Apple’s MultiTouch Patent

by on January 27, 2009 · 5 comments

Sid Rosenzweig, who recently joined PFF to study patent issues, has a very thoughtful piece about Apple’s new patent on the multi-touch interface on the iPhone, which ends as follows:

It is striking how protection for user interfaces has changed over the years.  It is not clear that patent protection for user interfaces is a step in the right direction, even for iconic breakthroughs in interfaces such as for the iPhone and iPod Touch.  The 300 diagrams in this Apple patent call to mind the 189 graphical user-interface elements of the Apple v. Microsoft copyright infringement case from the early 1990s.  The Apple v. Microsoft case prevented Apple from obtaining the protection on the overall look-and-feel of its software, and instead treated as discrete each element of the user interface.  This patent, and others like it, purport to cover the combination of several elements — here the web scrolling with the photo-album browsing — and not the discrete elements themselves.  With the Apple v. Microsoft case largely having thrown copyright out the window, and with trade dress protection excluding functional elements, patents are really the only option for companies like Apple, until and unless another solution is found.

Previous post:

Next post: