back to article Apple granted patent for in-cell touchscreen display tech

Apple has been granted a US patent detailing in-cell LCD touchscreen tech of the kind already said to be implemented in the iPhone 5 to make it slimmer. The patent covers "touchscreens that integrate the touch-sensing elements with the display circuitry" and describes several ways this may be achieved and a number of …


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  1. Rameses Niblick the Third (KKWWMT) Silver badge

    Thinner does not equal better

    Although in almost all cases it does equal more expensive and more fragile.

    1. a_been

      Re: Thinner does not equal better

      Sony Walkman proved you wrong.

      1. Steve Knox

        Re: Thinner does not equal better

        No, Sony Walkman showed that the sets can intersect, but not that they are the same set. Many other devices have shown that the sets are not the same.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Step one: make it thinner.

    Step two: make it thicker again by putting a better battery in the space.

    Time they moved on to step two.

  3. JDX Gold badge

    Is this an honest-to-goodness...

    ...sensible patent for something real? Or is it a generic "patent something thinner" one?

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Is this an honest-to-goodness...

      Depends on who you talk to. Any sensible person would see it for what it is, however the typical anti-apple-whiner will no doubt claim that Apple has now patented 'thin things'. I predict that this will happen within this very thread.

      ...oh and don't forget the 'rounded corners'.

  4. ukgnome

    This would never be a UK patent

    because it's obvious

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This would never be a UK patent

      while it might be "obvious" the implementation isn't so.

      If Apple have implemented this type of display, then they have the right to protect the tech. If they haven't, then Apple is trying to take money from whoever is going to be able to actually implement it the tech.

      Patents can be used to bully smart people into giving you their launch money!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This would never be a UK patent

        They should be able to patent a specific method of making an integrated display & touch screen, BUT not the idea of an integrated display & touch screen, THAT is the point made

      2. Shagbag

        Patents can be used to bully smart people into giving you their launch money

        Yes. It's called trolling. SCO tried it and failed. Oracle tried it and failed. Apple is trying it on currently. Microsoft is still doing it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Patents can be used to bully smart people into giving you their launch money

          "SCO tried it and failed. Oracle tried it and failed.".

          I honestly thought that both of those cases (SCO vs IBM and Oracle vs Google) had to do with copyright and not patents, but I might be wrong!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This would never be a UK patent

      The concept is obvious, but it is how you do it and the patents are always on the process not just a simple idea. It may seem obvious now but why didn't you patent it if it was so obvious? hindsight is a great thing.

      This is just another step in a progression of touchscreen technology, it wasn't so long ago that you had to press a stupid plastic pen against some plastic membrane to use a touchscreen. Multi-touch and capacitive screens seem obvious too now but in 2007 it wasn't so obvious. I didn't even have a touchscreen phone then as they sucked so bad.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This would never be a UK patent

        I never had to use a pen to operate touch screens, for writing I used a pen, for buttons my finger/nail, and that has been on all my tablets/pda's & smart phones since my trusty palm pilot...

        Now multi-touch as an idea has been around for ages, its just the cost/size that has been cut down to fit within a small enough device to be portable.

        The thing is the tech has shrank, so yes patent that & the process to make it, but you can't patent an idea, just the implementation!

      2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Why I didn't patent this obvious idea is,

        BECAUSE IT'S OBVIOUS. Sheesh.

      3. Eddy Ito

        Re: This would never be a UK patent

        "Multi-touch and capacitive screens seem obvious too now but in 2007 it wasn't so obvious.

        Actually it was rather obvious for many decades, see patent 3,482,241 which was filed over 40 years earlier. Granted, it was probably easier and cheaper to implement and hopefully more accurate in 2007 but it's been a long road of tweaking.

      4. Steve Knox

        Re: This would never be a UK patent

        why didn't you patent it if it was so obvious?

        1. ukgnome

          Re: This would never be a UK patent

          well @Steve Knox - that's because in the UK you can't just go around creating a patent for something obvious. You can't patent shoes for instance, but you can patent a design feature of a shoe. Although you do have to supply a working prototype for the patent to be granted.

