It seems Apple isn't making many friends over at the patent examiner's office lately - yet another high-profile patent used by the company in litigation has been deemed wholly invalid on a preliminary basis.

The patent in question is often called the "pinch-to-zoom" patent, because that's basically what it patents - a pinch gesture to zoom in on content on a display. This patent had been used successfully by Apple during the first Samsung lawsuit, with numerous (all but two) Samsung devices found to infringe it. The claim (#8) involved in the suit, below (heavily redacted, reformatted):

determining whether the event object invokes a scroll or gesture operation by distinguishing between a single input point applied to the touch-sensitive display that is interpreted as the scroll operation and two or more input points applied to the touch-sensitive display that are interpreted as the gesture operation;

issuing at least one scroll or gesture call based on invoking the scroll or gesture operation;

responding to at least one scroll call, if issued, by scrolling a window having a view associated with the event object;

and responding to at least one gesture call, if issued, by scaling the view associated with the event object based on receiving the two or more input points in the form of the user input.

That all probably sounds like gibberish. Let me break down what's going on here. This is a patent on the concept of a touch heuristic (yes, another pesky vague and overarching software patent that probably shouldn't be patentable in the first place), in which a touchscreen device first decides if you're touching it with one or two fingers.

Next, if you're using one finger on the display content, and then move that finger, it scrolls the content (presumably along the X and/or Y axes).


But, if it detects two fingers, it then scales the view based on the amount of input received - aka pinch-to-zoom. So this is a patent not on the concept of pinch to zoom, per se, but on the concept of a touch heuristic that knows when the user wants to zoom versus scroll, by examining the number of fingers touching the display.

Anyway, as with all initial invalidation findings, this is preliminary - and subject to change. Apple could negotiate to narrow its patent, or it could just choose to challenge the finding entirely (more likely). And those challenges can go on for well over a year. Still, yet another Apple software heuristic patent that apparently isn't quite so obviously patentable after a second look - such a losing streak at the USPTO can't be encouraging.

AppleInsider, Rejection Notice (PDF) via The Verge

David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • IncCo

    Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel..

    • Julio M

      Maybe there is no tunnel anymore :D

      • TynanDeRosa

        There was, but it was invalidated.

        • HellG

          After it was patented by apple so they destroy all hope.

  • Merckle

    Bout time

    • winding

      seems my prayer has been answered. :)

  • http://www.youtube.com/kimirPORTALS kimir

    I feel so bad for Apple.

    LOL JK

  • http://www.facebook.com/princesation Prince Dela Cruz

    Maybe the world isn't ending after all

    • Jon Garrett

      maybe it is--but for apple.

  • DJ SPY

    Maybe I'm missing something but when I "pinch" on the screen it pans out. It doesn't zoom in. If you separate your fingers then it zooms in.

    • Jon Garrett


      that's what Ive been saying, are we missing something.

    • http://www.androidpolice.com/ David Ruddock

      Zoom has come to have a colloquial definition that is not associated specifically with increasing the zoom factor, but in changing it - zoom in, zoom out. It's been that way for years, and camera people and grammar nazis still get hot and bothered about it.

      • Nick Coad

        Yeah but the article says that you pinch to zoom in.

        "a pinch gesture to zoom in on content on a display"

      • PhilNelwyn

        "Zoom has come to have a colloquial definition that is not associated specifically with increasing the zoom factor."
        So you confirm your mistake, you meant just zoom, not zoom in.
        Calling people "grammar nazis" without even checking your text doesn't make you sound particularly modest.

      • DeadSOL

        If you keep saying the word "zoom" to yourself, it loses all meaning! XD

    • FrillArtist

      You actually need to pinch to zoom in.

      • Nick Coad

        No, you pinch to zoom out.

        • FrillArtist

          You pinch on the screen and it zooms in. You pinch off screen, put it on the screen and separate both fingers. They are BOTH pinch to zoom. Whether in or out.

          • Nick Coad

            I think you need to look up the definition of the word pinch. Moving your fingers apart is not 'pinching' - the gesture being used on the screen is not a pinch, no matter what kind of weird mental gymnastics you try to pull.

