalism, only it's worse because apparently a bunch of americans like you believe the lies - most ordinary soviets rapidly saw through the bullshit. time for your to do the same.

A global free market would be a great thing. Globally strengthened patent monopolies are the exact opposite of that.

Hitchhiking Gesture Patent (4, Insightful)

MrSteveSD (801820) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537344)

Hitchhiking Gesture Patent
The thumb is positioned in an erect manner with the rest of the fingers clenched into a fist. Optionally the forearm can be successively pivoted at the elbow joint.


If any of you want to go hitchhiking you will have to invent gestures of your own that do not violate my patent. Perhaps you could do a sort of Egyptian walk to attract attention instead, although it is possible that the Bangles have a patent on that particular gesture. I will of course licence you to use my hitchhiking gesture at a fee that renders the whole purpose of hitchhiking completely pointless :)

Apple ripping off Jeff Han ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22537346)

Jeff Han in his multitouch TED talk/demo said they invented the pinch gesture as it made sense

if it wasnt for Jeff and his high profile work, Apple touch products (and MS surface) wouldnt even exist as nobody was interested in multitouch (avail since 197x) till his modern demo came along applying an old idea to new tech

now everyone thinks AAPL are multitouch pioneers ? they just saw the hype and ideas jeff did and ripped him off with no credit

fanboys of course have no idea who Jeff is but AAPL execs sure as hell should
 

How is this different from Apple's past behavior? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22537360)

Have we forgotten Apple's "look and feel" lawsuits over 20 years ago where they tried to claim that they owned windows and icons? OK, maybe not that far, but they tried to block Windows from the market over claims that it violated Apple's patents. Never mind that Apple copied the Xerox PARC GUI almost verbatim.

That nonsense seemed to fade away after Komrade Jobs released NeXTstep in 1988 which cleverly replaced the trash can with a black hole, therefore "was totally different".

Apple is at least as evil as Microsoft, and I will contend that Apple is more evil. Many (but not all!) of the bad things done by Microsoft can be attributed more to incompetence rather than malice.

What are patents for? (2, Insightful)

symbolset (646467) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537384)

For over 200 years, the basic role of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has remained the same: to promote the progress of science and the useful arts by securing for limited times to inventors the exclusive right to their respective discoveries (Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution). - USPTO [uspto.gov]

That's right - these same laws that are obstructing innovation and progress are intended to have the opposite purpose.

Defensive use? (4, Interesting)

bidule (173941) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537392)

I am surprised nobody mentioned that those other companies (RIM, Nokia and Synaptics) also hold spurious patents that could block iPhones? It seems Apple is just joining the fray by carving its own territory. Hateful but oh so typical of the industry.

In a sense, the industry uses patent minefield in the same way that France used the Maginot line. When someone blitzkriegs around it with a paradigm shift, everyone is in a hurry to dig new trenches and claim new territories.

Re:Defensive use? (1)

Joe Decker (3806) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537828)

I am surprised nobody mentioned that those other companies (RIM, Nokia and Synaptics) also hold spurious patents that could block iPhones?

Perhaps they didn't mention it because they don't know it, or don't believe it? What do you mean by spurious? Which patents? Are all three of those companies prosecuting those patents so far?

seems Apple is just joining the fray

The article directly states that Apple has been filing for gesture patents for years, so ... I'm not sure I could agree that they're "just joining" the fray, unless you mean something different than filing patents at all.

I guess my final comment on all of this is that reforming abuses of the patent system isn't going to happen, or should it, by individual companies opting out of the process. Opting out of the patent system unilaterally in many cases will simply mean "you lose". Fixes need to come at a more systemic level, IMHO.

Bound to happen anyway (4, Insightful)

maokh (781515) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537444)

What company, in their right mind, wouldn't patent multitouch gestures and protect themselves? I'd much rather see a company patent this and actually use the technology than a troll come along and assert their litigation power on every company who adopts a defacto standard.

