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Patents Technology

Touchpad Patent Holder Tsera Sues Just About Everyone 168

Posted by timothy
from the how-about-a-first-known-infringement-filing-deadline-link dept.
eldavojohn writes "Okay, well, maybe not everyone but more than twenty companies (including Apple, Qualcomm, Motorola and Microsoft) are being sued for a generic patent that reads: 'Apparatus and methods for controlling a portable electronic device, such as an MP3 player; portable radio, voice recorder, or portable CD player are disclosed. A touchpad is mounted on the housing of the device, and a user enters commands by tracing patterns with his finger on a surface of the touchpad. No immediate visual feedback is provided as a command pattern is traced, and the user does not need to view the device to enter commands.' Sounds like their may be a few companies using that technology. The suit was filed on July 15th in the favoritest place ever to file patent claim lawsuits: Texas Eastern District Court. It's a pretty classic patent troll; they've been holding this patent since 2003 and they just noticed now that everyone and his dog are using touchpads to control portable electronic devices."
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Touchpad Patent Holder Tsera Sues Just About Everyone

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  • to Reach out and touchpad someone.
  • Visual Feedback (Score:5, Interesting)

    by daenris (892027) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:21PM (#28788025)
    I haven't used an iPhone or iPod Touch for more than a few seconds, but are there touch commands that don't provide feedback? I mean, if you're scrolling, or zooming an image or whatnot immediate visual feedback is provided and ongoing while you're performing the command, which would seem to contradict the patents claim: "No immediate visual feedback is provided as a command pattern is traced"
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      This patent is for touchpads not touch screens

    • The IPhone 3GS does gesture stuff without visual feedback (you can turn the screen off) - see http://www.apple.com/accessibility/iphone/vision.html [apple.com] for more details
  • by tvlinux (867035) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:23PM (#28788051)
    I was programming a "touch screen" in the year 2000. I still have the device, it was made to demonstrate the NSC Geode chip. The name of it was "WebPad" I can find out the manufacturer when I get home.
    • The patent was applied for in 1999, but I notice they mention touchpads and a a touchscreen. So, they are trying to pull them both in with this patent.

      Too bad the following patents predate this patent by a few years to which they seem to be claiming to have invented.

      US3662105: Electrical Sensor Of Plane Coordinates, Issued May 9, 1972

      US3798370: Electrographic Sensor For Determining Planar Coordinates, Issued March 19, 1974

      Two prior patents which I notice they neglected to mention, and only inc
  • PDA (Score:3, Interesting)

    by HoosierPeschke (887362) <hoosierpeschke@comcast.net> on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:24PM (#28788079) Homepage
    Um, I know in 2003 I had a palm pilot which had a touchscreen in which I entered commands, possible with my finger if I lost my stylus. I'm sure PDAs have been around for a few years prior to 2003 if I had one in 2003. I could record voice, play music, and perform other functions covered by the broad definition of a portable electronic device (remote control was awesome for messing with people).
    • Re:PDA (Score:4, Informative)

      by EkriirkE (1075937) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:34PM (#28788265) Homepage
      In the patent itself they use the Palm Pilot as an example of the technology difference. The PDA is a touch screen device with visual cues guiding your touch. The patent is for blind operation via a touch surface, distinguishing commands my motions or patterns. The patent exempts computers and distinctly applies itself to portable media/entertainment devices.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by znu (31198)

        The Graffiti entry area on early Palms provided no visual feedback, and could be used to enter commands as well as characters.

      • Re:PDA (Score:4, Informative)

        by hey! (33014) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @05:39PM (#28789037) Homepage Journal

        The patent exempts computers and distinctly applies itself to portable media/entertainment devices.

        I *hate* that kind of patent. It pretty much says that this is something that's already being done in closely related devices, and they're staking their claim at the land office before it inevitably is applied to this class of device. There were about a gazillion GPS and mobile computer patents like this in the late 90s eary 00s.

    • by argent (18001)

      Mine even had swipe options to allow me to control applications with my finger. Heck, the "show graffiti" swipe from the bottom to the top of the screen dates back to the first Palm.

    • First, the patent was filed in 1999, so 2003 doesn't really matter.

      Second, the patent doesn't cover touchscreens, it covers using gestures on touchscreens. That is, the panning of the iPhone, or using the finger swiping gesture to change pages.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jdgeorge (18767)

      Interestingly, Palm is NOT on the list of companies being sued. Either they licensed the patent in question (who knows?), are not viewed as possible infringers (conceivable... perhaps the others all sell MP3 players of some sort and the smartphone/PDA isn't viewed as covered by the patent) or are too small to bother with in this litagation (unlikely).

      Here's the complete list of alleged infringers from the suit [justia.com]:
      Apple Inc.,
      Auditek Corp.,
      Bang & Olufsen Ameerica, Inc.,
      Bang & Olufsen A/S,
      Coby Electronics

  • by Janthkin (32289) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:31PM (#28788209)
    Why do these articles always quote from the abstract or summary? Here's Claim 1, with some bonus white space to make it readable:

    1. A portable electronic device comprising: a housing; and a touch-sensitive surface mounted on the housing, the portable electronic device controlled by a user tracing a command pattern on the touch-sensitive surface with a finger, the command pattern matching one of a plurality of preset patterns, each of the plurality of the present patterns corresponding to a predefined function of the portable electronic device, the command pattern being traced without requiring the user to view the portable electronic device, wherein at least one of the plurality of patterns corresponds to a predefined function that is performed only for so long as contact is maintained with the touch-sensitive surface, wherein the command pattern is composed of one of more motions of the finger on the touch-sensitive surface, the one or more motions selected from a group of motions consisting of a left-to-right motion, a right-to-left motion, an upward motion, a downward motion, a clockwise circular motion, a counterclockwise circular motion, a diagonal motion, a tapping motion, and holding the pointing device against the touch-sensitive surface.

