A sharp reader on jkOnTheRun points us to a World of Apple article discussing the awarding of the multi-touch patent to Apple just a few days ago. This is the patent they filed last year that covers how they have implemented multi-touch on the iPhone and the new MacBooks using the trackpad. The big question with this patent award is if this ends the multi-touch game for everyone else, including the upcoming Palm Pre smartphone. Several netbooks also implement multi-touch using the touchpad and that seems to be in violation of this patent. Apple could license this technology but it’s been their practice to keep it for themselves in the past and this could get pretty ugly very fast.
The patent assignment covers all of the gestures used in the iPhone including window scrolling, both horizontal and vertical, and two thumb rotation. It specifically addresses using multi-touch to augment the web browsing experience and goes even further to patent the very process of recognizing multiple touches on the screen. We are not experts in legal patent issues but the processes are discussed very clearly and it looks like they’ve got multi-touch totally locked up.
Palm is set to release their multi-touch enabled phone, the Pre, shortly and Apple has already made it clear they will protect their IP in regards to multi-touch. The timing of this patent award by the US government couldn’t come at a worse time for Palm, that’s for sure. We expect to see Apple do more than rattle their sabers at companies like Palm to protect this patent. It’s a great time to be an Apple shareholder but not so much so for everyone else.