The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 10 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In our first granted patent report of the day we focus in on and celebrate three huge patent wins. The first covers the technology behind Apple's iconic click wheel that sparked the digital music revolution with the release of the iPod back in 2001. The other two granted patents cover key multi-touch gesturing technologies that were behind Apple's original 2007 iPhone release. As the patent wars rage on between Apple and their competitors, every newly granted patent that carries strategic value strengthens their defenses and ability to even go on the offense when needed.
Granted Patent: The Click Wheel
What does Apple think that they're doing – Reinventing the Wheel? Well, yes, that's exactly what the Crazy Ones in Cupertino did when they invented the famous iPod Click Wheel that ignited the digital music revolution. This patent covers this invention.
Apple's patent covers a capacitive touch sensitive device. One aspect of the touch sensitive device described herein is a reduction in the number of sensor circuits needed for circular or linear capacitive touch sensitive devices while maintaining the same resolution and absolute position determination for a single object. A related aspect of the touch sensitive device described in the patent is a coding pattern that allows each sensor circuit of a capacitive touch sensitive device to share multiple electrodes at specially chosen locations in a sensor array such that the ability to determine the absolute position of a single object over the array is not compromised.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a capacitive touch sensitive device 100 which is a one-dimensional circular array, although other arrangements, e.g., linear arrays, etc., could also be used. The circular array includes 22 electrodes, numbered 0-21. The circular array includes only 11 sensor circuits.
Apple credits John Elias, Wayne Westerman and James Orr IV as the inventors of Granted Patent 7,932,897. The patent, though noted as being filed in 2005, also carries a history from 1999 forward and some respects carries some principles dating back to 1913. It should be noted that Apple has been granted other patents relating to their Click Wheel. You could find our reports on those patents here and here.
Granted Patent: Techniques for Reducing Jitter for Taps
Apple has been granted another core touch-related patent which dates back to the very month that the iPhone first launched back in June 2007.
When using a touch screen, a user could make a selection on a display screen by pointing directly to GUI objects displayed on that screen with their finger. To provide additional functionality, gesture recognition could be implemented to recognize more than a simple finger touch. By way of example, various operations such as a selection function could be made when one or more taps are detected on the surface of the touch screen. In addition to taps, various operations such as dragging or scrolling functions could be made when a sliding motion is detected on the surface of the touch screen.
However, it could be difficult for a user to control finger motion to produce a tapping motion with little or no sliding motion. Tapping gestures with some amount of sliding motion, so-called "sloppy taps," could be difficult to distinguish from a true sliding gesture as intended by the user.
The problem of distinguishing sloppy taps from sliding motions could pose contradictory objectives: reliably producing clicks (e.g. selection operations) in response to sloppy taps that including some amount of finger sliding or rolling motion, versus issuing point/drag/scroll events quickly enough in response to intentional slides such that the user perceives little or no lag or lost motion.
Some touch sensor panel systems have attempted to distinguish sloppy taps from sliding motions by suppressing all motion or a percentage of finger motion for a certain period of time (e.g. several hundred milliseconds) after a touch event was detected. However, such approaches could lead to excessive suppression of intended sliding motions, especially for quick sliding motions of a short duration.
The solution that Apple presents in their patent relates to distinguishing sloppy taps from sliding motions using an algorithm that could take into account both a time instability factor and a touch instability factor. A limited amount of motion per frame could be subtracted off or canceled during a time period immediately following the detection of a touch event. Small lateral motions indicative of a sloppy tap could be suppressed, while fast finger motions indicative of a quick, long cursor movement could immediately pass through the filter without being suppressed by a significant amount.
About the Patent Illustrations: Apple's patent FIG. 2 illustrates exemplary image of touch. In Apple's patent FIG. 3a we see an illustration of an exemplary plot of time vs. Z for a series of touch events; FIG. 3b illustrates an exemplary plot of time vs. .DELTA.X and .DELTA.Y for the series of touch events shown in FIG. 3a; FIG. 3c contains an exemplary plot of a touch pass-thru factor, a time pass-thru factor, and a combined motion pass-thru factor over time for the series of touch events shown in FIG. 3a; And lastly, patent FIG. 8 illustrates an exemplary software stackup which could include X and Y suppression functions (which utilize Tinst and Zinst functions) and a hysteresis filter.
Apple credits Wayne Westerman as the sole inventor of Granted Patent 7,932,896, originally filed in Q2 2007.
Granted Patent: Deletion Gestures on iOS Devices
Apple has been granted yet another core 2007 touch related patent. This particular granted patent win relates to deletion gestures on touch screen displays of iOS devices, and more particularly, to processes for deleting listed items that involve multiple gestures by a user on different parts of the touch screen.
We tend to forget that prior to the release of Apple's iPhone, most so-called smartphones were using very complicated physical push buttons that forced users to navigate some rather complicated and frustrating menus to perform the simplest of functions. In particular, many conventional user interfaces lacked an intuitive and reliable method of deleting listed items such as instant messages, email addresses, or phone numbers.
Inflexible user interfaces create a risk that a user will accidentally delete an item. Accordingly, Apple's solution sets out to deliver more transparent and intuitive user interfaces for deleting listed items that would be easy to use, configure, and/or adapt.
Apple's patent FIG. 11 noted above is a flow diagram illustrating a process for deleting an item listed on a touch screen display of a portable electronic device
Apple credits Senior VP of iPhone Software Scott Forstall along with team members Greg Christie, Stephen Lemay, Bas Ording and Marcel Van Os as the inventors of Granted Patent 7,934,156, originally filed in Q3 2007.
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.