Apple Files For Touch-Sensitive Patent - InformationWeek

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Apple Files For Touch-Sensitive Patent

Could iPod, iMac, iBook, MacBook, and PowerBook lovers see touch-pad capabilities in time for the 2006 holiday season? Apple isn't saying.

UPDATE: A previous version of this story incorrectly characterized the status of Apple's patent application.

Apple Computer Inc. has filed a patent with the United States Patent and Trademark Office for touch-screen technology. The latest patent form was filed on Feb. 2.

The patent is for touch screen, touch pad and other types of touch-sensing technology. The document identifies a computer method for processing touch inputs, including reading data from a touch sensitive device with multipoint capabilities and identifying at least one multipoint gesture from the touch-sensitive device.

Could iPod, iMac, iBook, MacBook, Powerbook lovers see touch-pad capabilities in time for the 2006 holiday season? Apple did not immediately return a request for comment.

Based on the available public information, the U.S.P.T.O. has not yet examined the claims of the application, according to Eric Ringer, patent agent at Smith Frohwein Tempel Greenlee Blaha LLC, in an e-mail. "After the U.S.P.T.O. examines the claims of an application, the U.S.P.T.O. issues an 'Office Action' in which it provides grounds for granting or rejecting the patent application," he said. "It is too early to tell whether Apple will recieve the patent for the touch-screen technology and it is too early to determine what the claims of any prospective patent may actually look like." Ringer said if the U.S.P.T.O. eventually issues a patent to Apple, it could take years.

Kimberly Allen, director of technology and strategic research at iSuppli Corp., said the document appears "pretty straightforward." It looks like a "patent about recognizing gestures on a touch screen -- two taps, a pan, a zoom -- by different finger actions," she said.

These touch inputs are translated into zoom or pan gestures, or grouping, rotating and page turning.

Innovative companies, similar to Apple, file dozens, if not hundreds, of patents annually. It's not certain that Apple will ever use the technology. Written into the patent proposal, however, is an example for illustrating a method using two fingers to zoom in on a North America map that contains several layers of information.

The zoom function is described in the following passage. "To zoom in on California, the user starts to spread their fingers apart" and "as the fingers spread apart further (distance increases), the map zooms in further on Northern California, then to a particular region of Northern California, then to the Bay area, then to the peninsula (e.g., the area between San Francisco and San Jose Area), and then to the city of San Carlos located between San Francisco and San Jose. In order to zoom out of San Carlos and back to North America, the fingers are closed back together following the sequence described above, but in reverse."

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