On December twentieth, The Washington Post reported that "Apple Inc. won a patent-infringement ruling that bans some HTC Corp. smartphones from the U.S. starting next year, bolstering efforts to prove that devices running Google Inc.'s Android operating system copy the iPhone." And today, the US Patent and Trademark Office officially published yet another core iPhone multitouch victory for Apple that will bolster their legal arsenal. This particular multitouch related patent focuses on the oscillator signal and circuit, which are central to sensing a touch event on a touch display. And Finally, we add a Classic Photo collage of Steve Jobs introducing the revolutionary iPhone at Macworld in January 2007. These are images that are seared into most of our memories of Steve.
Apple Wins another Key Multitouch Patent
Apple has received another original Multitouch patent from the USPTO. This is the type of patent that could help Apple in legal battles with copycat designers. It's one of the 200 patents that Steve Jobs pointed to when launching the iPhone.
During this historic event, Steve Jobs stated that "We've been pushing the state of the art in every facet of this design. We've got the multi-touch screen, miniaturization, OS X in a mobile device, precision enclosures, three advanced sensors, desktop class applications, and the widescreen video iPod. We filed over 200 patents for all the inventions in Phone and intend to protect them."
It was a clear warning to copycat designers back in 2007. So the almost daily whining that we hear in the blogosphere by the copycatters and their fans about Apple abusing the patent system is a farce of the highest order. The fact is that prior to the 2007 iPhone, smartphones were a hassle to use, butt ugly, without an innovative operating system and without a workable multitouch display. Of course the copycatters of this world would love nothing better than to have nothing standing in their way of scooping up profits on the backs of others' work. Knock-off products from Asia are a huge market problem today and it appears that this trend continues through to the copying of the iPhone's features. In the big picture, this is what IP is all about: stopping illegal copying of someone else's intellectual property. Apple is only following through as promised. It's also a duty to their shareholders to do so.
The Problem with Single Touch Screen Devices
Apple's patent begins by their pointing out the problems of single-point touch displays of the past and provides us with a classic overview of the situation a time prior to the iPhone as follows:
Touch screens may include a touch panel, which may be a clear panel with a touch-sensitive surface. The touch panel may be positioned in front of a display screen so that the touch-sensitive surface covers the viewable area of the display screen. Touch screens may allow a user to make selections and move a cursor by simply touching the display screen via a finger or stylus. In general, the touch screen may recognize the touch and position of the touch on the display screen, and the computing system may interpret the touch and thereafter perform an action based on the touch event.
One limitation of many conventional touch panel technologies is that they are only capable of reporting a single point or touch event, even when multiple objects come into contact with the sensing surface. That is, they lack the ability to track multiple points of contact at the same time. Thus, even when two points are touched, these conventional devices only identify a single location, which is typically the average between the two contacts (e.g., a conventional touchpad on a notebook computer provides such functionality). This single-point identification is a function of the way these devices provide a value representative of the touch point, which is generally by providing an average resistance or capacitance value.
Moreover, many touch-panel devices use oscillating signals to power and clock electronic elements. Examples of their use include providing clock signals, or providing carrier signals which could later be modified to include information. For example, an oscillating signal could be used to drive a row in a capacitive touch sensor panel. Changes to the sensed signal indicate a touch event at the panel.
There are various known ways to create an oscillating signal. For example, persons of skill in the art would recognize that a simple circuit including an inductor and a capacitor would create such a signal. However, most circuit based oscillators suffer from the fact that they do not provide a signal with a precise and predictable frequency.
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