Apple Wins Three Colossal Multi-Touch Related Patents
The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 18 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this first report, we focus on one of the most important technologies that are empowering Apple's smart device revolution: Multi-Touch. Apple has been awarded three colossal multi-touch related patents. The patents cover multi-touch displays that detect the motion of two or more fingers as well as the tracking of multiple fingers and palm contacts using proximity sensors that enable unprecedented integration of typing, resting, pointing, scrolling and 3D manipulation. One of Apple's patents also makes it crystal clear that multi-touch will extend beyond the iPod, iPhone and iPad and eventually advance to devices such as the MacBook and the iMac.
Three Major Multi-Touch Granted Patents
Apple has been granted three major patents relating to the multi-touch technology that is behind their revolutionary iPhone, iPod touch and iPad as follows:
1. Portable Electronic Device with Multi-Touch Input
Due to the important role that multi-touch plays in Apple's multi-touch device revolution, we'll list Apple's Summary in it's entirety for this initial granted patent.
In some embodiments, a method of detecting multi-touch input in a portable electronic device includes: displaying an object on a display surface of a portable electronic device; detecting multi-touch input associated with the object; determining, based on the multi-touch input, an operation to be performed on the object; and performing the operation on the object. The object may have a resolution that is less than a pre-determined threshold when the operation is performed on the object, and the object may have a resolution that is greater than the pre-determined threshold at other times.
In some embodiments, a portable electronic device includes a multi-touch-sensitive display and one or more processors coupled to the multi-touch-sensitive display to detect motion of two or more fingers of a user in contact with the multi-touch-sensitive display. The detected motion is used to determine an operation to be performed on an object presented or displayed on the multi-touch-sensitive display. The device then performs the operation on the object.
In some embodiments, a portable electronic device includes a multi-touch-sensitive display. A detector is coupled to the multi-touch-sensitive display and adapted to detect motion of two or more fingers of a user in contact with the multi-touch-sensitive display. One or more processors coupled to the detector are configurable for determining an operation to be performed on an object presented on the multi-touch-sensitive display based on the detected motion and for performing the operation on the object.
In some embodiments, a method of adjusting a parameter using a multi-touch-sensitive display includes: detecting one or more contacts on a display surface of a multi-touch-sensitive display device; displaying at least one graphical object at a contact location; detecting motion associated with the one or more contacts; adjusting at least one parameter of the object based on the motion; and detecting at least one lost contact. In response to detection of a lost contact a current value of the parameter is saved and a timer is started. In response to the timer exceeding a threshold before contact is reestablished, the graphical object is removed from the display surface. In response to contact being reestablished before the timer exceeds the threshold, the display of the graphical object is maintained on the display surface. Motion of the one or more contacts is again detected and the parameter is adjusted based on the detected motion.
In some embodiments, a method of displaying a Web page on a portable electronic device includes: receiving a Web page; automatically scaling the Web page to display the entire Web page in a display window; receiving a first touch input; activating the Web page and at least some fields or links in the Web page in response to the first touch input; receiving a second touch input; and performing an operation on the Web page in response to the second touch input. The Web page may have a resolution that is less than a pre-determined threshold when the operation is performed on the Web page, and the Web page may have a resolution that is greater than the pre-determined threshold at other times.
In some embodiments, a method of adjusting a parameter using a multi-touch-sensitive display includes: detecting one or more first contacts on a display surface of a multi-touch-sensitive display device; detecting a first motion that corresponds to a gesture and is associated with the one or more first contacts; adjusting at least one parameter in accordance with the first motion; detecting a breaking of the one or more first contacts; detecting one or more second contacts on a display surface; detecting a second motion associated with the one or more second contacts, wherein the second motion corresponds to the gesture; and adjusting the at least one parameter in accordance with the second motion.
In some embodiments, a method includes: displaying a graphical object (e.g., a Web page) in a touch screen display of a portable electronic device, wherein down sampled data is used to display the object; detecting multi-touch input associated with the object; determining, based on the multi-touch input, an operation to be performed on the object; performing the operation on the object; displaying changes to the object caused by the operation in real time using the down sampled data; and displaying the object with resampled data after the operation.
The aforementioned methods may be performed by a portable electronic device having a touch-sensitive display with a graphical user interface (GUI), one or more processors, memory and one or more modules, programs or sets of instructions stored in the memory for performing these methods. In some embodiments, the portable electronic device provides a plurality of functions, including wireless communication.
Apple credits Bas Ording, Scott Forstall, Greg Christie, Stephen Lemay and Imran Chaudhri; as the inventors of Granted Patent 7,812,826, originally filed in Q4 2006.
2. Ellipse fitting for multi-touch surfaces
Apple has been granted a second multi-touch related patent covering various apparatus and methods for simultaneously tracking multiple fingers and palm contacts as hands approach, touch and slide across a proximity-sensing, multi-touch surface. Identification and classification of intuitive hand configurations and motions enables unprecedented integration of typing, resting, pointing, scrolling, 3D manipulation, and handwriting into a versatile, ergonomic computer input device.
Furthermore, Apple's patent states that it's a primary object of their invention to provide a system and method for integrating different types of manual input such as typing, multiple degree-of-freedom manipulation, and handwriting on a multi-touch surface.
A secondary objective of the invention is to provide a system and method for distinguishing different types of manual input such as typing, multiple degree-of-freedom manipulation, and handwriting on a multi-touch surface, via different hand configurations which are easy for the user to learn and easy for the system to recognize.
