The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 24 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. Today's first granted patent report highlights three out of five important Multi-Touch patent wins. The three key patents cover such matters as multitouch auto scanning, multipoint touchscreens and Apple's 3D curved substrate lamination process that integrates multitouch technology into their Magic Mouse. No matter how you slice it, it's a huge day for Apple on the Multi-touch patent front.
Apple Wins a Patent for the Magic Mouse's 3D curved substrate lamination
Apple has received a very interesting Granted Patent today which relates to a 3D curved substrate lamination and process used in the creation of the Magic Mouse. After watching ABC's exclusive look into Apple's Foxconn plant operations, it doesn't surprise me to see the many stages behind the making of Apple's Magic Mouse as outlined in the graphics below. In total, there are close to 50 graphics associated with the lamination process that mates with the sensors that creates the final Magic Mouse. If that was manufactured in North America, I suspect that the price of a Magic Mouse would be closer to the price of an iPad 2.
Apple's patent FIG. 4A illustrates an exemplary curved surface for a sensor array. A typical flex circuit sensor array applied to the inside of this surface may tend to wrinkle, buckle, or snap.
Apple's patent FIG. 4B illustrates an exemplary "butterfly" pattern for a sensor array. This pattern can be formed using a flat array and applied to a curved surface without wrinkling; FIG. 4C illustrates an exemplary two strip sensor array pattern.
Apple's patent FIG. 4D illustrates an exemplary three strip sensor array pattern. Both patterns shown in FIGS. 4C and 4D can also be formed from a flat array and applied to a curved surface; FIG. 4E illustrates an exemplary flat sensor pattern in a "snail" pattern that can be applied to a curved surface.
The above-described curved or three-dimensional shaped sensor patterns in FIGS. 4A-4E may be placed under or over a curved substrate, for example, a glass or plastic cover. These sensors patterns can be used in a variety of multi-touch devices, for example a multi-touch mouse.
Apple's patent FIG. 15 illustrates the operation of an upper holder of another exemplary lamination system according to embodiments of the invention. FIG. 15 also shows a flexible material 1503 held at one end by grippers 1505. The flexible material may include detachable tabs (not shown) to be held by the grippers in some embodiments. During a lamination operation, upper holder 1501 rolls across a non-lamination surface 1509 of the flexible material to press the flexible material and a multi-axis curved substrate together. As upper holder rolls across flexible material, the upper holder deforms to conform to the shape of the substrate. During the lamination process, the grippers may, for example, hold a fixed portion of the flexible material, such as an edge portion or the detachable tabs. In another embodiment, the grippers may slide along the surface of flexible material while providing enough resistance to reduce slack in the unattached portion of the flexible material.
Apple's patent FIGS. 24A-C show the alignment holes 2401 in the flexible material 2301 that allow for visual alignment of the flexible material using fiducials on the substrate 2303. Patent FIGS. 24A and 24B show two different full views of the flexible material.
To review Apple's 17 patent claims, see granted patent 8,123,894. Apple credits Kuo Sung, Troy Edwards, Casey Feinstein, John Zhong, Steve Hotelling and Andrew Lauder as the inventors of this patent which was originally filed in Q3 2008.
Apple's multi-touch based Magic Mouse debuted on October 20, 2009. Whether this patent will provide Apple with enough ammunition to go after Microsoft's TouchMouse remains to be seen. I don't recall any recent litigation between the two companies and wonder if the bailout funding agreement with Microsoft years ago keeps Apple from suing Microsoft. I guess we'll know over time.
Apple Wins Patent for Multipoint Touchscreen
When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in a presentation in January 2007, he rocked the mobile smartphone market to its core. The iPhone went on to crush all competitors' phones of the day including those from Motorola. The key to the iPhone was the introduction and integration of Multi-Touch touchscreens and a UI that worked with said touchscreen.
Today's particular granted patent covers multipoint touchscreen technology that was first filed for in 2004 and granted in 2010. The originating 2004 patent covered 11 claims. Today's revised granted patent is now strengthened with a total of 21 patent claims. A few of the updates include: 1) calculating the coordinates of each touch region comprises calculating a centroid of each touch region with the raw data associated with each touch region; 2) the processor calculates the boundaries using a watershed algorithm and 3) reducing the noise in raw data.
In the bigger picture Apple's invention relates to a touch panel having a transparent capacitive sensing medium configured to detect multiple touches or near touches that occur at the same time and at distinct locations in the plane of the touch panel and to produce distinct signals representative of the location of the touches on the plane of the touch panel for each of the multiple touches.
Secondly, Apple's invention relates to a display arrangement that includes a display having a screen for displaying a graphical user interface. The display arrangement further includes a transparent touch panel allowing the screen to be viewed there through and capable of recognizing multiple touch events that occur at different locations on the touch sensitive surface of the touch screen at the same time and to output this information to a host device.
Thirdly, Apple's invention relates to a computer implemented method. The method includes receiving multiple touches on the surface of a transparent touch screen at the same time. The method also includes separately recognizing each of the multiple touches. The method further includes reporting touch data based on the recognized multiple touches.
Apple's multipoint patent relates to a wide variety of hardware including but not limited by the following: personal computer systems such as desktops, laptops, tablets or handhelds. By way of example, the computer system may correspond to any Apple or PC based computer system. The computer system may also correspond to public computer systems such as information kiosks, automated teller machines (ATM), point of sale machines (POS), industrial machines, gaming machines, arcade machines, vending machines, airline e-ticket terminals, restaurant reservation terminals, customer service stations, library terminals, learning devices, and the like.
Apple's patent credits Steven Hotelling, Joshua Strickon and Brian Huppi as the inventors of this granted patent.
Apple Wins a Patent for Multi-Touch Auto Scanning
Apple has received a Granted Patent that relates to multi-touch auto scanning. One aspect of the multi-touch touch system relates to disabling components of a touch-panel device during periods of inactivity to conserve power. Components that can be disabled include a touch-panel processor and system clock.
The second aspect of the multi-touch system relates to having an auto-scan mode that periodically scans a touch panel for touch events, without intervention from a multi-touch processor. If predefined activity is detected, then the multi-touch processor can be enabled to actively scan the touch panel for touch events.
The third aspect of the multi-touch system relates to using a "sniff" mode to scan a touch panel for touch events after a predetermined amount of time has transpired (see Patent FIG. 4 below). The multi-touch system can also have a calibration timer that automatically enables a multi-touch processor and system clocks to perform an active scan and calibration functions after a different predetermined amount of time has transpired.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 is a block diagram of one embodiment of auto-scan logic. This figure includes a sniff timer 404 and calibration timer 406 that can be clocked by oscillator 408. After a predetermined amount of time (referred to as "sniff time"), the sniff timer initiates a scan sequence. Apple's auto-scan mode can be comprised to two individual system states: an actual sniff interval during which only a low frequency oscillator and a sniff time is active, and a scan sequence in which a multi-touch panel is actively scanned. The two system states may form the auto-scan mode.
To review Apple's 23 patent claims, see granted patent 8,125,456. Apple credits Christoph Krah, Minh-Dieu Vu and Thomas Wilson as the inventors of one of the original iPhone patents originally filed in Q1 2007.
Apple Wins another Two Multi-Touch Related Patents
To top off Apple's big day for Multi-Touch patent wins, there's another two to point out. Patents 8,125,455 and 8,125,464 both cover "Full scale calibration measurement for multi-touch surfaces." Both date back to 2007. This may be a case like another patent issued today in that patent 8,125,464 carries updated patent claims over the older 8,125,455 patent. Either way, Apple wins patents for both.
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