Writing about Apple patents would be a full time endeavor, and much of it would be repetitive. However, last week's awarding to Apple of patent 7,966,578 on certain touch screen display technologies now synonymous with iPhones, iTouches and iPads is worth reviewing. Readers familiar with the one-finger flick for changing pages and two-finger scrolling and resizing know what this is about: it’s the Apple experience, using the screen to manipulate what you see.
Analysts are not in agreement about the breadth of the patent, or what it means, though most think it significantly enhances the value of Apple’s IP portfolio. The patent’s value is wrapped up in the experience (read "brand"), according to Darrell Etherington of GIGAOM, not so much in Apple’s ability to seek royalties from infringers. Here’s the Abstract:
“A computer-implemented method, for use in conjunction with a portable multifunction device with a touch screen display, comprises displaying a portion of page content, including a frame displaying a portion of frame content and also including other content of the page, on the touch screen display. An N-finger translation gesture is detected on or near the touch screen display. In response, the page content, including the displayed portion of the frame content and the other content of the page, is translated to display a new portion of page content on the touch screen display. An M-finger translation gesture is detected on or near the touch screen display, where M is a different number than N. In response, the frame content is translated to display a new portion of frame content on the touch screen display, without translating the other content of the page.”
No one seems to doubt there are alternative methods for accomplishing what the Apple claims is patented, and Tested.com gives a detailed example, but as they point out, design-arounds lack the same elegance.