In a possible legal showdown over multitouch patents between Apple and Palm, the Cupertino gadget maker has just looted a decent weapon off the dead body that is the US patent system: a patent on just about all multitouch gestures
used in the iPhone and iPod Touch, such as swiping, pinching, and so on. Wielding this weapon, Apple suddenly has a pretty good case against Palm.
Earlier this month, Apple's temporary CEO Tim Cook hinted at possible legal action against Palm, due to possible infringements on Apple patents regarding multitouch. Palm subtly responded not long after, stating it had a formidable patent portfolio itself, and that it would do anything to protect itself from patent lawsuits.
Patent number 7,479,949 lists Steve Jobs as the primary inventor, and the summary goes as follows:
A computer-implemented method for use in conjunction with a computing device with a touch screen display comprises: detecting one or more finger contacts with the touch screen display, applying one or more heuristics to the one or more finger contacts to determine a command for the device, and processing the command. The one or more heuristics comprise: a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a one-dimensional vertical screen scrolling command, a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a two-dimensional screen translation command, and a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a command to transition from displaying a respective item in a set of items to displaying a next item in the set of items.
The patent is very long, and covers a whole lot more than just multitouch and gestures. It could be a formidable weapon in any patent lawsuit against Apple's competitors.