Apple Gets Multitouch Patents | webOS Nation

Apple Gets Multitouch Patents

by Dieter Bohn Tue, 27 Jan 2009 11:02 am EST

A brief history: Apple threw the patent lawsuit gauntlet down in front of Palm.  Well, technically, Apple threw a gauntlet down in Palm's general vicinity, and so Palm felt compelled to respond.  The latest salvo in the little drama of whether or not Palm has infringed on Apple's patents and whether or not Apple will sue them over it and whether or not Palm has enough of their own patents to sue back (mind you -- this is the simplest kind of patent dispute and already it refuses to be bound inside a single reasonable sentence) has landed.  We're going to call this whole drama Potential Pre Patent Pugilism and let's get right to it: Apple has finally received the patents for some of the multitouch technology.

Now the patent is titled "Touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics," which is actually important.  What's being patented here isn't necessarily the concept of multitouch on a handheld but a specific implementation.  That implementaiton appears to be tied up in these so-called "heuristics."  So we actually have to bring out some of the many questions involved here back to the forefront.  Our not-so-informed guesses in parentheses.

  • has Palm actually infringed on an Apple Patent?  (maybe)
  • Is the entire "concept" of handheld multitouch actually included in this patent and is that even patentable? (possible, but not likely)
  • If "handheld multitouch" is part of this patent, couldn't that eventually get revoked because of prior art or other fancy anti-patent arguments? (likely)
  • If Palm does infringe on Apple's patents, would they have the cash to take the fight along far enough to actually get Apple's patents revoked? (doubtful)
  • Would Palm and Apple be able to come to an amicable agreement wherein Palm licences Apple's technology? (Seriously, have you ever heard of Steve Jobs?)
  • Does Palm have enough of their own patents to either cow Apple into not suing or to use in countersuits against Apple that draw this patent fight out for a long, long time (Ding! we have a winner!)

In other words, the mere issuance of a patent doesn't mean as much as it appears these days when it comes to these sorts of inter-corporate patent fights, it's just another piece of the (oh god, stop us) Potential Pre Patent Pugilism Puzzle.