Apple's multitouch patent sparks debate in the smartphone market

Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) was awarded a long-sought-for patent for multitouch gestures, immediately sparking a debate over how important the patent is to the smartphone market.

The patent, which Apple first filed for in 2007, applies to a very specific kind of multitouch gesture common in smartphones. The patent, No. 7,966,578, covers a specific set of gestures used to navigate around Web pages and other tasks on a mobile touchscreen devices, including smartphones and tablets. According to an abstract of the patent, it governs how content is manipulated on the screen, specifically for a "frame" within a page of content, such as embedded Google Maps content on a Web page.

Initial commentary on the patent indicated that the patent would give Apple far-reaching leverage over smartphone competitors. However, others cautioned that at this stage it's difficult to say how the patent might be used in any litigation against Apple competitors. "There are many steps that need to be taken in an analysis of a patent claim before it can be said that it is infringed, or likely will be infringed," patent attorney Jason Harrier told PC Magazine. "The claims of this patent are no different."

However given the escalation in patent litigation between smartphone competitors over the past few years, the new patent could give Apple an edge in litigation or force competitors to engineer a workaround to the patent.

An Apple spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment on how the company might use the patent.

Apple recently settled all outstanding patent litigation with Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and will pay Nokia a one-time payment as well as ongoing royalties for the length of the deal."While we can't comment on the details of the license agreement, we are confident that this agreement gives us all rights we need under Apple's patent portfolio," Nokia spokeswoman Laurie Armstrong said.

Representatives from HTC and Samsung declined to comment, and representatives from LG, Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI), Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM) and Sony Ericsson did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

For more:
- see this Cnet article
- see this separate Cnet article
- see this PC Magazine article
- see this separate PC Magazine article
- see this ThisIsMyNext post

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