By Chantal Tode
June 29, 2012
New Apple patents cover touch screen functionality
In the ongoing patent wars between many of the major mobile players, Apple gained ground this week by scoring an injunction against Samsung in the United States and winning a handful of patents, including two that pertain to touch screen displays.
Apple won an injunction this week banning sales of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the U.S. after a court found the device to be substantially similar in design to the iPad. The company also won 27 U.S. patents, which could have a bigger impact long-term.
These patents represent Apples continued and long-standing efforts to protect its design elements related to the iPhone and iPad, said Jason Koslofsky, an attorney with ArentFox LLP, Washington.
Having a patent on these features of the devices will put Apple is a stronger position vis-a-vis other mobile companies, he said.
Touch screen functionality
Mr. Koslofsky was referring to two of the 27 patents relating to touch screen display functionality.
One of the patents relates to scrolling a list of items displayed on a touch screen display. The other addresses resizing user interface elements in response to user gestures.
Touch screen displays have become very popular with consumers for mobile devices. Users have also become accustomed to being able swipe their finger to scroll through items and to pinch and zoom to resize items.
The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1
The significance of these patents will be based on several factors, including if the functionality is widely used by other manufacturers and if they can be easily designed around.
Both of the patents that Ive seen relate to the touch screen display and features, said C. Graham Gerst, partner at Global IP Law Group LLC, Chicago. Touch screen displays are really important to the user experience.
The one concerning resizing of images appears to have extremely narrow claims with a lot of elements that would be easy to design around, he said.
With regard to the scrolling patent, Apple iPhones have the features described in the patent claims but the Android phones do not appear to have that particular feature so it does not appear that it would be immediately used in the patent wars.
Patent protection program
Regardless of if Apples newly gained patents have an immediate use in litigating, the company continues to aggressively protect intellectual property through legal channels.
In the Samsung case, Apple quickly posted a $2.6 million bond once the injunction was granted to get the ban in place as soon as possible. However, Samsung also reportedly moved quickly and requested a stay of the injunction pending an appeal.
The two companies are fighting similar legal battles in other countries.
Apple has been aggressive in using patents to protect its products and features, so its a good bet that Apple will continue to defend its intellectual property through patent litigation, ArentFoxs Mr. Koslofsky said. More patents may mean more litigation.
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York