          • FrillArtist

            I also think you need to learn to read. The gesture being used on the screen isn't pinching but you pinch your fingers before placing it on the screen. No weird mental gymnastics or perhaps you're just mentally deficient.

          • PhilNelwyn

            Ok, I get it.

            So if I cross my fingers just before touching the screen, it's cross-to-zoom, right?

            That's great, I can fist-to-zoom, medius-to-zoom... horns-to-zoom! Hell yeah!

          • FrillArtist

            If you don't pinch your fingers before placing it on the screen, you CAN'T zoom in. It's not only the actual placing on the screen that counts.

          • PhilNelwyn

            And if you don't get your hand out of your pocket, you can't zoom in either...
            You're wrong. Only the on-screen gesture counts.
            Or please quote the part of the patent in question that's about off-screen gestures.

          • Nick Coad

            Yeah and while you're pinching, before you touch the screen, what's happening? Nothing. You are not pinching to zoom in. What happens when you unpinch your fingers on the screen? Oh. You zoom in!

            Pinch (off screen) = nothing.
            Pinch (on screen) = zoom out.
            Unpinch (off screen) = nothing.
            Unpinch (on screen) = zoom in.

            Pinching never results in a zoom in. I can't believe I'm having to explain this hahaha.

          • Dan

            Dont bother. FrillArtist is way off here, and he knows it. It's actually quite comical.

          • jason

            No, Nick is 100% correct. You're just being a stubborn douche.

          • PhilNelwyn

            Congratulations, you just invented "pinch out."

  • Mike Loomis

    Of all of Apple's patents, I thought pinch-to-zoom was the strongest. I don't think pinching in or out to zoom in or out has ever been used before this, so I can't see how it could be considered "natural" or "obvious". It is wholly an Apple idea that they implemented very well, and everyone has since copied it. If they can't hold on to that patent, it seems like a lot of other ones could fall.

    • FrillArtist

      Without the pioneers of IBM, Palm etc, the iphone wouldn't even exist so stop with the canned talk.

      • le_lutin

        You forgot to make your reply relevant to the post you were replying to.

        • FrillArtist

          We are talking about innovations, no?

    • http://twitter.com/PCSievers Phill Sievers

      Pinch to zoom on devices pre-dated the iPhone by several years. It absolutely 100% is not an Apple idea let alone wholly an Apple idea and their best argument is they parallel developed it at the same time as DiamondTouch which means it would fall under natural or obvious.

      • Tony

        True, I had a Diamond Touch Pro from HTC before Apple entered the smartphone market and with WM6.1. It had pinch to zoom.

        • Mike Loomis

          I hadn't heard of it before the iPhone, but I am not surprised to learn that it has prior usage. It was definitely a new thing to a lot of people when it came out on the iPhone, though. I never owned one, and also prefer the double tap method, but you have to admit Apple was very effective in making it popular.

          • John O’Connor

            popular ≠ innovative

    • Mahesh

      You can see a TED video about multi touch which was loaded some time around 2006 and in that video the developer shows Pinch to Zoom in photos, maps, and 3D viewing and rotation in the maps all in a multi touch device but a bigger one which Steve Jobs successfully claimed that Apple has invented.

    • Eric Liou
    • PhilNelwyn

      So they're really that blind...

  • http://www.facebook.com/dontsh00tmesanta Daniel Quintero


  • Jon Garrett

    the more that are ruled invalid the better. if not for lawsuits, apple would be all but consumed by Android. they would have to come up with something totally new (then troll all over again) or get out of the mobile device business altogether.

  • FrillArtist

    Now get rid of the ridiculous patent on their mobile browser kit.

  • poosh2010

    Since Apple is the only other entity that gets to talk to the USPTO about the validity of said patent...I can see someone's pockets getting filled very soon.

    Also, if Koh goes ahead and rules that Samsung has to pay Apple the 1 billion in cash, and these patents turn out to be invalidated down the road, does Apple still get to keep the money?

    • Treknologist

      I would love to see Apple refunding Samsung if Judge Koh makes Samsung pay a penalty now for a patent that is deemed invalid! It also makes the whole case that much more of a joke!

