Taiwan firm hits Apple with multi-touch patent lawsuit

Claims MacBooks, iPhone and iPod Touch infringe two patents, seeks triple damages

A Taiwanese company that makes touchpads sued Apple Inc. in U.S. District Court Tuesday, charging that the California firm's multi-touch technology infringes two of its patents, according to court documents.

Elan Microelectronics Corp. of Hsinchu, Taiwan, alleged that Apple's laptops, iPhone and iPod Touch -- all of which offer multi-touch features -- infringe on patents it owns, and has asked the court to force Apple to pay triple damages and a "reasonable royalty."

Apple's multi-touch technology lets MacBook, iPhone and iPod Touch owners use multiple-finger gestures on the trackpad to operate some features. On the iPhone, for example, sliding two fingers together shrinks an image, while moving them apart enlarges it.

The MacBook Air, launched in January 2008, was the first Apple laptop to implement multi-touch. Since then, Apple has added the functionality to its MacBook and MacBook Pro lines as well.

"The '352 patent is a fundamental patent to the detection of multiple fingers on a touchpad or touch-sensitive input device to enable the detection and use of a multi-finger gestures in various applications," said Elan's lawsuit, referring to Patent 5,825,352, which was issued in 1998 to Logitech Inc. Elan claims it now owns the patent.

In fact, that patent was at the heart of a dispute between Elan and a U.S. rival, Synaptics Inc. in 2006. At the time, Elan won a preliminary court injunction against Synaptics; last year, that lawsuit, and Synaptics' countersuit, were both dismissed after the companies reached a cross-licensing agreement.

"Apple has been on notice of its infringement of the '352 patent since early 2007," said Elan's filing, "and has continued to utilize the '352 patent invention without authorization. In addition, the Apple iPhone and iPod Touch also permit users to switch the capacitive touchscreen between keyboard and handwriting modes, and thus falls under the scope of the '353 patent."

Patent 7,272,353, titled Capacitive TouchPad Integrated With Key and Handwriting Functions," was granted to Elan in September 2007.

Elan's lawsuit did not specify a dollar amount it seeks from Apple, but asked the court to triple the actual damages and require Apple to pay royalties.

Apple spokeswoman Susan Lundgren declined to comment on the lawsuit.

This isn't the first brouhaha over multi-touch involving Apple. In January, Tim Cook, Apple's chief operating officer, who is running the company in the absence of CEO Steve Jobs, made a veiled threat against other smartphone makers. When asked how Apple would ward off rivals, including the upcoming Palm Pre, which features multi-touch, Cook said: "We are watching the landscape. We like competition-- as long as they don't rip off our [intellectual property] and if they do, we're going to go after anybody that does."

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection

Tags Appletaiwancourt caseElan Microelectronicstouchpads

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Gregg Keizer

Computerworld
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Breitling Superocean Heritage Chronographe 44

Learn more >

SanDisk MicroSDXC™ for Nintendo® Switch™

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Panasonic 4K UHD Blu-Ray Player and Full HD Recorder with Netflix - UBT1GL-K

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Razer DeathAdder Expert Ergonomic Gaming Mouse

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

George Khoury

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The biggest perks for me would be that it comes with easy to use and comprehensive programs that make the collaboration process a whole lot more intuitive and organic

David Coyle

Brother PocketJet PJ-773 A4 Portable Thermal Printer

I rate the printer as a 5 out of 5 stars as it has been able to fit seamlessly into my busy and mobile lifestyle.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?