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Apple Granted Touch-Sensitive Patent

Posted by iNext - 2006-02-06

Apple Computer Inc. has been granted a patent by the United States Patent and Trademark Office for touch-screen technology. The latest patent filed on Jan. 31, 2005, was approved 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.

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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