Apple wins their Third Patent for an Invention allowing the Apple Watch Crown to act as a different kind of input device
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 46 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover Apple's granted patent covering an aspect of the Apple Watch titled "Capacitive gap sensor ring for an input device." The original patent was filed back in 2016 and granted a first patent in August 2018. We briefly covered Apple's second granted patent in August 2019.
The fact that the digital crown of a future Apple Watch could be able to be manipulated in multiple directions to act as a different kind of input device was established publicly in 2018. While Apple mentions a joystick once, it's never repeated.
Today a competing Apple news site published a report on this patent as if it was some new revelation. Apple doesn't get multiple granted patents for the same invention by simply rehashing what has already been granted.
So what is being granted today in respect to this well established invention? In today's granted patent Apple legal is adding a number of updates to their patent claims that they want protection for so as to strengthen this invention. While that might be a little boring, it's information that is accurately representing what is actually being granted today. The fact that the crown could be used as a joystick was clearly established in 2016 and isn't new.
When comparing the patent claims of the previous patent to the current patent, the following is what stands out as being different.
Apple notes that Apple Watch will be able to "detect inward translational movement of the cap towards the housing … and … outward translational movements away from the housing." The translational movements are found in patent claims #1, 2, 3 and 7. The "cap" is referring to the digital crown.
In Patent Claim #14 Apple notes that "The electronic watch of claim 8, wherein the compliant component comprises at least one of: silicone; gel; foam; or adhesive."
In Patent Claim #18 Apple notes that "The electronic watch of claim 15, wherein the dielectric is an elastomer ring that is positioned between the first and second sets of capacitive elements."
Lastly, in Patent Claim #20 Apple notes that "The electronic watch of claim 15, wherein the processing unit is configured to modify a graphical element presented on the display."
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below depicts an electronic device having a multi-directional input device; FIG. 2B depicts the multi-directional input device during translation.
Apple's patent FIG. 8 above depicts a fifth example cross-sectional view of the multi-directional input device of FIG. 2A where the dielectric is an air gap and a biasing mechanism; FIG. 10 depicts a flow chart illustrating an example method for operating a capacitive sensor for a directional input device.
Apple's granted patent 10,509,486 was filed in June 2019 with the original concept being filed in 2016. If you wish to compare Apple's patent claims, you can review today's updated granted patent claims here and their second granted patent claims published in August 2019 here.
Tyler Bushnell: Product Designer
Collin Petty: Sensor Hardware Design & Integration Engineer
Adam Clavelle: Product Design Engineer