For Now, Apple Has Exclusive Rights to Pinch-to-Zoom

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This is the top story at the Washington Post right now:

If the swipe is the essential gesture of the smartphone revolution, the pinch is a close second….Friday’s $1 billion court ruling for Apple, which upheld patents for what manufacturers call “pinch to zoom,” among other popular features, has clouded the future of the gesture for anyone inclined to buy mobile devices from other companies. Apple made clear its determination to press its advantage Monday, announcing plans to seek preliminary injunctions on eight phones made by Samsung, the loser in the case.

The ruling has sparked searches for possible alternatives to the pinch — some have suggested finger taps, circles, wiggles — while also highlighting questions about whether a company should be able to patent how humans interact with their machines once those interactions become standardized.

Last night I was asking whether pinch-to-zoom was really part of the verdict in the Apple vs. Samsung patent case, and apparently it was. Everyone seems to think so, anyway, and it turns out that there was testimony in the trial about this (something I was unclear on). In fact, Samsung argued that Mitsubishi had demonstrated prior art in its DiamondTouch display table. Juror Manuel Ilagan confirms that it was discussed during deliberations:

We were debating heavily, especially about the patents on bounce-back and pinch-to-zoom. Apple said they owned patents, but we were debating about the prior art….[Velvin] Hogan was jury foreman. He had experience. He owned patents himself…so he took us through his experience. After that it was easier.

I still don’t really understand exactly where this shows up in the patent claims, but I guess that’s because I’m not a patent attorney. In any case, it looks like pinch-to-zoom was indeed part of the case, and Apple was the victor, more’s the pity.

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