Apple secures multitouch technology patent

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We just discussed the saber-rattling from Palm and Apple, but here’s another data point to throw into the mix. According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office—which we’re going to go out on a limb and call a trustworthy source—Apple has been awarded a patent on multitouch technology.

Well, we call it multitouch—they call it “A computer-implemented method for use in conjunction with a computing device with a touch screen display comprises: detecting one or more finger contacts with the touch screen display, applying one or more heuristics to the one or more finger contacts to determine a command for the device, and processing the command.” Just kind of trips off the tongue, don’t it?

Patent 7,479,949 was filed on April 11, 2008 and finally awarded on January 20, 2009—a mere day before the conference call in which Apple COO Tim Cook stressed that Apple would strenuously protect its intellectual property. Among the inventors are listed such luminaries as the man himself, Steve Jobs, as well as VP of iPhone software Scott Forstall.

Now, my understanding of the patent field is a little shaky, I’ll admit, but I’d seen multitouch capability demonstrated before the iPhone debuted, most notably by NYU’s Jeff Han. There’s long been a suggestion that Apple licensed the tech from Han, though I’d still think that Han would be in the patent somewhere (he’s not). Of course, it’s also possible Apple was working on the tech at the same time, since Jobs said at the iPhone’s 2007 introduction that they’d been developing the phone for 2 years.

Anyway, with this patent in their stable, Apple’s position on multitouch seems to have some weight. They’re still awaiting their trademark on the term “Multi-Touch” which, if nothing else, would prevent Palm from selling the Pre using that expression, but Palm’s going to want to take a thoughtful look at their plans before they launch a device that might have a bullseye painted on it.

[via World of Apple]

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