Apple scores major iOS graphical user interface patent, potential weapon against Android

by: Chris SmithJuly 18, 2012

Filed in early 2007, U.S. Patent No. 8,223,134 was granted to Apple yesterday, among other patents awarded to the company by the United States Patent and Trademark Office. And from the looks of it, the company may have received a very important weapon that it could soon use in its “thermonuclear war” against Google’s Android.

The patent describes a “portable electronic device, method, and graphical user interface for displaying electronic lists and documents,” and we could see it included in a variety of patent-based legal clashes in which Apple is either suing or being sued by an Android device maker – and the company is fighting the most important ones, Samsung, HTC and Google-Motorola.

Why is this patent so important for iOS and Android? Well, basically USPTO acknowledged Apple’s innovation when it comes to smartphones being able to display documents and other elements on the screen and allow the user to interact with them.

The iPhone was not the first smartphone to feature a touchscreen-only display, but it was the smartphone that reinvented the mobile business. Everyone making smartphones today adopted that model, and while you will argue that your favorite platform is the best, the fact remains that essentially, they’re all pretty similar. No matter what smartphone you’d buy today you’d end up with a spacious touchscreen display and a friendly user interface ready to help you browse the web, check email, run apps or perform work-related stuff. And it’s a lot easier to work on such devices than on pre-iPhone smartphones. Very few of them also offer physical keyboards, but the keyboards are not as important as they were in the pre-iPhone era. Not to mention that the companies that failed to adapt to this new smartphone fashion either faded away or may soon disappear – the lists includes Palm, RIM and Nokia, although the last two still have what it takes to come back on top.

This newly obtained patent describes a variety of user interface elements and the way users would interact with them, or better said, the patent pretty much describes the current smartphone experience that we get to take advantage of no matter what mobile platform we may temporarily favor:

Some portable communication devices (e.g., mobile telephones, sometimes called mobile phones, cell phones, cellular telephones, and the like) have resorted to adding more pushbuttons, increasing the density of push buttons, overloading the functions of pushbuttons, or using complex menu systems to allow a user to access, store and manipulate data. These conventional user interfaces often result in complicated key sequences and menu hierarchies that must be memorized by the user. […]

The above deficiencies and other problems associated with user interfaces for portable devices are reduced or eliminated by the disclosed portable multifunction device. In some embodiments, the device has a touch-sensitive display (also known as a “touch screen”) with a graphical user interface (GUI), one or more processors, memory and one or more modules, programs or sets of instructions stored in the memory for performing multiple functions. In some embodiments, the user interacts with the GUI primarily through finger contacts and gestures on the touch-sensitive display. In some embodiments, the functions may include telephoning, video conferencing, e-mailing, instant messaging, blogging, digital photographing, digital videoing, web browsing, digital music playing, and/or digital video playing. Instructions for performing these functions may be included in a computer program product configured for execution by one or more processors.

What will Apple do next with this ‘134 patent? We’ll just have to wait and see in what lawsuits the new patent will be used.

  • fenrig

    Something is seriously wrong with our Tech industries nowadays, patents holding back simple and obvious developments just to keep some products at the top :-/. As a true believer in open source I just can’t justify this sort of things. If Apple wants to stay on top of the market by using patents let them be, but it really shows one thing: they don’t fully believe in their own product(s)

  • Ayman Kouzayha

    WTH! I took the patent system in university, only invention are patented, Apple patents obvious and ridiculous things like vertical list of items with icons! I guess Windows 95 should patent that!

    • Guest

      > WTH! I took the patent system in university, only invention are patented,

      You should have paid attention in class. Anyone can apply for any patent, for anything. Only the patent office can say yes/no. The patent office investigated this patent for YEARS… before saying “yes, it’s Apple’s patent”.

      > Apple patents obvious and ridiculous things like vertical list of items with
      > icons! I guess Windows 95 should patent that!

      Microsoft should have… but foolishly didn’t.
      You probably wouldn’t have either.
      I would *DEFINITELY* have applied for that patent.

      Today, I would be collecting $1 from every device, laptop, cell phone, tablet in the world. That’s $1 million a *DAY* just from Android devices allow.

      • Tehedra

        According to what I know about Patents; you can’t patent something that is obvious; or already in high usage. This Patent will most likely get invalidated but not after the damage has been done; the patent listed here was already in use in 2007 when they applied for the patent by RIM. Therefore it was obvious; other companies didn’t apply for the Patent because it is one of those that shouldn’t be granted in the first place. The difference is Apple is able to put alot of pressure on any company; including patent offices ect to get their way. I would expect 6-7 years down the road we will find out this is invalidated.

