Apple's new multitouch patent
by Stephen Shankland Print E-mail Share 24 comments
Apple's patent covers how a single-finger swipe can move elements on a screen differently from a two-finger swipe.
(Credit: screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET) Apple picked up a patent yesterday that could come in very handy in today's thicket of smartphone-related intellectual property litigation.
The patent gets to the heart of what it means to be a smartphone these days: a user interface with a multitouch display. Patent No. 7,966,578 bears polo outlet
the title "Portable multifunction device, method, and graphical user interface for translating displayed content."
But what's it mean? CNET takes a look at some of the issues involved.
First, what does the patent cover?
The patent involves some of the most basic things you can do with a smartphone: touch the screen to move elements shown on it. That could be a touch with one finger, two fingers, or more, and the meat of the patent concerns just how many. Specifically, it has a lot to say about whether a sliding gesture moves a whole page of content or just some elements within a frame.
"Depending on the number of fingers used in the gesture, a user may easily translate page content or just translate frame content within the page content," the patent said.
The abstract of the patent reads as follows:
A computer-implemented method, for use in conjunction with a portable multifunction device with a touch screen display, comprises displaying a polo outlet online
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. An N-finger translation gesture is detected on or near the touch screen display. In response, the page content, including the displayed portion of the frame content and the other content of the page, is translated to display a new portion of page content on the touch screen display. An M-finger translation gesture is detected on or near the touch screen display, where M is a different number than N. In response, the frame content is translated to display a new portion of frame content on the touch screen display, without translating the other content of the page.
Wait, huh? My eyes just glazed over.
OK, let's boil that down a bit. The patent governs how content on the screen moves when you touch the screen. A one-finger touch might move an entire page around, for example, but a two-finger touch might move just content within a particular region that the patent calls a frame. The smaller frame could be any number of things--a scrollable list of items, a portion of of a map.
The patent begins with a claim involving Web pages shown in a stationary window, but other claims specify other tasks: word processing, polo ralph lauren outlet
spreadsheet, e-mail or presentation documents; maps; and scrollable lists of items.
One diagram showing Apple's multitouch user interface patent.
(Credit: screenshot by Stephen Shankland/CNET) The patent covers this technology on a "portable multifunction device," described broadly enough to include not just smartphones but tablets and potentially other touch-screen devices as well. And just to be clear, the patent's use of the term "translate" means to move something left, right, up, down, or diagonally on the screen, not to convert from one language to another.
Who got the patent?
The inventors are Francisco Ryan Tolmasky, Richard Williamson, Chris Blumenberg, and Patrick Lee Coffman, who applied for the claim in 2007. Apple is the assignee.
All four are on a longer list of inventors awarded Apple's multitouch patent in 2009--although this time around, Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs isn't on the list.