As Google is shifting gear and asserting that iPhone inventions should become broadly available to everyone, Apple is aggressively bolstering its patent portfolio pertaining to iOS software and multitouch user interface.
Just last week the company was awarded a Goliath of a patent that depicts the iPhone’s user interface in excruciating detail. Today, another patent grant has surface in the United States Patent & Trademark Office’s (USPTO) database that Apple bought from a Canadian inventor, pressumably for a significant fee…
Engadget first discovered today’s patent titled “Method for providing human input to a computer” that belongs to Timothy R. Pryor who originally filed it back in 1995. And this is in addition to another transfer of intellectual property which occurred in March 2010.
And how’s this 17-year-old invention worth to Apple?
You’ll be surprised to learn that Canada-born Pryor envisioned basic multi-touch controls. It’s broadly conceived and offers a range of possible applications beyond the independent claims, including an aircraft cockpit or vehicle display.
As detailed in the patent’s claims, that includes controlling a virtual object on a screen with two simultaneous touch inputs, as well as virtual controllers displayed on the screen that can also respond to touch input. The patent also describes responses to touch input, including both visual and force feedback cues.
And this is a summary from Apple’s patent application:
The invention provides a method for providing human input to a computer which allows a user to interact with a display connected to the computer. The method includes the steps of placing a first target on a first portion of the user’s body, using an electro-optical sensing means, sensing data related to the location of the first target and data related to the location of a second portion of the user’s body, the first and second portions of the user’s body being movable relative to each other, providing an output of the electro-optical sensing means to the input of the computer, determining the location of the first target and the location of the second portion of the user’s body, and varying the output of the computer to the display based upon the determined locations for contemporaneous viewing by the user.
Apple, of course, has not commented publicly on the deal with Pryor yet and likely won’t, even if this patent proves a solid proof that the transaction took place.
Apple is patenting touch features of iOS left and right.
Apple’s late co-founder exclaimed “boy, have we patented it” at the January 2007 iPhone introduction and we’re seeing the prophecy come true, especially in past twelve months.
In my view, Apple is seeking to bolster its patent portfolio in order to extract high royalty fees from Samsung and other Android backers.
I think a settlement of sorts could be in the cards, though Apple may want to leverage them to prevent Google from copying iOS user interface features with Android.