Patent Office looks to revoke Apple multitouch claim

ARS Technica:
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued a first Office action declaring all twenty claims of one of Apple's key multitouch patents invalid. The decision that was filed Monday isn't final, but Apple will have its work cut out for it in order to overturn the initial ruling before it's set in stone.

US Patent #7,479,949, claiming a "[t]ouch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics," essentially covers iOS's ability to respond when a user is trying to scroll vertically in a document, or trying to move around within the document in multiple directions. It also covers iOS's ability to discern the difference between swiping among images in a gallery, or panning or zooming within the image.

The patent is sometimes referred to as the "Steve Jobs patent," as Jobs' name is listed first among the many Apple engineers cited as inventors of the patented claims.

Apple has asserted the '949 patent in several venues, particularly in federal court against HTC and Motorola, and at the International Trade Commission against Samsung. Apple and HTC settled the 50 separate lawsuits pending between the two companies, reaching a highly publicized agreement to cross-license certain technologies. Judge Richard Posner ruled several of its claims invalid, but eventually tossed the suit between Apple and Motorola before it ever reached trail.
The Patent Office recently overturned Apples claims on "rubber banding."  I think both moves are appropriate   Rubber banding has been used in gaming for some time including in the Solitare game that has been included in Microsoft Windows for decades.  I thought the multitouch patent was also suspect.  HP had touchscreen computing back in the 1980s.

What Apple has been attempting to do is use these patents in an aggressive attempt to monopolize the smart phone market.  Consumers will be better off if there is an more competitive market for devices that use this technology.


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