Re:Bound to happen anyway (3, Insightful)

bigstrat2003 (1058574) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537926)

A company with a sense of fair play. By trying to patent their specific gestures, thus locking everyone else out, Apple IS patent trolling, imho. These are not concepts which should be patentable, they're too basic.

Publicity (1)

bram (490) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537464)

Nothing to see here, move along.

User defined (1)

Threni (635302) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537478)

You could just provide a gesture system, like the one(s) for Firefox, and allow the user to define their own based on the gestural primitives, or whatever you want to call them. Sites could pop up (not literally - that's annoying) with handy presets to mimic the iPhone's settings etc.

why are you all up in arms? (1)

buttle2000 (1041826) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537486)

DNA structure can be patented. If that can be done, what do I really care about the rest?

"The Pinch" - Intellectual Property? (1)

Camel Pilot (78781) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537510)

Fine, then if people like Apple's intellectual property enough to make it a standard, then pay the licensing fee until the patent expires.

Yes but is it intellectual property? I mean is "the pinch" to zoom in/out is intellectual property? Or is this just the natural progression of human/machine interface. I would guess most engineers or engineering groups when given a flat surface as a machine input would naturally gravitate towards such gestures within the first day or week.

I see this more like Apple wanting to patent color. When all monitors where black and white would it be appropriate to patent the use of color in visual displays? Maybe a new method to generate color pixels, but not the use of color - the use of color in monitors was just the natural and obvious progression.

HMMM (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22537518)

Maybe linux should patent "sucking" gestures as it sucks perfectly right now.

Already obsolescent? (3, Interesting)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537540)

In a world in which digital cameras have face and smile recognition (perhaps the most pointless development of neural network technology anywhere?) how long before the touchpad is replaced by a little short focus digital camera that detects the fingers? In which case, rather than multitouch, you could have three dimensional object recognition and a hugely expanded gesture set.

This is one case where an industry standard is the only thing that makes sense. Make the gesture set standard and allow people to patent specific implementations (physical not software) which offer new features.

Unfortunately, in my experience it's the marketing and sales departments who, because of their competitive mindset, don't understand the benefits of collaboration in growing the overall market. When they do turn up at standards meetings as observers, the results are sometimes laughable but usually cringeworthy for the engineers from their companies. Microsoft XML is a case in point. I confidently expect these people to continue to act as a brake on the wheels of input mechanism progress.

Multi Touch Research (1)

Doomedsnowball (921841) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537594)

I'm working full time on a Multi-Touch Linux Distro (MT-OS) based off of low cost FTIR tracking. So Apple and Microsoft can bite me with their standardized hand waving. They can't see it, but my fingers are curled and I'm jerking them away from my crotch in their direction. That's what I have to say about that.

Zooming and moving about an image (1)

backslashdot (95548) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537602)


Besides swirling, the zoom gesture can be done via touching the corner of the display or photo's window edge and dragging towards the opposite corner. If it's done from the top corner that can be shrink, if from the bottom corner that can be zooming in (expanding). Or vice versa (maybe top to bottom can be expand?) Actually this is in some ways better than pinching/unpinching cause your finger has a longer way to move so you can zoom in or out more than what pinch would allow. Also, it probably should detect acceleration (kinda like a mouse) so that the amount of zooming can increase if the finger moves faster.

To move or slide about the image itself, touch the center area and it will "stick" so you can drag around the image.

I see lawsuits (1)

careysb (566113) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537634)

If a gesture is patented and incorporated into products, and these gestures are found to cause carpal tunnel syndrome, who get sued?

Apple has to do this (1)

lowededwookie (844199) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537680)

I'm willing to bet that Apple doesn't want to patent this but HAS to. Apple's been burned in the past with frivolous lawsuits based on some dickwad taking out a patent for technology that Apple has been using for years. Apple has had multitouch computers since around the time the MacBook and MacBook Pros came out so it's nothing new but to avoid needless litigation they've had to patent the multitouch system. Look at how many technologies Apple had developed that it did not patent and then how many court cases came from it (anyone remember Creative?).

