The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 9 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. There are several notables within this group which include a Resolution Independent User Interface Design along with three industrial design wins for Apple's iPhone 3G dock, their 2009 iPod nano and the original 2007 iPhone. Yet the perhaps the most important granted patent in this lot today goes to a key multi-touch patent. This 2007 patent is definitely a defacto classic in defining the gigantic leap forward that smartphones took at that very moment in time. The iPhone was born and changed the smartphone market forever.
Granted Design Patents: Original iPhone, iPod nano & iPhone Dock
Apple has been granted design patents for their Original 2007 iPhone that ignited the next wave of the smartphone revolution by combining an MP3 player with an advanced mobile browser, full PDA capabilities and multi-touch display. This is a Classic that goes down in history. Additionally, Apple has won design patents for their 2009 iPod nano and iPhone 3G Dock.
Apple credits CEO Steve Jobs, VP Industrial Design Jonathan Ive and team members Bartley Andre, Daniel Coster, Daniele De Iuliis, Richard Howarth, Jonathan Ive, Duncan Kerr, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Douglas Satzger, Calvin Seid, Christopher Stringer, Eugene Whang and Rico Zorkendorfer as the inventors of Granted Patent D634,319.
Today's published granted design patent for the original iPhone was filed in June 2010, though it dates back to July 2007 (under application 29282831). For details and credits of the other designs, see iPod nano and iPhone dock.
Granted Patent: Multi-Touch Technology
Considering that this granted patent is based on an August 2007 patent application, we could safely state that this is one of Apple's killer multi-touch patents. This is very likely one of the most important of the 200 original patents covering the iPhone that Steve Jobs pointed out in his January 2007 iPhone keynote. The patent is all about bringing multi-touch technology to touch displays that had been primarily single touch displays up until that time. Specifically, Apple's granted patent relates to tuned oscillation circuits for electronic devices, and more particularly to tuning a variable oscillator to produce a precise oscillating signal.
The granted patent graphic above points to specifically to the iPhone (cell phone FIG. 10) and iPod touch (touch display iPod FIG. 11) as the primary target devices of this patent; Apple's patent FIG. 1 illustrates an exemplary computing system using a multi-touch panel input device; FIG. 2a illustrates an exemplary capacitive multi-touch panel; FIG. 2b is a side view of an exemplary capacitive touch sensor or pixel in a steady-state (no-touch) condition in accordance with one embodiment of the present invention; and FIG. 2c is a side view of the exemplary capacitive touch sensor or pixel in a dynamic (touch) condition.
The Problem to Solve
In Apple's patent background, they explain the problem that they sought to solve: One limitation of many conventional touch panel technologies is that they are only capable of reporting a single point or touch event, even when multiple objects come into contact with the sensing surface. That is, they lack the ability to track multiple points of contact at the same time. Thus, even when two points are touched, these conventional devices only identify a single location, which is typically the average between the two contacts (e.g., a conventional touchpad on a notebook computer provides such functionality). This single-point identification is a function of the way these devices provide a value representative of the touch point, which is generally by providing an average resistance or capacitance value.
Moreover, many touch-panel devices use oscillating signals to power and clock electronic elements. Examples of their use include providing clock signals, or providing carrier signals which can later be modified to include information. For example, an oscillating signal can be used to drive a row in a capacitive touch sensor panel. Changes to the sensed signal indicate a touch event at the panel.
Apple's solution begins with an oscillating signal of relatively precise frequency that could be generated by tuning a local oscillator using an external stable oscillating source as a reference. Calibration logic could be included to compare a signal from the local oscillator to the reference signal and vary the local signal to a desired frequency. In one embodiment, a binary search algorithm could be used to tune the local oscillator. The local oscillating signal could be sent to one or more circuits including at least one frequency sensitive element.
Additionally, an oscillator circuit could include a voltage or current controlled oscillator. The circuit could include an input which receives a control signal having a particular voltage or current. The oscillator circuit could be configured to output an oscillating signal having a frequency defined by the inputted voltage or current. The oscillating signal could be sent to one or more circuits including at least one frequency sensitive element.
For more information, review Apple's key multi-touch patent. Apple credits James Wilson as the sole inventor of this patent that was originally filed in November 2007, though acknowledged as an application in August 2007.
Granted Patent: Resolution Independent User Interface Design
Apple has been granted a patent for a resolution independent user interface design. Their granted patent generally relates to graphical user interface design and more particularly to a means for specifying a graphical user interface object in a procedural and largely display resolution independent manner. Another benefit of representing material maps in accordance with their invention is that they may be encrypted to prevent unauthorized inspection or use.
Apple's patent FIG. 6A: an interface object design application 400 may be enhanced to provide material map editor window 600 that includes material map display region 605, material map control region 610, light property region 615 and light list region 620.
To get a better understanding as to what Apple has invented, we look to the problem that their patent has solved: Designing an efficient, ergonomic and aesthetically pleasing user interface is an integral stage of most application development projects. The graphical user interface ("GUI") is what the user sees and interacts with. Accordingly, the GUI must present information and choices to a user in a way that is not only pleasing and natural to the eye but conducive to efficient use of the underlying application. One major concern in the development of modern GUIs is the resolution of the various objects that comprise the GUI. Typically, a designer designs a graphical user interface object (e.g., a pushbutton, scrollbar, or slider) for a specified resolution. As the resolution of the user's display changes, however, display of the originally designed object may become distorted. This is particularly a problem when a graphical object is designed at a first resolution (e.g., 75 or 100 pixels per inch) and the user's display is at a second, higher resolution (e.g., 120 or 150 pixels per inch).
Apple's solution to the outlined problem provides a method to represent a graphical user interface object's material map in a procedural and, therefore, resolution independent manner. The method includes receiving values for each of a plurality of attributes associated with a material map object, associating a value for each of the plurality of attributes, and storing the plurality of attributes and their associated values in a file. The file may be a "flat" file or a hierarchically-ordered file. The collection of attribute-value pairs comprise a complete description of the graphical user interface object's material map and may be used by a rendering module to create a visual representation of the material map at any number of resolutions. In addition, because material maps in accordance with the invention are represented procedurally, they may be encrypted to prevent unauthorized inspection or use.
Apple credits Mark Zimmer as the sole inventor of Granted Patent 7,907,146, originally filed in Q2 2007.
Other Granted Patents Published Today
Apple was granted a Final Cut Pro patent in February 2010 and today they've been granted a second patent covering the actual color level GUI. Apple was also granted a patent relating to the Mac Mini. The patent covers a cost effective method and apparatus for shipping reduced diameter discs that assures the end user will be able to use the reduced diameter disc in a slot drive designed exclusively for a standard diameter disc.
Apple's patent FIG. 6 shows an assembly illustrating the expaned memory disc adapter receiving the reduced diameter disc.
Notice: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of patents with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application and/or Granted Patent is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application and/or Issued Patent should be read in its entirety for further details. Patents shouldn't be digested as rumors or fast-tracked according to rumor time tables. Apple patents represent true research that could lead to future products and should be understood in that light. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.