Sunday, February 24, 2008

Can Apple Patent the Pinch? Experts Say It's Possible

Patenting gestures ...

"Is pinching proprietary? We may find out in the coming months as many companies, inspired by the success of Apple's iPhone, release their own multitouch-enabled laptops, smartphones and tablets. In doing so, these companies -- including RIM, Nokia and Synaptics -- may run afoul of multitouch patent applications recently filed by Apple.

"If Apple's patents are granted, the company could absolutely stop others from using similar technology," says Raj Abhyanker, a patent lawyer who used to write patent applications for Apple. "They'd also be in an especially good position to stop others from including certain features. Apple could stop [their use] not only on mobile devices but also desktops."

Patent experts contacted by stressed that the patent office can take four or more years to grant patents, and Apple is far from certain to win these patents. Indeed, other companies, including BenQ-Siemens and Nokia, have also filed patent applications on a series of gestures and touch applications for multitouch devices. However, with more than 200 patent claims for the iPhone alone, including several multitouch-related patent applications, Apple is clearly seeking to control as much of the multitouch world as it can.

Multitouch technology itself is far from being an Apple invention. Jeff Han wowed the crowd at TED in 2006 with a demo of his multitouch research, and Bill Gates demo'd Microsoft's Surface Table in early 2007, months before the iPhone was released. Even Apple CEO Steve Jobs reportedly used Microsoft's work with tablet PCs as the jumping-off point for iPhone development.

However, the iPhone is arguably the first mainstream gadget to successfully implement a set of concrete touch gestures and link them to specific functions. Pinching zooms in and out. Double tapping initiates a "smart zoom" that hones in on a particular area of the screen. What's more, iPhone and iPod Touch users are now familiar with these gestures and their effects, and will expect to see other multitouch devices work the same way."    (Continued via Wired)    [Usability Resources]

iPod Multitouch - Usability, User Interface Design

iPod Multitouch


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