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Apple Adds another Core iPhone Multitouch Patent to their Arsenal
On December twentieth, The Washington Post reported that "Apple Inc. won a patent-infringement ruling that bans some HTC Corp. smartphones from the U.S. starting next year, bolstering efforts to prove that devices running Google Inc.'s Android operating system copy the iPhone." And today, the US Patent and Trademark Office officially published yet another core iPhone multitouch victory for Apple that will bolster their legal arsenal. This particular multitouch related patent focuses on the oscillator signal and circuit, which are central to sensing a touch event on a touch display. And Finally, we add a Classic Photo collage of Steve Jobs introducing the revolutionary iPhone at Macworld in January 2007. These are images that are seared into most of our memories of Steve.
Apple Wins another Key Multitouch Patent
Apple has received another original Multitouch patent from the USPTO. This is the type of patent that could help Apple in legal battles with copycat designers. It's one of the 200 patents that Steve Jobs pointed to when launching the iPhone.
During this historic event, Steve Jobs stated that "We've been pushing the state of the art in every facet of this design. We've got the multi-touch screen, miniaturization, OS X in a mobile device, precision enclosures, three advanced sensors, desktop class applications, and the widescreen video iPod. We filed over 200 patents for all the inventions in Phone and intend to protect them."
It was a clear warning to copycat designers back in 2007. So the almost daily whining that we hear in the blogosphere by the copycatters and their fans about Apple abusing the patent system is a farce of the highest order. The fact is that prior to the 2007 iPhone, smartphones were a hassle to use, butt ugly, without an innovative operating system and without a workable multitouch display. Of course the copycatters of this world would love nothing better than to have nothing standing in their way of scooping up profits on the backs of others' work. Knock-off products from Asia are a huge market problem today and it appears that this trend continues through to the copying of the iPhone's features. In the big picture, this is what IP is all about: stopping illegal copying of someone else's intellectual property. Apple is only following through as promised. It's also a duty to their shareholders to do so.
The Problem with Single Touch Screen Devices
Apple's patent begins by their pointing out the problems of single-point touch displays of the past and provides us with a classic overview of the situation a time prior to the iPhone as follows:
Touch screens may include a touch panel, which may be a clear panel with a touch-sensitive surface. The touch panel may be positioned in front of a display screen so that the touch-sensitive surface covers the viewable area of the display screen. Touch screens may allow a user to make selections and move a cursor by simply touching the display screen via a finger or stylus. In general, the touch screen may recognize the touch and position of the touch on the display screen, and the computing system may interpret the touch and thereafter perform an action based on the touch event.
One limitation of many conventional touch panel technologies is that they are only capable of reporting a single point or touch event, even when multiple objects come into contact with the sensing surface. That is, they lack the ability to track multiple points of contact at the same time. Thus, even when two points are touched, these conventional devices only identify a single location, which is typically the average between the two contacts (e.g., a conventional touchpad on a notebook computer provides such functionality). This single-point identification is a function of the way these devices provide a value representative of the touch point, which is generally by providing an average resistance or capacitance value.
Moreover, many touch-panel devices use oscillating signals to power and clock electronic elements. Examples of their use include providing clock signals, or providing carrier signals which could later be modified to include information. For example, an oscillating signal could be used to drive a row in a capacitive touch sensor panel. Changes to the sensed signal indicate a touch event at the panel.
There are various known ways to create an oscillating signal. For example, persons of skill in the art would recognize that a simple circuit including an inductor and a capacitor would create such a signal. However, most circuit based oscillators suffer from the fact that they do not provide a signal with a precise and predictable frequency.
Apple's Patent Casts a Wide Net Concerning Multi-Touch Displays
Apple's granted patent corrects the problems laid out in their overview noted above. And while the focus of this particular patent covers all-things related to oscillating signals and circuits, Apple states that they incorporate the content of several other major multitouch patents into this patent. Apple states that "In general, multi-touch panels may be able to detect multiple touches (touch events or contact points) that occur at or about the same time, and identify and track their locations. Examples of multi-touch panels are described in Applicant's co-pending U.S. application Ser. No. 10/842,862 entitled "Multipoint Touchscreen," filed on May 6, 2004 and published as U.S. Published Application No. 2006/0097991 on May 11, 2006, the contents of which are incorporated by reference herein.
In view of the above, although this disclosure may describe detecting input in terms of touch-events, it should be understood that the various embodiments disclosed herein may detect near touches or hover-events as well. Accordingly, a touch, a near-touch or a hover may be referred to as an "event" and multiple events that occur at or about the same time may be referred to as a "multi-event."
Apple's multi-touch patent states that the invention could apply to computing devices such as desktops, laptops, tablets or handhelds, including personal digital assistants (PDAs), digital music and/or video players and mobile telephones. The computing system may also correspond to public computer systems such as information kiosks, automated teller machines (ATM), point of sale machines (POS), industrial machines, gaming machines, arcade machines, vending machines, airline e-ticket terminals, restaurant reservation terminals, customer service stations, library terminals, learning devices, and the like.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 shown below illustrates an exemplary computing system using a multi-touch panel input device.
Apple's patent FIG. 2a shown below illustrates an exemplary capacitive multi-touch panel; patent FIG. 2b is a side view of an exemplary capacitive touch sensor or pixel in a steady-state (no-touch) condition; and patent FIG. 2c is a side view of the exemplary capacitive touch sensor or pixel in a dynamic (touch) condition.
Apple's patent FIG. 5A shown below is a flowchart illustrating operation of calibration logic tuning a local oscillator.
A Few Key Patent Claims
Considering the importance of Apple's Multitouch Patents, we'll list several key patent claims out of a total of forty-seven associated with this patent for the legal professionals amongst us:
Patent Claim 1: A method for tuning a local oscillator of an event-sensitive device, comprising: tuning the local oscillator to a desired frequency using a binary search algorithm; outputting a local oscillator signal from the local oscillator; and applying the local oscillator signal to at least one sensor node of an event-sensitive panel, wherein tuning the local oscillator to the desired frequency comprises: determining a desired clock count corresponding to the desired frequency of the local oscillator; setting a first tune bit value to a first median value within a first range of tune bit values having a first minimum value and a first maximum value; adjusting a first frequency of the local oscillator signal according to the first tune bit value; counting a first an actual clock count corresponding to the first frequency of the local oscillator signal; comparing the first actual clock count with the desired clock count to determine whether the first frequency of the local oscillator signal is greater or less than the desired frequency; setting a second tune bit value to a second median value within a second range of tune bit values having a second minimum value equal to the first minimum value within the first range of tune bit values and a second maximum value equal to the first median value if the first frequency of the local oscillator signal is greater than the desired frequency; setting the second tune bit value to the second median value within the second range of tune bit values having the second minimum value equal to the first median value and the second maximum value equal to the first maximum value within the first range of tune bit values if the first frequency of the local oscillator signal is less than the desired frequency; adjusting a second frequency of the local oscillator signal according to the second tune bit value; counting a second actual clock count corresponding to the second frequency of the local oscillator signal; selecting the first or second frequency of the local oscillator signal that is closest to the desired frequency by selecting the first or second actual clock count that is closest to the desired clock count; and applying the selected first or second frequency of the local oscillator signal to the input of at least one sensor node of the event-sensitive device.
Apple Adds another Core iPhone Multitouch Patent to their Arsenal
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