  • mechapathy

    Someone pinch me, I must be dreaming! It had to be said...

  • Matthew Fry

    So it appears the basis upon which the Apple v Samsung ruling hinges gets weaker and weaker. At what point does Samsung just say, "none of these patents are valid anymore so what exactly are we infringing upon again?"

    • Treknologist

      I was just wondering the same thing. Judge Koh is about to look at what Samsung has to pay for infringing on these patents that are now invalid? How exactly does this affect what she does?

    • http://twitter.com/ToysSamurai Toys Samurai

      That trial is not just about the patents, but also about the trade-dress. The trade-dress part won't be invalid no matter what. In fact, I think Samsung should be punished by "borrowing" the look and feel of the iPhone and be taught a lesson -- I chose an Android phone because it's NOT an iPhone. Don't ever give me something even remotely look like an iPhone again. Samsung seems to learn it now, but they have to pay for their mistakes in the past.

      • http://www.facebook.com/joe.saxon.376 Joe Saxon

        Name one phone that looks like the iPhone. Just one. Design and everything.

        • gautham

          Original Galaxy S. I have the phone for the past 2.5 years and still using it and cannot get past the fact that it is a cheap imitation of iPhone. I'm not talking about rubber band or any other. But the look and the icons. Icons feel so cheap when I hold my frnd's iPhone side by side. Installing cyanogenmod felt a lot better.

        • http://www.facebook.com/fernando.urrutia.96 Fernando Urrutia

          What?? I don't think Samsung is "imitating" the iPhone... that is the crap that apple is trying to create, claiming that any smartphone with similar features is copyright material... it's like to see GE legally attacking Kenmore because they start using stainless steel doors!! There are

      • http://btwnworlds.tumblr.com/ Lou G

        So because they choose to make a black, and rectangular, phone they're now "borrowing" aka stealing from apple?

  • cooldoods

    What I'd like to see invalidated is that idiotic patent for rectangular devices with rounded corners.


    question did they make money off of people this this patent? If so the people that lost money to it can the victims get it back?

  • http://twitter.com/onfire4g05 Justin Osborne

    Personally, I like double-tap to zoom that the new maps app has, now. Its countless times better than that pinch to zoom garbage.

    But, good to see another Apple patent go down. :)

    • gautham

      Yes. I always use double tap on my Android. Pinch to zoom needs two handed operation and isn't convenient at all.

      • Fellwalker

        No it doesn't. Use any two fingers to zoom in or out. And get Opera browser which re-flows text properly no matter how far you zoom in.

        • http://twitter.com/cthonctic Cthonctic

          So which hand do you use to hold the device while using two fingers to pinch? Or do you have a particularly creative way of holding it so you can use two fingers of that same hand while doing so? ;)

          • http://www.facebook.com/kelly.curtin.3 Kelly Curtin

            I use my pinkie, ring, and middle finger to hold the phone while I zoom with my index and thumb...

          • John O’Connor

            sounds like an easy path to dropping your phone and breaking it

          • http://twitter.com/cthonctic Cthonctic

            My head hurts simply trying to picture this. This must be like Kama Sutra for your fingers (without the penetration, presumably) OR using non-euclidean geometry, which I would fully support!

          • Fellwalker

            The comment I replied was two handed operation; I often do that using my thumbs to zoom. But sometimes I use have the phone or tablet on a surface (or even in one hand!) and only use one hand to execute the operations involved in zooming. Obviously I was too pedantic about my choice of meaning. :)

          • Fellwalker

            Please read the comment. As I said, I was responding to *two handed operation *. Thus having it on a table or in one hand while using one hand to pinch and zoom made sense. It is physically possible to hold with thumb on one side and third and fourth fingers on the other, and use first and second to pinch and zoom on the hand that holds the phone! But it is not comfortable. :(

  • shraqs

    New trial I guess..

  • DeadSOL

    Can't someone invalidate crApple itself? The company shouldn't have existed! :D

  • kenyu73

    Don't forget, Apple also submitted a patent for "Page Turn Animations". You know, animation that looks like a real page turning.