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Is Apple's Multi-Touch Patent Valid? 112

An anonymous reader writes "There is evidence that Apple's multi-touch patent application may have failed to list some prior art that showed gestures in multi-touch interfaces as early as the mid 1980s. Some of these examples even appear in the bibliography of Wayne Westerman's doctoral dissertation, and he's one of the inventors on the application's list. If true, that could leave them wide open for legal attack, should they try suing someone like Palm for patent infringement. Also, Apple may be infringing some key multi-touch patents owned by the University of Delaware — and co-developed by Westerman while getting his doctorate."
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Is Apple's Multi-Touch Patent Valid?

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  • by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @04:47PM (#26766603)

    Apple will end up paying the University of Delaware a few million, and then happily proceed unencumbered - which is what happened when the University of Washington's Electrical Engineering department took on Matsushita et. al.

  • by DustyShadow ( 691635 ) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @04:50PM (#26766635) Homepage
    Does this guy even know what patents Apple is licensing? Doubtful considering most are not made public. FUD?
  • by DustyShadow ( 691635 ) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @04:54PM (#26766653) Homepage
    Another thing...This guy doesn't know what he's talking about. FTA:

    But a patent infringement case can only proceed once the Pre hits the market â" widespread expectations call for a May launch â" and Apple has analyzed the deviceâ(TM)s software for possible infringement.

    Totally not true! You are liable for patent infringement once you make the patented invention. You don't have to sell it to become liable.

  • by Darkness404 ( 1287218 ) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @05:01PM (#26766697)
    The problem with patenting multi-touch gestures is it can lead to a huge learning curve challenge. For example the Linux/Windows/BSD/etc multi-touch is going to be totally different than OS X's methods because of these patents, making it not only hard for people going to OS X but from people who primarily use OS X but can't use the gestures they are used to when on a different computer. This is similar to patenting QWERTY so every other keyboard manufacturer has to pick different keyboard layouts to typing becomes unbearable on different systems.
  • is it me or... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 07, 2009 @05:38PM (#26766919)

    Does this, once again, show that patents on software ideas provide no benefit, what so ever, to the public?

    I hope this gets overturned, or else, as another poster pointed out, we will see fighting among vendors and stagnation in an otherwise cool technology, which will leave us, the end user, not buying new stuff, because there is nothing to buy. Or not buying because you can only get incompatible versions from two or three big companies.

    And for those who think that patent law exist to benefit the inventors, I must remind you that the rationale for patents in general, is to increase the number of publications on technical methods, which should apparently be a good thing.

    I'd rather have the patent system shut down... simply because reverse engineering is a better option. Now hold on before you go ballistic on me here: With patents we know how it is done, but we can't do it anyway. Without patents, it takes some effort if the inventor has kept it a secret, but if we succeed we can do it. Samba is good example of this. And at lest in the computing world, keeping things a secret is A) Very difficult (BlueRay's BD2 DRM mechanism comes to mind), and B) Not always an option in an interoperable world.

    And don't give me the "without patents vendors won't invest in research"-crap that i hear all the time... Yes they will! Because merchants are merchants who are merchants. As long as everyone competes under the same terms, there wont be much of a change: Companies still need to come up with something new and exciting to sell. The gizzmowiz of the day has to be smarter and faster and slicker than what the other company sells. That wont change, regardless of the approach to patents.

    Some might actually argue, that without patents we will see *more* research being done, simply because smaller companies are not up against Big Iron who has 60,000 patents, of which a significant portion is broad and general purpose.

    At least that is my two cent...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday February 07, 2009 @05:46PM (#26766969)

    So we're supposed to argue not-even-filed patent defenses ... a bunch of non-lawyers. Ridiculous post.

    BTW, there are lots of patents with "prior art," including Amazon's one-touch. I am a patent attorney. I have no idea how this patent will fare but this discussion is a waste of time.

  • Re:No (Score:3, Insightful)

    by neuromanc3r ( 1119631 ) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @07:36PM (#26767773)

    > I love multi-touch. I used to like having a mouse on a laptop, but now that multi-touch is here, its simply better than a mouse.

    Perhaps for small notebooks, (or tablets), but realistically its simply too slow and disruptive with larger screens to be waving your entire arm around just to click a button. It also requires a very sparse interface to allow for imprecision of touch.

    I'm pretty sure the gp was talking about multi-touch on his notebook's touchpad or multi-touch in general, not about touchscreens.

  • by Mistshadow2k4 ( 748958 ) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @07:47PM (#26767835) Journal
    Not to mention the paid ones who pretend they aren't.
  • by bit01 ( 644603 ) on Saturday February 07, 2009 @09:27PM (#26768357)

    The problem with patenting multi-touch gestures is it can lead to a huge learning curve challenge.

    To put it another way user interfaces are simply the language that computers and people use to talk to each other.

    By allowing patenting language elements the patent office are promoting language splintering and all the problems that entails. Progressing the state of the art my foot.

    Of course, the patent office claims that they don't allow the patenting of language elements but that's only their arbitrary definition of language. Another example of their almost complete inability of the patent office to distinguish words and ideas.


    The patent system. The whole edifice is based on handwaving.

  • by ArsonSmith ( 13997 ) on Sunday February 08, 2009 @02:16AM (#26770093) Journal

    "Patent Law" and "Free Market" are mutually exclusive terms.

  • Re:is it me or... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by floodo1 ( 246910 ) <floodo1@g[ ] ['arf' in gap]> on Sunday February 08, 2009 @02:52AM (#26770279) Journal
    To put it simply as "publications on technical methods" misses what I think is a key point about patent theory.

    In protecting the inventor from having his idea "stolen" (so to speak) the patent system gives the inventor incentive to disclose his idea, thus establishing "publications on technical methods". Imagine someone who invents something, but never tells anyone because if he tells someone they (or someone down the grapevine) can take his idea and effectively prevent him from profiting from it.
    In effect the only reason to invent things is to give them away, because in most conceivable situations there are others that have better positions in the market to gain market share at the inventors expense.
    This conception of incentive is further borne out through licensing, whereby the inventor can be compensated while the "others that have better positions in the market" actually produce, and profit from the idea. In this way the inventor AND the other businesses can all profit.

    Further consider that this protection is not unlimited and patents eventually expire. The inventor is granted a limited time of exclusivity afterwhich the idea is free.

    Obviously I would hope that people would want to give their ideas away and not have to worry about being compensated in exchange, but n a capitalist system patents are relatively reasonable. In order to assure that all inventions are available they sacrifice time. For a time only the inventor is rewarded exclusively, afterwhich period the idea is free. In a non-patent system time is of the essence so all ideas are free from the get-go, but the tradeoff is that some inventions are lost, perhaps to be discovered at a later time, or possibly never to be conceived of again! (however unlikely)
  • by Dan541 ( 1032000 ) on Sunday February 08, 2009 @07:37AM (#26771413) Homepage

    Of course it is invalid we have had touch screens for years before the iPhone was introduced.

No amount of genius can overcome a preoccupation with detail.