updated 09:20 am EDT, Wed March 24, 2010
Company gets broad handheld motion patent
A particularly broad patent for motion control could pose trouble for Apple's iPhone and most any modern smartphone. An almost entirely unknown company known as Durham Holdings LLC has been granted the rights to a "method and apparatus for controlling a computer system" that would use motion sensors to steer the interface on a handheld, such as a PDA or smartphone. Among the techniques would be picking icons by tilting left or right, or moving the device up and down to scroll.
The description could theoretically cover not just the iPhone but also some Android-based and Nokia smartphones. Many have accelerometers that at least rotate the view when the user tilts the phone but also use much finer-grained motion for interfaces, such as the relative angle and movement to control a game. Apple has motion patents of its own but didn't file them until October 2007, more than a year before the July 2006 filing for the Durham Holdings patent.
Little is known about Durham Holdings, as it has no real public presence, including either online or in government records. An original patent holder, Ygomi, also said it knows nothing about the company that obtained rights to the patent. Such deliberately low-key firms can sometimes be "patent trolls," or particular varieties of intellectual property holding companies that exist solely to find overly broad patents and then sue others, making a living off of royalties without actually producing goods based on those patents.
It remains to be seen whether the patent will be enough to trigger lawsuits or whether Durham Holdings will sue at all, as it hasn't publicized any of its intentions. [via AllThingsD]