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Communications of the ACM

ACM Opinion

Apple's Multitouch Lawsuit Is Both Dumb and Dangerous


When Apple CEO Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone at 2007's Macworld conference, he began by describing the device's groundbreaking user interface. "We have invented a new technology called 'multi-touch' which is phenomenal," Jobs said. "It works like magic." In his superlative-laden way, Jobs explained that Apple's new touch screen was so sensitive that you could use it without a stylus, so smart that it could detect and ignore unintended touches, so elegant that it could understand elaborate multifinger gestures.

And then he added five words to emphasize how special and unique this multitouch technology was: "Boy, have we patented it!"

Now Jobs is making good on that implied threat. This week, Apple filed a lawsuit against the Taiwanese electronics company HTC, alleging that HTC's devices infringe on 20 Apple patents related to the iPhone.

Because many of HTC's phones run Google's Android operating system—that includes the Google Nexus One, which HTC manufactures for the search company—Apple's suit is best read as a proxy war against Google.

Apple is suing HTC because suing Google would be more expensive and worse for public relations. Going after HTC achieves the same result without all the awkwardness of suing the tech world's 800-pound gorilla.

But this isn't just about Apple vs. Google.

From Slate
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