Who owns multi-touch?

windows-7-surface-pc-monitor-touch-screen-demo_thumbnail The answer might surprise you.

Apple claimed it has 100’s of patents which prevents others from copying its multi-touch interface.  It turns out Microsoft owns key multi-touch patents which were approved well before Apple’s.

According to Erik Sherman from BNET Technology  Microsoft Corporation owns a May 12, 2006 patent which reads as follows:

 Multi-touch uses, gestures, and implementation

A tablet PC having an interactive display, which is touchscreen enabled, may be enhanced to provide a user with superior usability and efficiency. A touchscreen device may be configured to receive multiple concurrent touchscreen contacts. The attributes of the multiple concurrent touchscreen contracts may be mapped to operations performed on the computing device. As a result, a user can trigger the execution of the toggle accessibility aid operation and the screen rotation operation with greater convenience. Moreover, the tablet PC may be configured to map an operation to a hand gesture or input.

While this does not negate Apple’s patents, it does weaken their ability to attack companies like Palm and also Microsoft itself from implementing multi-touch interfaces on mobile phones.

if Apple does take the case to court there is a very real chance they may lose, and with it lose their whole multi-touch patent bastion. To prevent is and maintain the peace Apple might find it better to cross-licensing with Microsoft — which means with virtually all PC manufacturers going forward, and possibly with all makers of Windows Mobile-based handsets.

Read the BNET Technology article here for more detail.

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