    • by Locke2005 (849178)
      Sounds like the patent is on gestures, not on touchpads. Surely there must be prior art for gestures? Apple just recently started pushing gestures as a competitive advantage for the iPhone/iTouch, so this might be a legit case.
      • by Locke2005 (849178)
        Now that I think about it, the Palm Pilot used gestures for some of the characters (e.g. a fish for K) in about 1990, so there is prior art. Using a finger instead of a stylus seems pretty obvious to anyone that has ever misplaced their stylus. Now, if they had a patent on multi-touch, then they might have a lawsuit against Apple, but few other vendors are currently supporting it.
      • by russotto (537200)
        Yeah, it looks like it covers gestures. Probably anticipated by the prior art, including Graffiti and Unistrokes. At least it's not as obviously bogus as the abstract makes it appear.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by lcreech (1491)

      Prior Art: Apple's Newton did all that in the mid to early 90's. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton_(platform) [wikipedia.org]

  • Jumping the gun? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by EkriirkE (1075937) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:32PM (#28788223) Homepage
    I don't see home some of the media players fit into this patent for "blind operation via touchpad"
    For example, the iPod - The click wheel visually navigates on-screen. The controls are physical buttons underneath the touchpad. Maybe for the fastforward/rewind motions, but its hard to get there blindly if I recall. You still need visual feedback to use it.
    • I can text with out pulling my phone outta my pocket, so if someone could find a song without having to look at a screen it could easily apply.
  • by jDeepbeep (913892) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:37PM (#28788289)

    and a user enters commands by tracing patterns with his finger on a surface of the touchpad. No immediate visual feedback is provided as a command pattern is traced, and the user does not need to view the device to enter commands.

    Is it just me, or does 'tapping' not constitute 'tracing patterns with his/her finger'?
    Gestures? Visual feedback is immediate (zooming, scrolling, rotations, etc)

  • Not going anywhere (Score:3, Informative)

    by stonecypher (118140) <stonecypher@gmail.STRAWcom minus berry> on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @04:37PM (#28788299) Homepage Journal

    My Palm 1000 from 1996 invalidates the claims in this patent through prior art. I seem to remember the Apple Newton being touchscreen too, but I didn't have one, so I'm not sure.

    This isn't going anywhere.

    • by forkazoo (138186) <wrosecrans&gmail,com> on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @05:20PM (#28788811) Homepage

      My Palm 1000 from 1996 invalidates the claims in this patent through prior art. I seem to remember the Apple Newton being touchscreen too, but I didn't have one, so I'm not sure.

      This isn't going anywhere.

      Newton certainly had a touch screen. It also had gesture recognition with things like "scribble" to delete a graphical object onscreen. And, it isn't like Newton invented the touchscreen, either. (Though, it wouldn't surprise me if Apple was out in front at that point with some of the "gesture" stuff, while previous examples used menus and such for everything.)

      And, from an end user standpoint, is there that much difference between a touch screen used with a stylus vs. a classic light pen?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by cellurl (906920) *
      Thomas Edison spent his last 30 years in court. Patents suck. BTW, I have 6 of them...
      -----------------
      Add a speed limit human. [wikispeedia.org]
  • can't see this one doing any more than costing money. Trackpads have been in computers for a decade and several systems have gestures built in long before 2003. I doubt that suggesting a finger vs a pen/stylus would make this unique enough to make it patentable.

    • Actually trackpads even have been used in the eighties in computers. Nothing new here and even gesture based input systems have been in the labs at least in the 80s!

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by MemoryDragon (544441)

        Add to that that the patent probably also applies to input devices like stylus based drawing pads which have been used since well, even the atari 800xl had one of those beasts.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @05:17PM (#28788781)

    Tsera's lawyers are just a wee bit *touchy* on this topic...

  • Sounds familair... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by plazman30 (531348) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @05:37PM (#28789015) Homepage

    Doesn't Palm's Graffiti or even the Newton constitute prior art for this thing??

    Remember the good old days, when you had to actually build a working model of something to patent it. You couldn't just have an idea...

  • Jail them (Score:2, Insightful)

    by gmuslera (3436)
    Patent Trolls, legislators that approved that laws, judges that rule that they are right, etc, and their families, in an alternate world where all of them are right, and always been. After living 5 minutes there, where they cant even light a match or have basically any machine, they will enter into reason (or not, and leaving of all them locked there wont hurt exactly).
  • by omb (759389)
    Not only Health Care,

    In the US the Court System needs reforms so games like these can not be played!
  • Dammit. I always miss out on the fun.

    :(
  • Tsera isn't suing just about everyone. Jonathan Lee Riches [wikipedia.org] is suing just about everyone.

  • The iPod got its touch wheel in 2002. Prior art. End of discussion.

  • Sounds like their may be a few companies using that technology.

    I think the summary meant to say "Sounds like there may be a few companies using that idea

    The poor choice in wording of the summary reflects the problem with the patent system today. While it makes sense to make technology patentable, since it takes time and research money to develop technology, and a patent system should server to encourage research and development. What we have now is the patenting of ideas, which just slows progress, a

  • Tsera also holds the patent for male bovines digesting grass into fecal waste matter.
  • As I recall, touchpads date back to the 1980's in actual usage on Apollo computers. How exactly is this patent in any way novel?

It's a naive, domestic operating system without any breeding, but I think you'll be amused by its presumption.

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