back to article Proof Apple is GOING BACKWARDS: It's trying to patent a Newton-ish touchscreen stylus

Apple has applied for a patent in the US that describes a stylus with a changeable tip for touchscreen gadgets. The filing, submitted this week to Uncle Sam's Patent and Trademark Office, shows a pointy stick that works with an iOS device, and sports a head that can be switched from a conventional pen-tip to other attachments …


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  1. Don Jefe

    Breaking News

    I've had the best fucking idea for the must have, business fashion accessory of 2015!


    The options are nearly limitless:

    - Zip gun

    - Knife

    - Taser

    - Pressurized tear or nerve gas

    - Tranquilizer dart gun

    - Suicide pill

    - Mini-grenade

    - Thermonuclear mini-grenade

    - Poison dispersion device

    - Metered drug dispenser (like diabetics use)

    - Magnetic GPS tag launcher

    - Lightsaber

    - Laser

    - Cigarette lighter

    - Matched pairs for honorable duels

    - Flashbang

    - Restraint wire

    - Borescope (that one can go either way really, weapon or happy fun time adult novelty, depending on your preferences for such things).

    Whatever you prefer. The 'other' inside flap of most tablet covers is some empty high value real estate. You could fill that up with scads of optional nibs and be prepared for nearly situation.

    Smartass sysadmin with the Android making fun of you BAM! 'Yeah bitch, everything is white now isn't it.' Apple Flashbang Stylus Nib stuns your adversary while you fit the Apple Taser Stylus Nib to keep him still while you restrain him with the Apple Restraining Wire a Stylus Nib so he can watch you have sex with his girlfriend then light a well deserved, post conquest cigarette with the Apple Cigarette Lighter Stylus Nib.

    1. James O'Brien
      Thumb Up

      Re: Breaking News

      Damn Don...Its been a while since I laughed that hard.

      Just a little sad you beat me too it, otherwise, well played sir.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Breaking News

      Looks like a multi headed vibrator with the added bonus of a pressure sensitive head.

  2. James Anderson

    Prior Art

    These were on sale at the local gadget store at least two years ago.

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Prior Art

      2 years ago? WACOM and other tablet companies have been selling them for over 2 decades!

      My ATIV tablet and Microsoft, Lenovo, Asus and several others have had this technology since before Windows 8 was released. The Samsung Note range also use similar technology. Although the WACOM digitizer pens that these manufacturers provide don't currently include changable nibs, they seem to be withheld for their professional products.

    2. Lusty

      Re: Prior Art

      You think Apple file patents because they invented stuff? Of course they don't! I think it's obvious to most people that these days Apple have a department whose sole purpose is to mess with Samsung. This is a good example, the next Note will have a feather tipped stylus with interchangeable doodads and Apple will never let this see the light of day in their own products.

      1. Identity

        Re: Prior Art

        Adobe has just released news of their own products:

  3. hitmouse

    Those people using styluses for (pressure-sensitive) handwriting and drawing on Windows tablets can hardly wait. Oh yeah, they've had them for twelve years now used in Journal, OneNote and a plethora of mind-mapping, drawing and painting apps.

    1. James Hughes 1

      I was using pressure sensitive stylii in the late 80's. TDS tablets IIRC. Quantel used them on the Paintbox, Spaceward on the Mattisse.

  4. Rather Notsay

    The "invention" is already for sale.

    1. Sureo

      Re. The "invention" is already for sale.

      As soon as the patent is granted Apple will sue them into oblivion.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Probably intended for graphic artists

    And probably more for those using a Wacom on a PowerMac, not so much on an iPad.

    1. casinowilhelm

      Re: Probably intended for graphic artists

      I'm a graphic artist (with a Wacom tablet I use most days for work). The odds of me wanting to fiddle about all day changing an easily-lost pen tip every time I want to change brush types is precisely zero.

      It makes about as much sense as plugging in a different keyboard every time you want to change fonts.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Probably intended for graphic artists

        It looks like you don't need to remove the nib and insert a different one. It looks the "actuator" moves the brush bristles out (and maybe the nib in), so you can switch from a "pen" to a "brush" without changing stylus or nib. More or less like the multi colored pens I had when I was a children, which had "actuators" to select the color you wanted.

        How well it could work is to be seen, especially since when using a brush you expect it works like a brush, I mean it has to be pressure *and* inclination sensitive. Professional will probably still prefer to switch the whole tool, as they already do with Wacom professional devices.

        It's interesting however that Apple is noticing that while finger input is good for navigation and most UI controls, it's not good when you need fast and precise input.

        The next great "innovation", believe me, will be an iPad with a digitizer... I've see already friends and colleagues looking for iPad pens able to match my Wacom digitizer, but they do not work as well and requires Bluetooth and batteries to run.

      2. armster

        Re: Probably intended for graphic artists

        I know I'll get flamed for this, but it seems most of the commenters did not read or understand the patent application. This is about a pen that does NOT have interchangeable nibs, it is about a pen that uses an actuator (wheel) to change the way the tip (nib) interacts with the tablet. So you could change your brush, get tactile feed-back and NOT search for an easily lost plug-in tip. Wacom pens have buttons that change pen behavior, but not the tip consistency. I have not seen prior art on this.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Probably intended for graphic artists

      I have an Intuos 4 tablet here… had it a few years now, and yes, it has interchangeable nibs. I've worn a couple out already.

  6. Malcolm Weir

    Apple Innovates Again; first it was corners, now sticks!

    This "invention" is all the proof you need of Apple's policy of "innovation".

    I am reminded of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when King Arthur invites a person who sounds as if they may be of Gallic extraction to join his quest. The possibly-Francophone individual responds by saying "I'll ask him, but I don't think he'd ver' keen... he already has one".