OOOOOOOOR (3, Interesting)

falcon5768 (629591) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537756)

Apple could just simply license it, which they have for most of their technology anyway... Do people really realize how much of the computing world relys on Apple patents? Your PC sitting under your desk running XP likely has at least 3-4 parts that are LICENSED from Apple.

Just because something is patented doesnt mean people cant use it, and companies wont license it.

fuck!! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22537796)

subscribers. Please WELL-KNOWN GAY NIIGERS FROM

Ok, here's what I don't get (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 6 years ago | (#22537868)

What moron makes the patent system such that patent holders don't HAVE to license their patent. I agree that if you come up with an idea, you should get a share of the revenue if other people use your idea in a product. BUT, the law should be this : you MUST license your idea to ANYONE who asks, as long as they pay the royalty. (you can deny license to people or firms who consistently neglect to pay patent royalties to other patent holders). Second, the royalty is capped to a FRACTION of the gross revenue for the product. The exact percentage should depend on how significant a feature the patented item is, or what percent of the product it is composed of.

So, if you patent a "back scratcher", and basically the patent covers an entire product, then you should get a significant fraction of the gross revenue from selling the product. 10-20% tops. On the other hand, if the patent is for a method to control a touchscreen by "pinching", then the patent royalties should be about 0.1% of the gross revenue, since this feature is only one of thousands that the product has.

Apple is shooting itself in the foot (2, Interesting)

kawabago (551139) | more than 6 years ago | (#22538130)

Apple users will be using one set of gestures and the other 95% of the population will be using another set. So kids will grow up knowing the gestures almost everyone uses and they will not choose Apple products because of the foreign user interface. This guarantees Apple's failure in the future.

More prevent innovation patents .... (0, Troll)

OldHawk777 (19923) | more than 6 years ago | (#22538362)

God Bless US one and all, they fyck themselves, they fyck US where we fall.
Eventually a patent on the conversation in a call will end this silly bullshit once and for all.

Silly, how we have gone in this new global corporate-socialist economy from capitalism/meritocracy by innovation to corporate-communism where normal human verbalizations, gestures, and movements are patented for profitable oppression of Citizens.

I guess, if they ever patent vocal commands/conversation ... we can sling shit to communicate, until it is patented and controlled by American Standard, Kohler ....

All present IPR Laws are abominations to justice and humanity, but in reality justice and humanity are not associated with institutions, governments, businesses, religions, sociopaths, and amoral people (like most politicians).

Always remember for totalitarian states, the law is the law, and for EU and US we are damn by transient legal interpretation not any transcended personal intention. The State Rules as the public drools stool.

Obviousness (2, Insightful)

CokeJunky (51666) | more than 6 years ago | (#22538402)

I wonder if there is any chance that these patents could fail on the basis of obviousness.

I figure that the better the gestures are for doing specific tasks, the more obvious they should be. I don't have a problem with patents on the technology behind the touch and multi-touch sensors, but I have to say that it would be a bad idea to use patents to prevent people from moving their hands in a particular way. Otherwise, you might get in the situation where you have a multi-touch sensor on a computer, but only the licensee of the software is allowed to use those gestures.

Touchstream LP (1)

merryl (990389) | more than 6 years ago | (#22538550)

My favorite keyboard ever was the Touchstream LP from a company called Fingerworks--it took a couple of weeks to learn all the gestures but it helped cure all my wrist and finger issues immediately. I tried to buy a second one a couple of years ago but found out that Apple had bought the company and immediately shut them down. I decided then to stop using the keyboard and find another solution. But it was fun to have people would walk by my cube and just be amazed at how I seemed to be communicating in sign language with my PC.

Would you even want Microsoft multi-touch support? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#22538782)

Have you seen their touch-screen stuff? It's just awful.

It's not like patents ever stopped the Linux crowd anyway.

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