back to article iPhone's keyboard prompts patent violation suit

A Florida-based company has accused Apple of infringing a patent it owns for a readable keyboard display, similar to the iPhone's touch-screen. SP Technologies filed a claim alleging that Apple has infringed on a patent it was granted in 2004 for a "method and medium for computer readable keyboard display incapable of user …


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  1. David Webb

    I dont get it

    I have a PDA which has a touchscreen pad appear, its one of them Palm Tungsten E things, it looks like the iPhone's keypad sorta so I'm not sure how this patent exists if there is previous keypads of this type?

  2. Cyberspice

    Prio art?

    I seem to remember my elderly Sharp Zaurus has an on screen keyboard. So what do they actually have a patent on?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Laughable patent claim

    A popup keyboard on a touchscreen or pen computer. No special things about the keyboard, just a keyboard that pops up when an input field is selected.

    Their patent is here:

    Patent 5276794 being prior art, but even that is not the first on screen keyboard that pops up as needed.

  4. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Cashing in

    They could sue Microsoft or Nokia or many of the other makers of devices with touch screen keyboards, but they go after Apple for the publicity.

  5. Will Leamon

    Here We Go Again

    I'm no friend of Apple but these patent trolls are seriously getting out of hand.

  6. oxo

    Well Duuh

    More trolls.. Apple won't have to look far..the Newton had a touch-screen keyboard 12 years ago <rolls eyes>

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More frivolity

    Yet another time-wasting and money-wasting dispute caused by the incompetence of the US patents system.

    Once again, this will almost certainly be a patent on something that is either obvious or trivial, and its sole result will be to unjustly enrich the lawyers and increase the prices that buyers have to pay for products.

  8. Anarchy

    a what?

    WTF is a "method and medium for computer readable keyboard display incapable of user termination"

    Sounds like a touch-screen keyboard to me, but what does "incapable of user termination" mean? That it can't be turned off?

    I didn't realise you could patent the bleeding obvious

  9. Michael C

    Obvious much?

    Considering that even in the case where Apple accused Microsoft of stealing their desktop ideas (windows) it was seen as an obvious enough transition that Apple lost their case. Hundreds of software packages have used an on-screen keyboard display in the past. This is not rocket science. This patent is invalid, and this attack will likely leave the patent troll paying a few million dollars in Apple's legal fees and be another win for American companies thanks to our recent Supreme Court ruling on cases just like this.

    It's long past time for serious patent reform in the US. Lets get this done and complete for 2008. If it happens, this might actually be 1 thing the republicans could say Bush did right (if they don't screw it up). Might be best we wait for 2009...

  10. Dillon Pyron

    Economic damages?

    What damages? Have they been prevented from selling their product? Seems like a case of another patent troll. And, of course, Apple will roll over for them.

  11. Stu

    user termination?

    Quote- "method and medium for computer readable keyboard display incapable of user termination"

    You what!? I really dont get this legal spiel. Kind of sounds like it is not capable of killing the end user. I should bleedin' well hope so! Is that where the patent violation occurs - in that they require that it DOES kill the user?

    So what anyways - another day, another patent violation.

  12. Rich Silver badge


    How can anyone have a patent on an interactive touch screen keyboard?

    This sort of thing has been the stuff of novels and films since the dawn of sci-fi. Watch any Star Trek episode - it's all there.

  13. Ed

    All they've done...

    Is patent an on screen keyboard that the use doesn't have control over. Quite how that's really patentable I don't know. Apparently there are issues with the "prior art" that mean that existing keyboards can be resized or closed accidentally, their patent solves this.

    I hope Apple don't pay out.

  14. Ted Treen

    Avionic porcines (encore une fois)

    So, US Patent law is only serving to enrich lawyers beyond the dreams of avarice.

    This will never do, so we MUST have new laws.....

    .....drafted by lawyers.

    Pigs cleared for take-off...

  15. Doug

    maybe the key flyover is their 'invention'?

    Just a guess but since virtual keyboards have been around for a long time now, my guess is that they have patented the flyover which shows what key your finger/pen is pressing. Since the keyboard keys are much smaller than a normal keyboard, ones fingers often cover more than one key and the flyover shows what key you really pressed without having to look away from the keyboard area and over to the text input area.