      • Ayman Kouzayha

        you just won…….. in the stupidity contest

  • SickOfApple

    Well that’s just #$%@! great. How can something as broad as this be allowed?

    • Guest

      > How can something as broad as this be allowed?

      Because Apple is very smart and they apply for their patents.
      Other companies don’t.,,, they illegal use the idea anyway… and get sued.
      How is that Apple’s fault?

      The current patent laws *DO* allow those types of patents…. and things even far broader than that.

      You REALLY don’t think the people at the patent office know anything about software and hardware, do you? They are living in 1970, working with laws from 1950.

      • SickOfApple

        Certainly, it’s not Apple’s fault that this patent was allowed, however, it IS Apple’s fault that they are going to use it to stifle their competition and potentially curb real innovation in the industry. You REALLY don’t think that’s good for everyone and the mobile environment as whole, do you?

    • Immortal78

      Well that’s just #$%@! great. How can something as broad as this be COPIED??

      • Justin McNair

        2 Words: Recycle Bin

  • Guest

    > Something is seriously wrong with our Tech industries nowadays

    “Tech industries” do not issue patents.
    Never have. Never will.

    “Tech industries” *ASK* for something to be patented.
    Only the patent office *ISSUES* the patent…. fully following the laws in place.

    The *PATENT* procedures and laws need to change.
    Probably will. Someday. Maybe in 10+ years.

  • Mark_CZ

    You have got to be F&^king kidding me! This is an absolute joke. Since Samsung are into screen production, maybe they should patent (all) mobile screens. Now is the time for Samsung to cut Apple as one of their customers – and time it so they cant release the iPhone 5 this year! I use to really hate M$, but Apple are starting to make them look like saints!!!

    • Immortal78

      Actually if Samsung cut Apple from their costumers list, Samsung would end up on the losing end $$$. Apple could always hire (Sharp, LG….etc) Retard!

  • Ncds

    Things like a graphical user interface are not as obvious as it would seem. It takes research and testing develop a GUI that seems so ‘simple and obvious.’
    Folders, windows, desktops didn’t just materialize out of thin air. Somebody designed them. Same thing for many of the now intuitive functions on your cell phone. It was awfully generous of Google to repackage other people’s work and make it ‘open source’, but that’s also called stealing.

  • TommyNYC

    Now stop and imagine if IBM patented the PC back in the day.. where would we all be now ?
    F*ck Apple. and more important: f*ck the retarded patent system. HTF do you patent a UI ? why are you even allowed to ?

    • not exatly, a patent has a time limitation, i don’t know hot it works, but so far i know it’s 15 years, once it’s completed you can’t re-patent the same thing

  • This is bullshit. Fuck you apple! Someone should patent the apple (fruit) and sue their ass.

    • They already did…only Apple can use the Apple logo.

      • I meant the physical fruit that you actually eat.. Not the logo

        • You can’t patent nature…because I’m sure if you could, Apple would have already done it. ;)

          • Albadam

            Actually, Monstanto might disagree with that statement.

          • ll

            sure you can, if they patented the breast cancer gene, im sure u can get away with patenting a fruit.

        • Immortal78

          So whom ever invented a window should sue MS Windows? Dumb F…k

    • Immortal78

      You’re stupid! thats why you conform with knock off products like Android!

      • go buy some more overpriced shit from crapple why don’t you

  • Mark

    Other sites are reporting that this is a patent on fading scroll bars. From my non lawyer reading of the patent, it looks to be right. So android can get around it by not fading their scroll bar and lose some screen real estate.

  • Pablo

    Apple you’re PATHETIC! Where the fuck would we be if like TommyNYC said if IBM patented the PC… where would Apple be? Where would Apple be if MS patented their Windows… Apple would be sucking everyone’s dick… now it’s just pathetic learn to innovate instead of patenting bs like this

    • Immortal78

      How about telling that to Google whom without Apple’s iPhone iOS, you wouldnt have your fragmented Android. (Innovate..right?)

      • JustSaying

        Troll much? Comments like this makes no sense. Are you conceding and then throwing dirt out of frustration. Might as well add a “yo mama” insult in there. The difference is that Google is not maliciously and rabidly attacking their competition while acting superior and looking down on all others.

  • droidtomtom

    Really Apple is doing what they are allowed to do legally. But this seems to be a very obvious patent. I fail to see how it is any different than what my Palm T3 or the Palm Lifedrive did. I also fail to see how having a phone built in makes this so unique. But I guess the patent system is just a big land grab.

