The multi-touch patent game: Who was first?

 

While Apple and Palm have tussled over who “owns” multi-touch, Microsoft has kept surprisingly silent.

According to a blog posting on ZDNet sister site BNET last week, however, Microsoft may have been first to seek a multi-touch patent application.

BNET Technology Industry Analyst Erick Sherman reported that Microsoft has a multi-touch patent application that predates any of Apple’s filings. Sherman’s conclusion: Apple (which was granted a broad patent on multi-touch) could find itself cross-licensing with Microsoft as to avoid losing its patent.

(Sherman doesn’t mention the fact that the Microsoft patent application in question, No. 20070262964 for “Multi touch uses, gestures and implementation,” has yet to be granted (or dismissed.) Microsoft applied for that patent on May 12, 2006.

Microsoft execs have demonstrated multi-touch capabilities that are being built into Windows 7, and have discussed plans to make multi-touch support part of Windows Mobile 6.5 and 7.0.

I asked Microsoft officials whether they believed Sherman’s findings were correct. A spokesperson sent the following answer: “Microsoft doesn’t have a comment to provide.”

In other patent-related news, Moixa has been awarded a patent on its “apple-sized” multi-touch sphere, according to the company. Microsoft has shown off a similar-sounding spherical Surface computer. Microsoft’s Sphere is based on technology from Global Imagination.

I asked Moixa officials whether Moxia was providing/licensing any sphere-like technologies to Microsoft. A spokesperson sent the following statement in reply:

“Not at the time, no. Ours is much more advanced and hand sized, but would apply to those interested in multi-touch on curved surfaces, as well as advanced 3D/control devices.”

 

by Mary Jo Foley

 

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