Apple granted new multitouch, censorship patents

Apple has been awarded a number of patents relating to mobile technology, including three based around multitouch functionality and one relating to the censorship of text messages
Written by Ben Woods, Contributor on

The US Patent and Trademark Office awarded Apple a slew of 18 patents on Tuesday, covering functionality ranging from multitouch to the censorship of text messages that contain objectionable content.

The patents also cover the automatic wireless pairing of accessories with devices (patent number 7,813,715), in the manner of modern Bluetooth headsets; a way of synchronising three devices (7,814,231); and the methodology behind a computer-based shared calendar (7,814,055).

One patent (7,812,826) describes a user performing multiple multitouch actions, such as pinch-to-zoom or rotation, for complex image adjustments. This patent also describes other multitouch and pressure-related "parameter adjustments", such as volume control on a media-player application.

"In media-player applications, when a user makes a particular type of contact (e.g., three- or four-finger contact), a graphical object appears on the display surface at or near the point of contact," the patent reads. "The user can then adjust a parameter (e.g., volume, radio tuner, equalization) of a song or other audio source by making a twisting motion."

The patent was first applied for in December 2006, before the launch of the first iPhone, and credits Bas Ording, Scott Forstall, Greg Christie, Stephen Lemay and Imran Chaudhri as the inventors. It also covers the manipulation of options by increasing or decreasing the amount of pressure applied at the contact location. "In media-player applications, when a user makes contact with the display surface, a graphical object of a radio interface can be displayed," the patent reads.

"The radio interface may include a seek button for changing radio stations. The user can then change radio stations by pressing the seek button. The seek speed can be adjusted based on the amount of pressure applied by the user on the seek button or a time duration of contact with the seek button," it continues.

Apple has also been granted two other multitouch-related patents. One (7,812,828), filed in February 2007, covers "simultaneously tracking of multiple finger and palm contacts as hands approach, touch and slide across a proximity-sensing, multitouch surface". The third (7,812,827), also filed in 2007, covers the actual technology behind multitouch-capable screens.

The censorship patent (7,814,163) describes a system where an incoming message may be automatically blocked for containing "forbidden content". It also describes how the objectionable parts may be automatically removed from the message as part of the receiving process, and suggests that it could be used as part of a parental-control application.

"These techniques also may be used, in accordance with instructional embodiments, to require the administered devices to include certain text in messages," the patent adds. "These embodiments might, for example, require that a certain number of Spanish words per day be included in e-mails for a child learning Spanish."

In January 2009, Apple was awarded another multitouch patent (7,479,949) that covers the detection of one or more finger touches on a screen and the use of heuristics to translate those touches into screen scrolling and movement. That patent was part of Apple's March 2010 lawsuits against HTC claiming 20 patent violations.

However, Apple is also being sued by Taiwanese chipmaker Elan Microelectronics, which complained to the US International Trade Commission in March this year that the iPod Touch, iPhone, iPad, MacBook and Magic Mouse infringed on a patent owned by the firm covering "touch-sensitive input devices with the ability to detect the simultaneous presence of two or more fingers".

A number of other manufacturers are also involved in legal battles relating to technology in Apple products, including, Nokia, Kodak and, most recently, Motorola.

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