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Court of Appeals ruling means Apple gets another shot at a valid patent for pinch-to-zoom

Posted: , by Alan F.

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Back on January 9th 2007, during the introduction of the Apple iPhone, Steve Jobs also unveiled muli-touch. "We have invented a new technology called multi-touch that is phenomenal," Jobs said. "It works like magic. You don't need a stylus. It's far more accurate than any touch display that's ever been shipped. It ignores unintended touches. It's super smart. You can do multi-finger gestures on it, and boy have we patented it."

But that didn't seem to matter in December 2012 after the USPTO invalidated the '915 patent associated with multi-touch and its features such as pinch-to-zoom. Two months earlier, the '381 patent that included rubber banding or the bounce scroll effect was also ruled invalid. However, there is now a chance that Apple will get another shot at protecting pinch-to-zoom thanks to a ruling that came down today from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The appellate court said that the Patent Trial and Appeal Board had made an error in interpreting two key phrases too widely. The court said that Apple was right on one phrase, rubberbanding, but was wrong on the phrase scroll or gesture limitation. The case has been remanded to the Patent Board.

As far back as February 2009, the lack of multi-touch features on Android was blamed on a rumored request made to Google by Apple not to include any multi-touch capabilities on the OS even though Android did support multi-touch itself. Later that year and early next, both the Motorola DROID and Nexus One launched in the states without the feature, while the overseas version of the DROID (the Motorola MILESTONE) and the HTC DROID ERIS both supported it. Eventually, multi-touch and pinch-to-zoom became commonplace on all Android handsets.

By 2012, Google already had a workaround for the '915 pinch-to-zoom patent. Apple's patent covered a precise method of using pinch-to-zoom, which used one finger as an anchor, while the other finger would create the zooming. In the Android build known as JellyBean, Google's pinch-to-zoom was completely different as it allowed both fingers to move apart to zoom. This slight difference was noted by a Google spokesmen who said, "Apple's '915 patent claims a very specific software implementation, and the implementation is different in Jelly Bean." 

There is no indication when the Patent Board will convene to discuss Apple's request to validate its '915 patent.

source: SeekingAlpha (1), (2)

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