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Apple Wins Integrated Touch Screen & Key iPhone Chip Patents

1 - Cover - apple patents - integrated touch screen & iphone chip - dec 2010 
The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 20 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In our second patent report of the day, we cover Apple being granted patents for their photo-centric Aperture application and a key on-chip decompression engine likely related to their A4 processor. Yet the main patent within this group goes to one that covers new integrated touch screen technology that was only filed for in March. It's nice to see that Apple keeps pushing their high-end multi-touch screen technology to new heights.  


Granted Patent: Integrated Touch Screen


Apple has been granted a major touch related patent. Apple's patent generally relates to displays including display pixel stackups, and more particularly to touch sensing circuitry integrated into the display pixel stackup of a display.


Apple's patent figures 1A-1C shown below illustrate a number of end-user example's that the touch screen patent relates to, such as a mobile telephone (iPhone), a digital media player (iPod), and once again – Apple illustrates a possible future touch based MacBook display. Each includes an example integrated touch screen system which is presented in patent FIG. 1D. In patent FIG. 2 we see a block diagram of an example computing system that illustrates one implementation of an integrated touch screen.


2 - integrated touch screen - apple patent lot 1 - dec 2010 

3 - integrated touch screen - apple patent lot 2 

Apple's Patent FIG. 10 noted above illustrates an example touch sensing operation. Patent FIG. 6 is a magnified view showing details of display pixels and other structures of a touch screen.


Apple's patent FIGS. 13A shown below presents us with an example configuration of multi-function display pixels grouped into regions that function as touch sensing circuitry during a touch phase of a touch screen. Patent FIG. 21A illustrates an example layout of display pixels for one example touch pixel.


4 - integrated touch screen - apple patent lot 3 

Apple's First Patent Claim: A stackup of a plurality of display pixels, the stackup comprising: a first layer of conductive material including gate lines; a second layer of conductive material including data lines; a third layer of conductive material including first conductive lines in a first direction, each of the first conductive lines including a plurality of first line portions extending through plural display pixels and separated from each other in the first direction by disconnections in the third layer; and second conductive lines in a second direction transverse to the first direction, each of the second conductive lines including a plurality of second line portions extending through plural display pixels and separated from each other in the second direction by disconnections, a first, second and third region each having circuit elements of the display pixels, the third region disposed between the first and second regions, and wherein circuit elements of the display pixels in the first region are electrically connected together in the first direction by a first plurality of the first line portions, and the circuit elements of the display pixels in the first region are electrically connected together in the second direction by a first plurality of the second line portions; and wherein at least one conductive pathway connects circuit elements of the first region to circuit elements of the second region wherein the at least one conductive pathway runs through one or more display pixels of the third region without electrically connecting to the circuit elements of the third region.


For more information on this patent, see granted patent 7,859,521 which was originally filed in Q2 2010. Additional references date it back to 2009. Apple credits Steve Hotelling, Marduke Yousefpor, Shih Chang and John Zhong as the inventors. Check out our Archives for additional information on this subject.  


Update: To the Naysayers amongst us who state things like "The drawing of a laptop is iconic, serving the same purpose as clip art," we say, you should look back to Apple's recent patent win covering a convertible notebook that has an original graphic. It's important to see this current touch patent in the bigger picture which includes other Apple macbook touch-related patents. Seeing things in a myopic light is silly. That particular graphic showing how the display will convert into a tablet in the future, has nothing to do with a "current style notebook" that Steve Jobs was referring to in context with this subject. It's a matter of context. Whether Apple actually delivers a convertible to market is for time to tell.   


Granted Patent: On-chip Decompression Engine


A microcontroller is often referred to as "a computer on a chip," and in this second patent, we see that Apple has been granted a key processor patent related to microcontrollers comprising of an on-chip decompression engine.


The patent is likely associated with Apple's iPhone A4 processor as one aspect of the patent relates to "answering a telephone call, placing a telephone call, terminating a telephone call, changing the volume or audio settings, storing information related to telephone communications such as addresses, frequently dialed numbers, received calls, missed calls, logging onto a computer or a computer network, permitting authorized individuals access to restricted areas of the computer or computer network," and so forth.


The multi touch panel processor 704 noted In Patent Figure 7 below, could be implemented as part of the microcontroller of the present invention.


5 - Apple granted patent for on-chip decompression engine 

Digger deeper down, we see that embodiments of the present invention are directed to a microcontroller which includes a Register Load Assist (RLA) engine. The microcontroller could include zero or minimal non-volatile memory which stores boot data. Thus, most of the boot data could be stored at a non-volatile memory external to the microcontroller.


Apple credits Thomas Wilson as the sole inventor of Granted Patent 7,861,073, originally filed on January 3, 2007 or days before the iPhone was first publically presented. While we're on the topic of Chip architectures, it should be noted that Apple was also granted two patents relating to NAND Flash Memory. The first one is titled "Iterative memory cell charging based on reference cell value," while the second one is titled " Monitoring health of non-volatile memory."


Granted Patent: Displaying Images


Apple has been granted an important patent relating to their photo-centric application known as Aperture.


6 - Aperature granted patent - apple 

7 - apple patent displaying images - dec 2010 

Technically Speaking


Overview: Techniques are described in the patent for displaying multiple digital images on a display, where the display-image of each digital image reflects some metric associated with the image. According to one embodiment, the digital images are displayed in a manner in which the display-image of each of the multiple images has at least one visually perceivable attribute that (1) reflects a metric, but that is (2) logically independent of the metric.


Metrics: embedded data could comprise one or more of a caption, a place and/or a date at which the image was captured, an opacity or transparency value corresponding to said image as stored and copyright information associated with the image. The metric may also relate to a photographic identity, e.g., to a particular photographer, a photographic entity, or another source of the image.


Attributes: Embodiments of the present invention may be implemented with other visually perceivable attributes reflecting, yet logically independent of, the metrics associated with the images. For instance, in addition to or instead of the relative display size, metrics may be reflected in the relative degrees of brightness, clarity, contrast, tone, coloration, fuzziness, trim or border enhancements, transparency, opacity, shape, text based comments, and the like.


Apple credits Richard Salvador as the sole inventor of Granted Patent 7,859,543 originally filed in Q2 2006.


Other Granted Patents Published Today


It's been a busy Quarter for Apple's "Time Machine." Today, Apple was granted their fourth patent.  The other patents were published on October 05December 14 and 21 respectfully.  Apple was also granted a Logic Pro related patent regarding reverb (see "Adding Reverb in Logic Pro" video.)


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.



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