US patent office dismisses Apple's claim on 'pinch-to-zoom' patent

Apple has claimed it owns the patent that involves the "pinch-to-zoom" method for interacting with touchscreen device, though the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has now ruled that Apple has no such claim on the patent, which came as part of Samsung's appeal of its loss of the August 2012 court decision against Apple.

During that trial, the jury decided that 21 Samsung devices were in violation of Apple's claim 8 of U.S. Patent No. 7,844,915. That claim said that Apple had the patent on the two finger pinch-to-zoom method. However, PCWorld.com reports that the USPTO rejected that Apple claim, stating that the pinch-to-zoom method had already been filed as U.S. Patent No. 7,724,242, which was awarded to Daniel W. Hillis and Bran Ferren. Apple has two months to appeal the decision.

While Samsung was hit with damages that totaled over one billion dollars as a result of the jury's decision in the patent fight with Apple in August, the judge in the case ordered a new trial in March for many, but not all, of the Samsung products involved in the case. The judge said that this was due to and "impermissible legal theory on which the jury based its award" and, as a result, the amount of damages Samsung will have to be could be cut down to as little as $600 million.

Source: PCWorld | Pinch to zoom image via Shutterstock

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27 Comments

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If gestures can be patented, then we all owe the holder of both the one finger salute as well as two (for those of you across the pond) a TON of money!

warwagon said,
Out of all the things to patent didn't, wasn't Apple the first to come up with Pinch to zoom?

No. Contrary to what Apple says, Pinch-to-zoom was not their invention (along with a whole bunch of other things, like multi-touch capable touchscreens).

warwagon said,
Out of all the things to patent didn't, wasn't Apple the first to come up with Pinch to zoom?

You can see exactly where Apple got the 'gestures' they used on the original iPhone. After this TEDTalk, Apple raced back to implement and patent the 'specific' gestures used, even the ones that were made up by the presenter just prior to the demonstration.

http://www.ted.com/talks/jeff_...eakthrough_touchscreen.html

As for Pinch to Zoom specifically, a similar function existed back in the 1980s on multi-touch input devices, see Bill Buxton and Myron Krueger.

http://images.dailytech.com/nimage/Early_Multi_Touch.png

It's worth noting... Jeff Han worked with Microsoft Research to develop the Surface-based devices (including Surface Wall and the Surface Table).

Edit: IIRC, he also did a stint with Apple to help them develop the multi-touch capabilities before being whisked (full time) to Microsoft.

Edited by Nas, Jul 29 2013, 10:53pm :

Thanks...

I should also have mentioned that Bill Buxton is the (head) Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research, just in case his name isn't common to readers.

Binary said,
Pay what? If it was denied, isn't the gesture just public domain now?

No. 'stating that the pinch-to-zoom method had already been filed as U.S. Patent No. 7,724,242, which was awarded to Daniel W. Hillis and Bran Ferren. Apple has two months to appeal the decision.'
They own it so they can charge apple to use it if they wanted to.

Don't the idiots at the patent office do a search to make certain that the patent being filed, is unique prior to granting the patent? That is our course, assuming Apple wasn't doing all of this under the assumption that it was patented when it was actually in a pending status.

They might have. Apple has some mighty big balls.

There's nobody at the USPTO that knows every single patent back-and-forth. Frankly, in the 70's, "pinch-to-zoom" and "smartphone" were not standard categories or even keywords for them to organized patents under.

It already takes years (decades?) to get a patent filed and granted, and even then it's not a guarantee for uniqueness since patents also have their own twists (e.g. applied to a single industry segment versus the world as a whole... otherwise referred as broadness).

Software patents are incredibly hard to archive in a reasonably searchable manner. Think about the massive range of what they can be.

Hardware patents are way easier to organize.