          *I chose shoe for the obvious reason

          1. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

            In the old days you could buy a monopoly right on prior art

            The really old days, that is. I think the history book in school said that King James I sold monopoly rights to manufacturers for such things as playing cards. A bad day for civil rights.

   says that Queen Elizabeth did the playing card thing first.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This would never be a UK patent

      Also have they deposited a working model - if not the no patent!

  5. Graham Dawson Silver badge

    .... wait, an apple patent that covers an actual, physical implementation of a novel idea that isn't just "basic software concept X but on a mobile device" or "round corners"?

  6. Rabbit80

    No doubt Samsung will "copy" this patent by implementing an AMOLED version :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Using a totally different method I am sure, meaning it won't be covered by the patent, BUT Apple will still complain...

    2. Rabbit80

      Why so many down votes? Seems a bit harsh!

      1. Badvok

        I guess the ignorant down voted you because they didn't get the sarcasm.

  7. Cam 2

    Is it even desirable to do this? I think modern phones / tablets are thin enough and it's cool when you can repair separate glass / digitiser / TFT layers.

    Of course Apple gear is already at the difficult / expensive end of the spectrum when it comes to repairs. Will a damaged screen Apple phone now automatically be beyond economic repair?

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      You eliminate costs and also increase the yield since you aren't sticking two parts together and ending up with some misaligned parts.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      a thinner display != thinner phone/tablet/notebook

      well, not always!

      The thinner screen might mean more space for other things (including a thicker battery) while keep the phone at the same size. I currently have a Galaxy Nexus, and I would say that the size of this phone is right by me. It doesn't need to be thinner then this for me to want to upgrade.

      P.S. you could assume that the thinner display will mean less energy and hence a longer battery life, but I've learned that that not always the case.

    3. Steve Todd Silver badge

      Did you read the bit

      about this making the screen cheaper? Current screens are an LCD and capacitive sensor glued together. This does away for the need for the sensor layer & glue.

      1. Jediben

        Re: Did you read the bit

        Cheaper to manufacture. Don't expect them to come over all altruistic and start lopping ££££ left, right and centre - this is Apple we're talking about, after all.

    4. TeeCee Gold badge

      "...and it's cool when you can repair separate glass / digitiser / TFT layers."

      Ah, you've never tried then. It's not cool, it's damned near impossible. If you can seperate the layers without breaking anything (no mean feat in itself), you're then faced with the small problem of what to stick them back together with. For some reason, while screens and digitisers seem to be readily available for a given device, the adhesive gasket to link the pair would appear to be made of rocking-horse shit. Far simpler and easier just to buy the entire "sandwich" for a paltry few extra quid and just bang it in.

      1. Cam 2

        I have tried with some success, replacing screens and digitisers as well as cases. Admittedly it's easier if these involve clips or screws and anything that is glued or bonded makes it much harder to get a good result.

        For glued parts the gaskets typically come with the replacement parts, or are available. If you can't get them then repair shops sell rolls of extra narrow double-sided tape that may work.

        I am skeptical about the price. I have bought replacement TFTs for tens of $ and digitisers slightly cheaper. But modern digitiser + TFT assemblies seem to run to a hundred $ plus, which is why I was wondering if this new technology would just make it more likely a damaged all-in-one display would mean a write-off.

  8. Big_Ted

    The way I see it

    Think back to the Dyson, it was a new way of making a vacuum clearner using a whole new method of suction etc.

    It was therefore given a patant for the idea and method that they used. It was not a patant on bagless vacuums or any other new method.

    This is the same, Apple have applied for and been granted a patant for a specifc method of impimenting built in touch. If Samsung or anyone else comes up with another then they are able to patant their own method as well, but if this is the only method that works and Apple have the patant then they should have the right to benefit from it. If I was them I would lisense the tech to others as lets be honest more non Apple products with touch are and will be sold and so they can increase their profits nicely.

