updated 01:55 am EST, Wed December 28, 2011
Also Photo Booth and YouTube app icon
Apple has won patents on a wide range of endeavors, from an important patent covering the recognition method used by the multi-touch screens on iOS devices to a design patent covering the look of the YouTube icon in iOS. Among a total of 18 patents awarded earlier today, Apple also scored a design patent on its own brand of battery charger, as well as patents on the Photo Booth application for Macs as well as an as-yet-unreleased app tailored to fitness centers.
The most important of these may be the patent that describes the methodology used to communicate touch events on a touchscreen device, one of the original "200-plus patents" then-CEO Steve Jobs described when the iPhone was introduced in 2007, and draws on two earlier multi-touch patents. The methodology covered by the patent was one of the key inventions that differentiated Apple's multi-touch from commercial devices that were on the market at the time, most of which were "resistive" rather than "capacitive" and single-touch (though various methods of multi-touch technology were in development).
If other companies use the same methodology in their own multi-touch panels, Apple now has the leverage to enforce either licensing agreements or enter into litigation for infringement. The technique, which involves using calibration logic circuitry to continuously compare signal oscillation against a reference signal, is also able to detect "near touches" and differentiate between that and solid contact. Thomas Wilson is listed as the sole inventor of the technique.
The company also won design patents for the battery-charging portion of its Apple Battery Charger for re-charging its own house brand of rechargeable batteries (actually re-branded Sanyo Eneloop batteries) as well as the "retro TV" design of the YouTube app icon used in iOS. For the former, the patent application lists Apple VP of Industrial Design Jonathan Ive as one of the inventors.
Apple VP of iOS development Scott Forstall is among those listed as developers of Photo Booth, the picture-taking and funhouse-distortion image app that has been standard on the Mac for a number of years. The program, which was personally tested by Steve Jobs in its formative period in 2005, continues to be a popular app for live demos of the built-in webcam found in most Mac models.
The company was also awarded a patent on an iOS application aimed at fitness centers and their customers, though such an app has never appeared under Apple's moniker. The program covers many aspects of a public gym, including alerting users to specials or discounts, enticing new users with free passes, making the schedule of classes or trainer availability more accessible, and interactive features such as "leaderboard" type posting or sharing of workout results or tutorials on proper equipment operation. The app also handles calendar integration with the center and provides directions to the target gym or affiliates nearby.
Why the application has never debuted is not known, though Apple has been less interested in recent years in producing its own applications for iOS, discontinuing its line of MobileMe-related apps and withdrawing its original Texas Hold'Em game app. The application was originally filed in 2009 and credits Stanley Ng and Michael Hailey as the inventors.