Additionally, the patent states that it's a further object of the invention to provide an improved capacitance-transducing apparatus that is cheaply implemented near each electrode so that two-dimensional sensor arrays of arbitrary size and resolution can be built without degradation in signal to noise.
And lastly, it's an objective of Apple's invention to provide an electronic system which minimizes the number of sensing electrodes necessary to obtain proximity images with such resolution that a variety of hand configurations can be distinguished.
Apple credits Wayne Westerman and John Elias as the inventors of Granted Patent 7,812,828 originally filed in Q1 2007. It should also be noted that Apple won a related patent back in November 2009 titled "Identifying Contacts on a Touch Surface."
3. Simultaneous Sensing Arrangement
In Apple's third multi-touch related patent of the day, they cover multi-touch touch-sensing devices and methods. According to Apple's patent, the touch sensing devices could include multiple sense points, each located at a crossing of a drive line and a sense line. In some embodiments, multiple drive lines may be simultaneously or nearly simultaneously stimulated with drive signals having unique characteristics, such as phase or frequency. A sense signal could occur on each sense line that could be related to the drive signals by an amount of touch present at sense points corresponding to the stimulated drive lines and the sense line. By using processing techniques based on the unique drive signals, an amount of touch corresponding to each sense point could be extracted from the sense signal. The touch sensing methods and devices could be incorporated into interfaces for a variety of electronic devices such as a desktop, tablet, notebook, and handheld computers, personal digital assistants, media players, and mobile telephones. A recent Apple patent supports this by providing us with details of a future iMac Touch.
Apple credits Steven Hotelling, John Elias and Kapil Sakariya as the inventors of Granted Patent 7,812,827 originally filed in Q1 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. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.
I'd like to take a moment to thank Matthew Macari for taking the time out of his busy schedule to present his opinion on this matter.
I hope that this will provide Macites with some perspective while answering some of the questions that were raised earlier in the week.
Posted by: Jack Purcher | October 13, 2010 at 12:37 PM
The question of whether these patents will motivate Apple to sue companies like Samsung or HTC for patent infringement, or what effect the patents will have on technologies embodied in the products of key competitors (e.g., Android or Microsoft phones) is not easily answered. The ultimate decision to assert patent infringement includes both a business and legal component. Analysis of the business side relies mostly on speculation for those outside of Apple.
On the legal side, the question is also far from clear cut.
The rights granted to Apple in these patents is specifically limited to the language and scope of the corresponding "Claims." While the title, description and overall summary of the patents are interesting, and can help to understand the claim language, it is the patent claims that define the real scope of the enforceable right. The claim language would need to be examined to properly determine if other companies infringe, or whether there is at least a colorable argument regarding infringement.
For instance, the 7,812,826 Patent has a rather broad title and description ("Portable Electronic Device With Multi-Touch Input"), but the actual language of Claim 1 is obviously more limiting:
1. A method, comprising:
detecting at least two first contacts on a display surface of a multi-touch-sensitive display device;
detecting a first motion associated with the at least two first contacts, wherein the first motion corresponds to a multi-touch gesture;
adjusting a parameter of a graphical object in accordance with the first motion;
detecting a breaking of the at least two first contacts;
after detecting the breaking of the at least two first contacts, detecting at least two second contacts on the display surface;
detecting a second motion associated with the at least two second contacts, wherein the second motion corresponds to the multi-touch gesture and the at least two second contacts are detected within a pre-determined time interval after the breaking of the at least two first contacts is detected; and
continuing to adjust the parameter of the graphical object in accordance with the second motion.
I am not saying that this particular claim is "narrow" in its scope, but I will say that each word must be understood and the history of the patent application process can result in a claim with a scope or value much different than it appears on its face.
Also, it is worth noting that many of Apple's competitors are closely monitoring the progress of patents such as these. As such, many of the competitors may attempt to "design around" the potential patent coverage with tweaks of the products. Some of the design-arounds could be major and obvious, while others are not as noticeable (e.g., a small modification made to get around a narrow or unnecessary word or phrase in the patent claims).
It would be interesting to look closer at a claim or two in these patents and really compare them to the devices or methods of operation in the competitive products. It is a time consuming and costly analysis for which Apple paid a good chunk of change. Apple only needs a good faith belief that one of the claims is infringed to assert the patent - even if the patent includes dozens of claims.
Skaar Ulbrich Macari, P.A.
Posted by: Matt Macari | October 13, 2010 at 12:20 PM
Won't wipe out the imitators - but will make 'em pay a license. Apple won't kill the competition, just make them stay a step behind and contribute to AAPLs bottom line. Given that GOOG makes $0 from Android directly, it'll be funny to see Android-based providers pay Apple more than Google for the priveledge.
Posted by: Tom | October 12, 2010 at 10:20 PM
I sure hope so. Apple has done a lot of Ground work here and the Likes of Google, Samsung and others are just eating it all up. All smartphones put there are direct copies of Apple's iPhone.
Posted by: MacFabulous | October 12, 2010 at 06:02 PM
Here's my question. Can Apple use these patents against the Samsungs & HTC's of the world?
Posted by: lrd | October 12, 2010 at 03:45 PM
Looks like all of those lawsuits Apple is fighting from Nokia, Motorola, etc., etc., etc., just got the wind knocked out of them. In short, drop your suits or go back to making 90's era dumb phones.
Posted by: jsk | October 12, 2010 at 01:56 PM
Will this wipe out Android phones, Microsoft phones, etc.
Posted by: Monitor | October 12, 2010 at 11:25 AM