    1. Geoff Campbell

      Re: The way I see it

      Well, kinda. A friend who works in the industry tells me that the cyclonic setup used by Dyson had been in use for many decades previously for industrial dust extraction systems. So the relevance of the Dyson patent to Apple's spate of "standard stuff but done on a phone" patents is quite acute.


  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple use Samsung for displays.

    And more recently Sharp. (since the bust-up).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Apple use Samsung for displays.

      They developed this technology with Sharp - I believe Apple developed the tech, Sharp developed the manufacturing process for it.

      Sharp has been developing a superior LCD technology called IZGO that's supposed to be better than anyone else's LCDs in several ways, and rumor has had Apple switching to them to get this technology for a while now. So it's more likely that Apple switched to Sharp for reasons that have nothing to do with their fight with Samsung such as better technology or better pricing.

      Apple will still be using some Samsung parts, and it's not like there's anything they buy from Samsung that they can't get elsewhere, so if they really wanted to entirely cut out Samsung they would have already done so. Samsung is a big conglomerate of separate businesses (sort of like GE in the US) so a fight with the unit making smartphones doesn't necessarily mean they need to take the fight to the units making LCD panels or flash memory.

      1. chr0m4t1c

        Re: Apple use Samsung for displays.

        This is more or less SOP for Apple.

        They use their huge piles of cash (and sometimes also expertise) to help a supplier develop a technology their interested in, then they use more of that cash to help the supplier set up manufacturing facilities.

        What do they get in return? Well, usually a year or two of exclusive use of the manufacturing facility that they helped pay for followed by a year or two of discounted prices.

        Result? Competitors may find themselves locked out of the only plant in the planet that can make <shiny new thing> and then indirectly funding Apple's supply of <shiny new thing> when they do.

        Evil? Maybe Business? Definitely. Don't confuse the two and don't make the mistake that it's only Apple who do this or even that it's limited to the technology arena.

  10. damien c

    so I wonder how long it will be before Apple start dragging every company that makes touch screen monitors and phones in to court saying "they have copied our idea".

    Apple make me sick, they won't be happy until they are the only company left on the planet.

    I am still waiting for the day that the people behind the Space Odyseey film from around 1979 or whenever it was made, to take Apple to court for copying there idea behind a tablet sized device for watching video etc as per the film, or for Archos and other companies who made such devices before the Iphone and Ipad were made popular by the Isheep people, who queue for hours and hours for something that is no different than the previous device.

    I will stick to companies who bring fresh ideas and devices to the table, rather than a copy and paste of the previous version with 1 or 2 changes.

    1. Geoff Campbell

      Re: 2001

      1968, FWIW.


    2. Bod

      Samsung v Apple & 2001

      Samsung have already tried to get the 2001 example in the court. Judge has thrown that one out.

      1. Shagbag

        Re: Samsung v Apple & 2001

        Yes and I expect the Jury in the Appeal case will finally get to see it.

      2. dssf

        Re: Samsung v Apple & 2001

        This one should be interesting:

        " Samsung may have convinced Judge Koh to toss a few international handsets out of Apple's lawsuit, but the Korean firm still has Cupertino's patent licensing accusations to contend with. Their tactic? Convince the court that Apple's claim to the inventions are invalid, and that the technology was developed prior to the disputed patent's filing. It's called showing "prior art," and Sammy's done it before -- famously showing a scene from 2001: A Space Odyssey in an attempt to put Apple's iPad design claims to rest. Today's examples were more grounded in reality, focusing on debunking Cupertino's claim to the "bounce back" effect that happens when a user reaches the end of a page and common multitouch zoom / navigation gestures.

        Samsung pitted the famous "bounce back" feature against an old PocketPC interface called LaunchTile, which allowed users to navigate through 36 applications by zooming in and out and a panning across a grid-like "world view" of said apps. Movement between grids snap to each zone, marking the end of a page. Apple shot back, noting that LiveTile's snapping navigation didn't work on diagonals, and cited other differences as well. Samsung wasn't deterred, however, and brought out DiamondTouch, a projector based multitouch table that utilized both one touch scrolling and pinch-based zoom gestures. The table even takes aim at the aforementioned bounce-back patent with a technology called TableCloth, which bounces back images that are pulled off screen. DiamondTouch's creator, Adam Bogue, told the court that he had demoed the technology to Apple privately back in 2003, noting that it was also available to anyone who visited the Mitsubishi Electronic Research Laboratories' lobby.

