Apple Wins a Key Patent for a Multi-Touch In-Plane Switching Display
The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 20 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In our second report of the day we focus in on a key Apple Multi-Touch patent relating to an In-Plane Switching Display. Multi-Touch based In-Plane Switching or IPS first debuted on the iPad 2. Apple has also won two iPod nano related patents and one for their boring yet functional iPad dock. And lastly, in our granted patent round up of the day, we present you with an iPhone-nano like design that was on the minds of Apple's engineers back in 2006.
Apple is Granted a New Multi-Touch Related Patent
Apple has been granted a new multi-touch related patent that covers integrated in-plane switching display and touch sensor. In the big picture, Apple states that their patent is about adding multi-touch functionality to a display without the need of a separate multi-touch panel or layer overlaying the display. Instead, embodiments of the invention could advantageously utilize existing display circuitry to provide multi-touch functionality while adding relatively little circuitry that is specific to the multi-touch functionality.
Thus, by sharing circuitry for the display and the multi-touch functionalities, embodiments of the invention could be implemented at a lower cost than the alternative of superimposing additional multi-touch related layers onto an existing display panel. Furthermore, since the display and multi-touch functionality could be implemented on the same circuit, they could be synchronized so that noise resulting from the display functionality does not detrimentally affect the multi-touch functionality and vice versa.
Apple's patent FIG. 5 shown above is a timing diagram of the operation of an exemplary multi-touch enabled display; FIG. 7 includes several exemplary graphs illustrating the operation of one embodiment of this invention; FIG. 10 includes two side views of an exemplary embodiment of the invention which illustrate the purpose of guard regions; FIG. 14 is a diagram of an exemplary touch sensing display.
Apple's First Claim: A method for providing touch functionality for a display having a plurality of cells, each cell comprising two electrodes, the method comprising: creating a plurality of different voltage differentials between the two electrodes of one or more excited cells of the plurality of cells in order to cause an image to appear at the display; discharging the voltage differentials between the two electrodes of one or more touch enabled cells of the one or more excited cells; and after discharging, sensing a plurality of mutual capacitances between adjacent cells of the one or more touch enabled cells in order to sense touch events at the display.
To review Apple's other 33 patent claims and invention detailing, see granted patent 8,040,326. Apple credits Steve Hotelling and John Zhong as the inventors of this patent which was originally filed in Q2 2007 just prior to the iPhone's official debut. Also see our January 2010 patent report on IPS as well as our August 2010 report that points to a multi-touch IPS display for future MacBooks.
Beyond what this particular patent details, Apple's background reveals that this powerful patent incorporates three other key Apple patents as follows: U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/483,008 filed on Jul. 6, 2006 and entitled "Capacitance Sensing Electrode with Integrated I/O Mechanism" (incorporated by reference herein in its entirety) teaches capacitance based touch sensing. U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/649,998 filed on Jan. 3, 2007 and entitled "Proximity and Multi-Touch Sensor Detection and Demodulation" (also incorporated by reference herein in its entirety) teaches a multi-touch sensing panel which can be combined with a display in a portable device. US Provisional Patent. Application Nos. 60/804,361 and 60/883,979, both entitled "Touch Screen Liquid Crystal Display" (and both incorporated by reference herein in their entireties), show earlier designs for combining a multi-touch panels with display panels.
Apple is Granted Three Industrial Design Patents
The US Patent and Trademark Office have officially granted Apple 3 design patents today which cover the iPod nano's housing, the nano's display module and the iPad dock.
Apple credits VP Industrial Design Jonathan Ive and team members Jody Akana, Bartley Andre, Jeremy Bataillou, Daniel Coster, Teodor Dabov, Daniele De Iuliis, Evans Hankey, Richard Howarth, Duncan Kerr, Anthony Montevirgen, Shin Nishibori, Matthew Dean Rohrbach, Peter Russell-Clarke, Christopher Stringer, Eugene Whang, Kyle Yeates and Rico Zorkendorfer as the inventors of Granted Patent D647,107 originally filed in Q3 2010. Patent FIGS. 1,2,3 and 6 shown above are from the nano housing patent. It should be noted that new Apple engineers and/or Industrial Designer team members names are noted above and below in dark gray.
Apple's Display Module design patent D647,106 was filed at the same time and the bottom patent graphic FIG. 2 shown above is from that patent. A few of the designers are different on this patent and include one new name, Emery Artemus Sanford. Apple also gained a design win for their iPad dock today.
Final Patent Round-Up
Over and above the granted patents that were specifically reported on today, we present you with links to all of the other granted patents in our Final Patent Round-Up as follows:
8,041,981 Synchronizing timing domains based on state variables; 8,041,968 Power management for driving display with baseband portion when application portion is in low power mode; 8,041,848 Media processing method and device; 8,041,755 Fast static rotator/shifter with non two's complemented decode and fast mask generation; 8,041,565 Precision speech to text conversion; 8,041,438 Data-driven media management within an electronic device; 8,041,300 Adapter; 8,041,186 Propagating metadata associated with digital video; 8,041,126 Intelligent document scanning; 8,040,689 Support tabs for protecting a circuit board from applied forces; 8,040,360 Methods of manipulating a screen space of a display device; 8,040,359 System for emulating graphics operations; 8,040,353 System for emulating graphics operations; 8,040,319 Modifying a value based on a user's directional motions independent of cursor position; 8,039,360 Method of assembling integrated circuit components and finally 8,041,291 Delivering content to mobile electronic communications devices. Apple's team in France added an iPhone-nano like device in their patent graphics.
That last patent isn't about a specific phone design in the least and yet it may illustrate that an iPhone-nano-like design was very much on the minds of Apple's engineers back in 2006. Is that idea now scrapped being that iPhone subsidies allow older models of full size iPhones to sell for only $99 – or is it a concept that's still on Apple's roadmap? Time will tell.
As a side note, keep in mind that the interface as shown below could be segmented with LED based buttons and not necessarily be designed with physical buttons as some may think. See our April report which discusses segmented electroluminescence that makes that case.
Notice: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of granted patents with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each Granted Patent is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any Granted Patent should be read in its entirety for full details. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.
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Ha, good eye Al. Yes, the patent specifically states that "An example is shown in FIG. 1A, which illustrates a mobile telephone 1000 comprising a keypad 1020 and a display."
Keep in mind Al that the design of a nano phone in this patent wasn't the focus of the patent. But it does show that Apple's engineering team was at one point toying with a nano phone concept. Any nano phone would be touch-centric as their "official" iPhone nano patent proves out.
Blah-blah-blah - in the end you did catch a flaw in the design, virtual buttons or not. Ha! Good one.
Posted by: Jack Purcher | October 18, 2011 at 12:52 PM
I hope that this wasn't an iPhone Nano, since it doesn't have buttons for all 10 digits...
Posted by: al | October 18, 2011 at 12:02 PM