According to a report by PCMag, after being filed four years ago, Apple was finally granted the patent with regards to the iPhone's multi-touch interface. Apple submitted this patent to the US Patent Office back in December 2007. And using this patent, Apple has the leverage to file a lawsuit to any competitors who are using multi-touch interface on their products, on grounds of intellectual property infringement. Considering just how well established capacitive multi-touch interface now, this could spell big trouble for other smartphone manufacturers that utilizes the similar technology.
The said patent that was granted states:
[a] computer-implemented method, for use in conjunction with a portable multifunction device with a touch screen display, [that] comprises displaying a portion of page content, including a frame displaying a portion of frame content and also including other content of the page, on the touch screen display.
And that is just coming from the abstract of Apple's iPhone patent. If anyone would closely read the patent in its entirety, patent experts say that Apple has been granted a patent that is so broad with its implementation that is could give other manufacturers that currently implements capacitive touch-screen.
Apple's patent essentially gives it ownership of the capacitive multitouch interface the company pioneered with its iPhone, said one source who has been involved in intellectual property litigation on similar matters. That's likely to produce a new round of lawsuits over the now-ubiquitous multitouch interfaces used in smartphones made by the likes of HTC, Samsung, Motorola, Research in Motion, Nokia, and others that run operating systems similar in nature to Apple's iOS, like Google's Android, said the source, who asked not to be named.
In addition to that, the patent is so broad that it could also cover devices that uses basic finger swipe gestures in order to manipulate the user interface. Which means devices that are similar to the iPad and the iPad Touch may also be covered.
According to Florian Mueller, a highly acclaimed patent expert, this newly granted patent could give Apple the capability to pressure competitors:
This patent covers a kind of functionality without which it will be hard to build a competitive smartphone.
Unless this patent becomes invalidated, it would allow Apple to stifle innovation and bully competitors.
If Mueller is right, this is indeed a huge disadvantage for the competition. Having a smartphone nowadays without the basic multi-touch gesturing is less likely to be competitive. With this patent, Apple can simply have the violators' products to be prevented from shipping and never see the light of day in the consumer market. But of course, the most likely scenario however is that competitors will have to pay Apple royalty fees for every unit that they sell.
Apple could conceivably restrict makers of touchscreen smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices from selling their products in the U.S. More likely is that Apple would reach a settlement with such competitors and start licensing its patented technology for a tidy new income stream.
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It is still unknown how Apple will deal with this particular patent, whether they will go play it hard or not. But Apple is notorious for protecting their intellectual properties and they definitely have the financial ammo to do so. If anyone can recall, just last week Apple settled with Nokia regarding a patent infringement suit and agreed to pay the latter a hefty sum of $608 million and a subsequent $137.6 million per quarter. We will just have to see what action Apple will take regarding this matter. [via PCMag]