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Report: Apple Awarded Limited Patent On Pinch-To-Zoom

Report: Apple Awarded Limited Patent On Pinch-To-Zoom

October 14, 2010
One of the great things about using an iPhone/iPod touch or iPad is the ability to "pinch-to-zoom" the screen. Now, Apple has been awarded a limited patent for just that functionality. The patent, which was first applied for on December 29, 2006 covers a very specific set of actions, according to the folks at Engadget. These include:
  1. 1. A multitouch display detects at least two contacts.
  2. 2. Those contacts perform a first gesture.
  3. 3. That gesture adjusts an image in some way: magnification, orientation and rotation are specifically claimed, but the patent is broad enough to cover virtually any adjustment.
  4. 4. The first set of contacts is broken.
  5. 5. A second set of contacts is detected.
  6. 6. The second contacts perform another gesture within a pre-determined period of time.
  7. 7. The gesture continues to adjust the image in the same way.
According to Engadget:
It's steps 5, 6, and 7 that are critically important here: Apple doesn't have a patent on "pinch-to-zoom" generally, but rather pinching to zoom, and then pinching to zoom again within some fixed period of time. How long that period lasts is totally up in the air, but it has to be defined somewhere -- this patent doesn't really apply unless there's a clock running and a second gesture takes place.
If the patent sounds confusing, it is, especially the part requiring a period of time between gestures. After all, who is going to determine that time? However, the most important point here is that Apple was awarded a pinch-to-zoom patent at all. Since they now have it, it will be interesting to see how they use it. Also, what will Apple's competitors do? Time will tell.

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