        If the jury takes to Samsung's claims of prior art, it could severely cut Apple's claims against it. Even so, Cupertino's lawyers aren't going down without a fight, and still have a number of navigation and design claims that Samsung hasn't addressed. The two parties are expected to keep up the fight for about a week, we'll keep you posted on the inevitable revelations as they come."

        1. dssf

          Re: Samsung v Apple & 2001... And, as for Mitsubishi/Diamond Touch/Multitouch...

          Another reference to "DiamondTouch" and manipulation of items in or out of the display.....

  11. Toothpick


    Surely, any company (Apple included) who has poured a lot of time, money and manpower into their R&D should be allowed to patent that development and benefit from it.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: R&D

      Not if another company has done exactly the same but just filed a day or so later. The first to file thing was OK in the days of horses, carts and lone inventors. Not so nowadays when most inventions are just applying existing technology in a slightly different way, and it is the development rather than any inventive step that costs all the money.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: R&D

      Only if they have deposited a working model with the patent application. No working model means there has been NO actual R&D work only a thought exercise.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: R&D

        I don't believe that you should have to provide a working model. What if you developed a new concept including blueprints of how to build a new type of engine for a hypersonic jet in your garden shed. Would you be expected to come up with the millions of pounds required to build and test that before being allowed to patent it?

  12. LinkOfHyrule
    Paris Hilton

    Christ, for a moment I thought they had patented touchscreens embedded into human skin cells or something so you could theoretically have an iPhone build directed into your arm, or belly or arse or whatever!

    1. Jediben

      Prior art

      Teletubbies got there first.

  13. Anony-mouse

    If I were Samsung......

    If I was running Samsung, I would buy a big chunk of Sharp right now, since Sharp is in such a big money bind. Then Samsung would make money selling these screens to Apple and also keep pressure on Sharp to not let Apple pressure them into dropping pricing on these new screens where they don't make any money off of manufacturing them.

    1. Shagbag

      Re: If I were Samsung......

      Yeah, but you're not.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I'm going to patent flying cars, then when those with the money to develop them will have to pay me money.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Cars Shmars

      i'll do flying motorbikes, mopeds, skateboards skates, bikes, shoes, buses, trucks, lorries,

      Oh yeah, and teleportation and transportation devices.

      And while i'm at it, wireless power distribution and invisibility clothes.

      ok, that's enough now, don't want to be greedy.

    2. Steve Todd Silver badge

      How many times do we have to tell you guys

      You can't patent the idea of doing something, you have to patent a METHOD or device that does the thing. The idea of building a touch screen sensor array in an LCD panel may be obvious but the design to make it work is rather less so.

      BTW they were making flying cars back in the 60's (non of them very practical) so there's prior art on even the idea.

    3. A knight who until recently said "Ni!"

      If that were the way the patent system works, which it isn't, I'd just release my driveable plane at a price point below your car.

  15. Bod

    Shocking - a proper patent

    An actual patent that is based on a specific technical design to implement a feature in a way that (I assume) no one has tried before. Whilst the end result may be obvious (thinner display, cheaper manufacture perhaps), the patent is specifically just the implementation.

    And yes, I dispise Apple's approach to patents, am not an Apple fan (though respect the actual technology) but this does for once seem like a genuine use of the patent system!

    Or at least I hope that's how they'll treat it. If the lawers just go after Samsung et al just for thinner displays or a different method of placing sensing within the cells, then they are still the patent trolls that they have shown themselves to be.

    1. Bod

      Re: Shocking - a proper patent

      though of course, if they are patenting this with no intention or capability to manufacture but just to sit on it until they can send the lawyers in, then they are still the evil spawn of the devil that they are. I just hope this is not the case for a change.

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