Apple lands new weapon with multitouch patent

Apple took a patent yesterday that could be very useful in today’s smartphone thicket of litigation relating to intellectual property.

The patent goes to the heart of what it means to be a smartphone these days: a user interface with a multitouch screen. Patent No. 7,966,578 is entitled “Portable Multifunction Device, method and graphical user interface to translate the advertisers.”

But what does it mean? ZDNet Asia sister site CNET takes a look at some of the issues raised.

First, what does the patent cover?
The patent covers some of the most basic things you can do with a smartphone touch screen to move the items displayed in it. That could be a tap of the finger, two fingers or more and the meat of how many patent issues. In particular, it has a lot to say about whether an act of sliding moves an entire page of content or just some elements within a frame.

“Depending on the number of fingers used in the gesture, the user can easily translate the page content or just translate the content into the content frame of the page,” the patent.

The patent abstract is as follows:

A computer-implemented method for use in combination with a portable multifunction device with a touch screen display with some of the content of the page with a calendar that shows a portion of frame content and also includes other content of the page, touch screen display. An act of translation N-finger is detected on or near the touch screen. In response, the page content, including the portion of the frame shows the contents and other contents of the page is translated to display a new portion of page content on the touch screen. An act of translation of M-finger is detected on or near the touch screen, where M is a number different from N. In response, the frame content is translated to display a new portion of frame content on the touch screen, without translating the contents of another page.

Wait, huh? My eyes glazed over.
OK, let boil a little. The patent governs how the contents of the screen moves when you touch the screen. A touch of a finger can move a whole page about, for example, but a touch with two fingers can move only in contained within a particular region in which the patent calls a frame. The smaller frame can be any number of things – a scrollable list of items, a portion of a map.

The patent begins with a claim involving web pages are displayed in a window fixed, but other claims specify other tasks: word processing, spreadsheets, email or presentation, maps, lists, scrollable elements.

The patent covers the technology in a “portable multifunction device,” describes broadly enough to include not only smartphones, but tablets and touch screen devices potentially others as well. And to be clear, the use of the patent the term “translate” means something to move left, right, up, down or diagonally across the screen, not to convert from one language to another.

Who has the patent?
The inventors are Richard Williamson Francisco Ryan Tolmasky, Chris Blumenberg, and Patrick Lee Coffman who requested demand in 2007. Apple is the assignee.

The four are in a long list of inventors granted patents multitouch Apple in 2009 – but this time, Apple CEO Steve Jobs is not on the list.

Why should we care about Apple’s patents?
At this time the mobile phone industry is moving as fast as anything in the technology sector – although it is adorned with patent infringement lawsuits related to mobile technology. These demands have drawn on Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, HTC, Oracle, and Kodak. Patent infringement lawsuits are very expensive.

Patents, especially large ones, these companies provide a larger arsenal in such battles. Apple has just paid a lot of money with a suit Nokia Nokia launched in 2009. New Apple patent could possibly be added to existing games, time permitting process, but patents have a long life.

Many times companies avoid litigation by signing a patent cross-licensing deals that give each other access to the patent portfolio of the other. There are also patents can be useful: the company’s portfolio typically weaker end up paying the other in the cross-licensing agreement.

All this amounts to a very high cost of doing business. Branches corresponds to a large number of patents have an advantage over new ones – that HTC, the Taiwanese company jumped to the big leagues via Android and suffered a patent violation lawsuit from Apple.

That’s why Google is willing to pay U.S. $ 900million to Nortel Networks patents and patent applications in a bankruptcy court proceeding.

How big a firearm Apple did just get in your arsenal?
A very large, some believe.

A person is concerned about its implications Florian Mueller, who is closely following the current round of applications for patents for your blog free software patents.

“It encompasses the concept of basic user interface to move content touchscreen multitouch gestures – not only recognize a particular form of programming by a special gesture for this purpose, but any or all forms of it,” said Mueller. “This patent describes a solution to such a level that effectively establishes an exclusive right to the problem itself, and any solution to it.”

“Moving objects on a touch screen with multitouch gestures is a very essential,” he added. “I can not imagine that smart phones and tablets would be competitive in the future without multitouch moving objects.”

As Apple is being a big troll here?
Not if you ask the shareholders of Apple executives or ambitious. Sure, Jobs seems to have a personal interest to grind when it comes to smartphones that take ideas that first appeared on the iPhone. But businesses of any benefit is not a unique strategy for Apple.

Products Apple launched the current round of intelligent innovation, and would be a surprise to see a company as fiercely competitive and profit focused suddenly ignore patents in the heart of your business.

“Since Apple acquired FingerWorks in 2005, have been regularly filing patents for gestural interfaces. They have had a significant advantage over the competition in this regard, and that bodes well for Apple’s ability to defend its intellectual property, “said Raven Zachary, a former industry analyst who now advises clients on development IOS.

Some companies, like Microsoft and IBM enjoy the income from patent licensing agreements. Apple, however, shows a different behavior, he said.

“Apple seems that not only deals with patents as part of access to patents,” said Zachary. “If Apple were to defend its patent portfolio broadly gestural in emerging tablet market, which could actually stifle innovation in other technology companies. Does anyone really believe that Apple may choose to license its patent portfolio unless bilateral? ”

That does not bode well for small new players such as HTC. Patents grant a monopoly, and technology is essential to retaining a competitive product could harm a rival.

What Apple’s competitors?
We’re not saying. Samsung, Microsoft and Google declined to comment for this article.