Feeds

Apple coughs $5m for multitouch patents

Fights for years then pays out pocket change

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

Following more than 30 months of argument, Elan Microelectronics has announced that Apple will be paying it $5m for use of its multitouch patents.

Elan filed its case back in April 2009, claiming it had been trying to negotiate with Cupertino for two years. It then took the complaint to patent watchdog the International Trade Commission (ITC) in March 2010 and received encouragement from that body a month later. Now it seems Apple has capitulated and will be licensing the Elan patents.

$5m isn't a great deal of money to Apple, certainly compared to the damage that could be done if the ITC had decided that a US import ban was appropriate. This sounds a little like paying off the patent holder rather than fighting to the bitter end, but that would be very unlike Apple unless there was a real risk of defeat.

The patent (US number 5,825,352) covers the recognition of multiple touch points, but restricts itself to their use in "emulating mouse buttons and mouse operations on a touch sensor pad". So it hits the MacBook pad and the Magic Mouse, but would be more difficult to apply to the broader touchscreen devices where it's debatable that any mouse emulation is occurring.

Which betrays the patent's roots: it was originally filed by Logitech back in 1996, before changing hands several times and ending up with Elan in 2003.

Not that Elan is a patent troll by any means - the Taiwanese company makes touchpad and touchscreen components for OEM manufacturers, and routinely acquires patents to protect itself. In this case it's also making a few quid from infringers, but that's not the primary business.

The case rumbled on for ages, and (as is common with these things) once everyone had rattled their sabres and played all their cards, a cheque for an amount lower than the claim was written, and everyone went home. For Apple this is small potatoes, and there are much bigger patent battles to be fought.

Not that $5m is to be sniffed at; Elan will be very pleased with itself, and looking around for others who might be encouraged to reach for their cheque books now that Apple has folded. ®

Bridging the IT gap between rising business demands and ageing tools

More from The Register

next story
NO MORE ALL CAPS and other pleasures of Visual Studio 14
Unpicking a packed preview that breaks down ASP.NET
DARPA-derived secure microkernel goes open source tomorrow
Hacker-repelling, drone-protecting code will soon be yours to tweak as you see fit
Cheer up, Nokia fans. It can start making mobes again in 18 months
The real winner of the Nokia sale is *drumroll* ... Nokia
Put down that Oracle database patch: It could cost $23,000 per CPU
On-by-default INMEMORY tech a boon for developers ... as long as they can afford it
Google shows off new Chrome OS look
Athena springs full-grown from Chromium project's head
Apple: We'll unleash OS X Yosemite beta on the MASSES on 24 July
Starting today, regular fanbois will be guinea pigs, it tells Reg
HIDDEN packet sniffer spy tech in MILLIONS of iPhones, iPads – expert
Don't panic though – Apple's backdoor is not wide open to all, guru tells us
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.