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Apple's touch-screen patent

Feb 12, 2009, 16:31 (3 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Jonathan Corbet)

"If Apple were to prevail with claims based on this patent, the effects could be severe - at least, in the United States. Devices made by companies other than Apple could lose a number of important techniques which make touchscreen-based interfaces usable. Companies like Palm could conceivably license the patent from Apple (if Apple were willing), but that is almost certainly not an option for toolkits (like Android) which are based on free software. Linux World Domination for mobile devices could well suffer a major setback.

"Arguably, this patent would have no effect on business conducted outside of the US. Fully-capable devices could be sold elsewhere, as long as they are developed entirely outside of the United States. American users could be stuck with iPhones or devices with inferior interfaces - with the lucky few carrying devices furtively imported from elsewhere. In practice, excluding the US would make it harder for any such product to succeed. And US-based platforms, including Android and Palm webOS, would be out of luck.

"It may not come to that, though. Perhaps Apple does not intend to use its patents as an offensive weapon. After all, the company has done well enough by focusing on building great products, and the look-and-feel lawsuits of the 1980's did little to help Apple succeed. A new round of litigation would risk alienating developers worldwide and distracting Apple from the activities which truly benefit the company."

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