Patent application filed in 2004 by Apple for capacitive touchscreen is granted

Patent application filed in 2004 by Apple for capacitive touchscreen is granted
In a move that has made countless lawyers do the dance of the rain of money, Apple has been granted a patent on capacitive touchscreens relating to a 2004 application. While the patent probably does not cover all aspects of the screen, reading the abstract gives us the idea that the patent is somewhat broad in scope:  "A touch panel having a transparent capacitive sensing medium configuredto detect multiple touches or near touches that occur at the same timeand at distinct locations in the plane of the touch panel and toproduce distinct signals representative of the location of the toucheson the plane of the touch panel for each of the multiple touches isdisclosed." Looking at the diagram we see what appears to be someone simply using a multitouch display. Three inventors are given credit for the patent, Steve Hoteling and Joshua A. Strickon, both from San Jose, and Brian Q. Huppi from San Francisco.

With the large number of touchscreen handsets sold each year, we recently have seen a number of suits and complaints and cross complaints filed as each company with a patent on just a little bit of smartphone technology starts smelling all of the cash involved in royalty payments and punitive damage awards. And if all of the phone manufacturers smell the money, you can imagine that the lawyers right now have green flowing through their veins. Will Apple use the award as a club to hit infringing competitors with? With all the potential money involved, what would you do?

source: USPTO via Gizmodo, Engadget



1. Kiltlifter

Posts: 742; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

Ummm... apple didn't invent the capacitive screen. I don't see how this is even viable. Just like when people think apple patented pinch-to-zoom... That is an intuitive gesture, and the microsoft used that gesture on the microsoft surface years before the iphone came to existance. If Harley Davidson cannot hold the trademark for "Hog" then apple cannot own the patent for something as broad as a capacitive touchscreen. Maybe there is more to this and apple made a new kind of capacitive touch screen... but that doesn't seem to be the case. This is like if I tried to make a patent on a computer keyboard by moving the space bar a little and adding a new button in the middle where your thumbs generally do not press and patent all keyboards. PA please put more info about this. But "locations in the plane of the touch panel and to produce distinct signals representative of the location of the touches" could mean that apple is going to patent their own unique gestures..... we'll see.

2. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

If Apple doesn't have a patent for pinch zoom, then I think it should. I would never have thought of putting gestures like pinch to zoom on a phone. If something like that is so intuitive, I wonder why no one has ever put the feature in a phone years before. I think that putting multitouch and a capacitive screen on a phone was genius. There are barely anymore resistive screens now and there are so many phones that have (and are about to have) multitouch.

3. Kiltlifter

Posts: 742; Member since: Dec 11, 2008

Infrared sensors have been used for multi-touch surfaces and projection controllers for years. The "Microsoft Surface" uses IR multi-touch sensors and can control 52 different points of touch as well as RFID tagging to recognize objects place on or near it. In their picture applications, they have two handed gestures to expand and contract a photo. Apple wasn't the first to use that gesture, so they don't deserve the credit for such things. BUT, the ambiguity of the patent statement could mean that apple is patenting their own and hopefully distrinctively different gestures as they relate to use on a capacitve screen. Again, I don't see how patenting movements is even legal, as you cannot patent a hand gesture or a dance move... could you imagine if you had to pay a license fee to hold up the "peace" sign with 2 fingers, or patenting the way someone skips, runs or swims... You cannot patent or trademark ballet moves, but the presentation of the ballet permormance from beginning to end can be copywrited so maybe apple is trying to play that game in the technology world. "OH NO, You breathed to your right when stroking with your left arm and used both your feet to kick the water... I patented that kind of swimming gesture, you have to pay me becuase you won a gold medal while doing it..." the notion is utterly ridiculous.

4. E.N.

Posts: 2610; Member since: Jan 25, 2009

I'm pretty aware that multi-touch existed before the iPhone, but it existed in different electronics. Although a little exaggerated, I think I understand what you mean. Most likely the patent (if it even exists) is more specific than it sounds.

5. ace1122

Posts: 237; Member since: Mar 23, 2009

Why does Apple pursue all these patents? They still have just about the #1 cell phone on the market and the extremely popular ipod touch. What are they worried about? And did anyone else get a headache just from reading the line in qoutations marks?

Latest Stories

This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. You can order presentation-ready copies for distribution to your colleagues, clients or customers at or use the Reprints & Permissions tool that appears at the bottom of each web page. Visit for samples and additional information.