  • Immortal78

    I Really do hope because of these new patents Android begs Apple for mercy! (Go get them Steve) I hate Android, and their Whining fans!!! (spit)

    • Mithrandir

      You need help… why don’t you follow some therapy to get out of the iFlock, it’ll do you good.

      What innovations has Apple done for smartphones since release the iPhone?

      They had a great idea and made a very user friendly interface with the first iPhone, then everyone followed suit and made their own (Android, Windows Phone 7, Meego, etc…)

      Since then, everyone innovated with new functionalities (better user interface with widgets, customization, etc..) except Apple who stayed with its list of shortcuts as Homescreen, same screen size, same iTunes and interface lockdown, etc..
      Of course, Apple made some incredible innovations themselves, like FaceTime! I already had video calling functionality on my Windows Mobile phone from 2 years before the iPhone even got released, but that doesn’t count since the iPhone improved on that functionality by restricting it to Wi-Fi instead of both Wi-Fi and 3G, and also by being only able to call other iDevices instead of any single smartphone with a front camera.
      Now that’s some innovation ! Let’s patent it!
      They even revolutionized the smartphone industry by adding a GPS (without navigation for a long time but that’s ok). My Windows Mobile smartphone also had GPS and navigation, but that doesn’t count since most people didn’t know it anyway.
      Also, it has Google Maps !! (don’t pay attention to the word Google in there, it’s an innovation according to some websites – for example).

      Let’s not even start counting the number of apps with Google in the name.
      But I guess you could just remove all those apps and do an “Apple Search” instead when using Siri.

      Anyway, now that they’re playing catchup and starting to lose market share, they decided to go to patent wars with their competitors instead of trying to improve their device.

      Good thing they still got some loyal fanatics like you with blinkers who don’t really like to use their brains.
      Don’t worry though, with your iPhone 10 in a few years, I’m sure you’ll be able to look at that list of icons in 4096p on that 3.5 inch screen; that way, even when you use your phone with a microscope, you won’t even see the pixels, isn’t that nice?

      Now I’m sure you’ll come with a nice comeback like “You stupid ! Apple rocks, fragmented Android sucks!”, so I’ll let you have fun with it.

      • You’re an animal! I love it.

    • Neo

      CrApples “Innovations” and I use the word innovation with the loosest sense of the work, because since iPhone came out, CrApple haven’t really changed anything apart from OS updates, I mean, the screen is stull 3.5 inch for god sake, come on, get with the program. CrApple has now realised that consumers have a choice and a lot of them are choosing Android, they are not forced to, they CHOOSE to, but CrApple dosn’t want that, it wants to take away consumer choice and rule the tech world forcing consumers to only use its CrApple products. Well let me tell you, consumers will not thank CrApple for taking choices away from them and forcing them down one path.

    • ExcludedYeti

      Every time you post your appear to be that much more alike to a menstruating teenage girl. iReatards unite

    • Guido

      Apple is no longer a technology company. Every successive version of the iPhone has had less and less new/innovative features. Now they are nothing more than a huge law firm squatting on a large patent inventory. Without Jobs the company is nothing.

      This patent garbage is nonsense. Firestone should patent the round tire and sue to force Goodyear, Pirelli, etc to make square ones. Apple can’t innovate so they litigate. The only thing keeping them afloat now is the iSheep fanboys who keep buying their overpriced garbage from 2/3 years ago with a new “upgraded” screen, or some other ho-hum “improvement.” It’s the 80’s all over again (PC vs Mac). Apple didn’t learn from that impotent business model. They should have licensed their iOS and allowed other manufacturers to make “iPhone Compatible” devices and they would be untouchable right now.

  • Peter

    Hmm, let’s consider two numbers, 60% and 25%. That’s the market share of Smartphones running Android, and those running IOS, respectively. I rounded off the numbers. Actually, Android is over 60%, and IOS is under 25%. So, there!

  • Brian

    I’d genuinely like to see someone file a lawsuit against Apple on grounds that their devices are restricted to use with other Apple devices only, and linked from top to bottom to iTunes. If Microsoft can be sued for integrating a web browser, Apple can be sued for this…

  • lawsofeffect

    re – Apple Troll on an Android Site – why that’s just down right provocative – the difference being that Apple would most likely shut down a Android fan boy on a Apple forum

  • lawsofeffect

    PS wonder if Apple knows your using their logo