Apple Awarded Patent on Palm Pre Gesture Area?
We like competition, as long as they don’t rip off our IP, and if they do, we’re going to go after anybody that does….We will not stand for having our IP ripped off and we’ll use whatever weapons we have at our disposal [to make sure that doesn't happen]. I don’t know that I can be more clear than that.”
– Apple COO Tim Cook’s on the company’s iPhone intellectual property
Turns out that when Apple (AAPL) COO Tim Cook said the company would use “whatever weapons we have at our disposal” to pursue anyone who “rips off” Apple’s iPhone intellectual property, he had a very specific weapon in mind: United States Patent #7,479,949. Awarded just days before Cook made that statement, the vast 358-page patent describes the touchscreen, graphical user interface and technologies that define the iPhone user experience, including at least one that may define an element of the Palm (PALM) Pre’s as well. From the patent abstract:
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. The one or more heuristics comprise: a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a one-dimensional vertical screen scrolling command, a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a two-dimensional screen translation command, and a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a command to transition from displaying a respective item in a set of items to displaying a next item in the set of items.
Also described in the patent, a gesture area separate from the iPhone touchscreen UI itself:
In some embodiments, in addition to the touch screen, the device 100 may include a touchpad (not shown) for activating or deactivating particular functions. In some embodiments, the touchpad is a touch-sensitive area of the device that, unlike the touch screen, does not display visual output. The touchpad may be a touch-sensitive surface that is separate from the touch screen 112 or an extension of the touch-sensitive surface formed by the touch screen.
A touch-sensitive area of the device that, unlike the touchscreen, does not display visual output. Hmm. That sounds awfully familiar, doesn’t it? Where have I heard that before… Oh, I know, in Palm’s announcement of the Pre.
Palm Pre features include the following:
…Gesture area, which enables simple, intuitive gestures for navigation”
Makes you wonder what’s going on in the bowels of Apple legal right now, doesn’t it? Palm legal, too. The company could certainly challenge the validity of the patent if it chose to.