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Tuesday, January 27, 2009
Apple Could Charge iPhone Competitors Over Touch-screen Controls

Apple has gained a significant legal weapon against iPhone competitors after the US patent Office awarded Apple with a patent related to the use of touch-screen controls on mobile phones.

US Patent 7,479,949 is awarded to "(Steve) Jobs et al" for a method of "detecting one or more finger contacts with the touch screen display" to command computing devices.

The patent details iPhone or iPod Touch commands such as finger or thumb swiping, twisting, or spreading to flip pages, rotate views, or enlarge images.

"A computer-implemented method for use in conjunction with a computing device with a touch screen display comprises: detecting one or more finger contacts with the touch screen display, applying one or more heuristics to the one or more finger contacts to determine a command for the device, and processing the command. The one or more heuristics comprise: a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a one-dimensional vertical screen scrolling command, a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a two-dimensional screen translation command, and a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a command to transition from displaying a respective item in a set of items to displaying a next item in the set of items," reads a summary of the patent.

The majority of mobile phone makers have been using touch-screen technology in their latest mobile phones, in an effort to compete with Apple's highly successful iPhone. Although Apple has not yet taken advantage of the new patent, it could be used as a strong legal weapon against its competitors.

Apple chief operating officer Tim Cook made some comments at the company's quarterly earnings call, the Associated Press reported.

Cook believes iPhones are "years ahead of the competition" and that they are vigilantly watching to make certain rivals don't usurp Apple's intellectual property. "We think competition is good," Cook said. "We are ready to suit up and go against anyone. However, we will not stand for having our IP ripped off and will use whatever weapons at our disposal."

While not mentioning a specific competitor, Cook made his comment in reply to a question related to a new Palm Pre touch-screen mobile telephone unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show this month.

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