    So much of what gets patented these days is something that an engineer , worth his/her weight in salt, can figure out as a solution to the problem.

  16. Morely Dotes

    A Modest Proposal

    (with apologies to the originator of the title)

    Perhaps it's time for Apple to sue the US Government Patent Office for willful or negligent granting of a patent for which prior art exists, and for violating the regulations which call for a patentable invention to be non-obvious.

    Damages should be three times the amount collected by the USPTO during the period from the demonstration of the prior art until the settling of the case.

  17. John Ko

    Get a clue you pinheads

    If you haven't read and researched the patent, you guys should refrain from commenting on the validity of this patent. Poking fun at the USPTO is fair game, but I'm sure these guys aren't going to spend $1m+ on legal fees if it's such weak patent. Give 'em some credit, and keep your 0.00002cent comments to yourselves.

    Like someone else noted, this case is 10x better than Apple suing MS on the windows.

  18. This post has been deleted by its author

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Following the recommendation

    "this case is 10x better than Apple suing MS on the windows"

    You mean 'not having a close button widget on the virtual keyboard' is 10 times more innovative than: scroll bars (Alto didn't have those), the menu bar up top (Alto had it at the bottom of the window), icons as nouns (Alto had only action-toolbar icons. Using icons to represent files was Mac-first), drag-select (To select text in the Alto, you clicked the left button for the start, and the right button for the end of the selection), overlapping windows (You couldn't put one window on top of another on an Alto), use of fonts onscreen, etc, etc, etc?

    Wow. Who knew?

    The key decision that lost Apple's lawsuit was that Sculley signed an agreement allowing MS to copy mac-like aspects necessary for MS Office for DOS. Not prior art.

  20. sleepy

    Silly and easy to get round

    Yes it's a patent on a screen keypad that isn't in a moveable window. Even in the USA absence of a feature must be hard to patent. I presume Apple can simply make their keyboard uselessly draggable if the US patent system is that broken.

  21. Tom

    Problem with patent office (revisited)

    The problem with the patent office is pretty simple. The only thing they consider "prior art" are patents themselves. Lots of things sold to everyone weren't considered patentable (or considered a waste of time to patent). Thus the patent office just doesn't know about them. With their attitude, simple stuff (I suspect there are lots of examples in the Linux kernel for example) just doesn't get the "prior art" stamp.

    The obvious example is how the trademark of "Linux" got registered by some dweeb. Thankfully it is now where it belongs (in Liuns' pocket!).

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dumb patents!

    The issue lies with the fact that the keyboard cannot be terminated resized or closed by the user.

    Other prior-art touch screen keyboards can be closed minimized etc.

    Apple can fix this by allowing the keyboard to rotate (hence resize) when you rotate the phone! or by allowing the user to minimize it?

    US patent system really is a pile of cack!

  23. Robert Hill

    SPB not exactly a "troll"...

    SPB is a company that sells add-ons to a competing product, notably Windows Mobile smartphones. They did legally apply for and recieve a patent for their technology years ago, and it's "unique" features. I put that in quotes because that is for a court to decide. I happen to use the SPB keyboard on my HTC Touch smartphone, and it works well enough.

    Whether or not a court rules for or against them, they are certainly not trolls who try to patent everything under the sun, or buy patents simply to sue. They get a very high percentage of their revenue of their SPB Keyboard (they have other suites of Windows Mobile products as well, like dashboards, office apps, etc.), and they probably think that they have built something of value. And, crucially, it was on the market years before the iPhone ever came to even the first prototype. Maybe a valid claim, maybe not - but they certainly are NOT just trolls spamming lawsuits.

  24. Mark

    They fail it

    Selecting characters via mouse from a graphical character map has been round since Windows 3.0 (and maybe before; I think even GEM had it), its an obvious step to change the pointing device from a mouse cursor to a finger.

    So the question then arises, what new, non-obvious, claims does this patent make over that level of technology?

  25. Phillip Davis

    Oh, please...

    Yet another company hard up for funds who thinks it's a good way to make a quick buck by suing Apple. I remember Sharp and Psion had touch screens - nothing happened then - and as already commented, what about all the phone companies "infringing" this companies so-called patent.

    What a load of crap and I hope the court thinks so too. Let's hope that these vultures have to pay Apple's legal costs as well.

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