    Or, to put it another way, the stylus in my Note II has a changeable tip. And an actuator, although to be fair the Note II's actuator is where it is actually useful (on the body), not where an idiot would put it (the tip). So my stylus can provide a "first input" and a "second input".

    Now, even with the US PTO's evident policy on "prior art" (i.e. "sort it out in the courts"), nothing in that filing is an "invention". By any stretch of the imagination.

    Granted, the general concept that the patent is attempting to claim is marginally different (although the specific text of the claims, which is what counts, is not): the idea seems to be for a nib that you can slide out for one effect, and slide back for another. This sounds like a great idea, unless you've actually used technology like a propelling pencil, which would have taught you that moving the nib requires changing your hand position on the shaft of the pencil. So the Wacom/Samsung concept of putting the actuator under a finger actually works much better anyway.

    It's also worth noticing that the patent application was filed on September 14th. The Note II was launched 17 days earlier (and the original Note was obviously much earlier than that).

    1. big_D Silver badge

      Re: Apple Innovates Again; first it was corners, now sticks!

      Slide in and out? You mean like those multi-coloured pens I used to use at school?

      1. J. Cook Silver badge

        Re: Apple Innovates Again; first it was corners, now sticks!

        @ big_D: It's entirely possible; Google PaperMate PHD or Avery Tripleclick. ( I have a very old version of this sort of 3 in 1 pen, and while it's nice, the stylus only works with resistive touch screens, which makes it mostly useless for a modern smartphone, although there was a kickstarter for a company to make a really nice looking one incorporating a capacitive stylus.)

    2. Don Jefe

      Re: Apple Innovates Again; first it was corners, now sticks!

      This kind of thing has nothing to do with innovation, or even a product really. This is simply the evolution of an idea first put into action by Thomas Edison, later refined by IBM and currently in use by every big tech company on Earth. It is an attempt to turn legal into a revenue generator instead of a cost center.

      It is dirt cheap to apply for a patent if you have in-house counsel. Like less than the cost of my dinner tonight cheap. The idea is to just lob things, any and everything, at the patent office and see if it is awarded a patent. If it does get a patent then another arm of legal takes it and tries to find someone to sue.

      Like I said, it's all very cheap and with the application filings being a 'legitimate' use of funds for R&D overseas monies can be repatriated with no tax liability. After all is said and done you've funded your entire legal department for free and any successful lawsuits are just great margins. Lawsuits don't (have to) directly affect financial filings until the case is closed or all appeals are concluded so they are, effectively, free until they are put to bed (why do you think it takes so long for IP cases to go through the system? It's all fun and games for all parties involved until the case ends :)

      All this shit is the result of clever people who figured out how to game a system that is a fairly good idea and use it in a wholly 'off label' manner. Basically, 98% of all tech lawsuits are the work of a gaggle of over educated dicks who know nothing about contributing, only about taking. What sucks the most, is that genuinely good ideas are shitcanned simply because people don't want to mess with all the shit.

      We've got quite a few patents that we license for free (and quite a few we don't license for free) simply because of all the shit around IP. I've got no problem with the concept of a patent system, but I've got a lot of problems, in general, with people who thrive on taking instead of contributing. I consider our free license system as my little contribution to smart people with good ideas who simply don't have the resources or the 'kick you in the throat' attitude required to fend off hyper aggressive IP lawyers.

      Where's the fun and honor in steamrolling someone who is obviously incapable of defending themselves against you? All that cleverness, decades of experience and technological superiority is for naught if you don't test it against a worthy adversary. I swear to god, I would fund every single penny of someone's defense if they responded to an IP suit with a formal challenge to a public duel. I've even got a matched set of 12 late 18th century French dueling pistols they could use. Horses for tilting too, but I doubt there's an IP lawyer or IP obsessed tech CEO that can actually ride, much less engage in combat while mounted. Pussies :)

      1. CoffeeFueled

        Re: Apple Innovates Again; first it was corners, now sticks!

        Done. Find me a patent to infringe.

        Although honestly I'd prefer to go with rapiers.

    3. g e

      Re: Apple Innovates Again; first it was corners, now sticks!

      C'est un lapin sur le patinoire....

      Maybe Tim Cook's mother was a hamster?

      1. Don Jefe

        Re: Apple Innovates Again; first it was corners, now sticks!

        And smelled of Elderberries!

  7. Mark 85 Silver badge

    A patent?

    Does this mean that this hasn't been patented before? Or just not patented by Apple? I have seen these before but maybe they weren't patented. So maybe it is a case of: "These are nice and no one has patented them yet.... get the lawyers on it!".

    1. Fluffy Bunny

      Re: A patent?

      No, prior art doesn't have to have been patented before to not be patentable now. Arthur C. Clarke tried to patent the geostationary orbit, but was told it was not feasible (I don't think they test this anymore, judging be some of the Apple patents I've seen). So he published a book about them. Many years later and Nasa was putting satelites up every other month, he tried to patent it again, only to be told prior art - yes, his own book.

  8. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge


    Apple have noticed that lots of things outside computers have rounded corners.

    Instead of taking a perfectly obvious thing and adding "on a computer" to patent it.

    Apple have obviously decided to patent - writing with a stylus WITHOUT a computer uing letters with rounded corners.

    Soon joined-up writing will only be allowed in fanbois schools

  9. eugene

    Stylus? Who wants a stylus?

  10. Tromos

    How sensible can you not get?

    "Changing the tip heads could change the brush stroke size in an on-screen painting app, perhaps"

    Great idea, and maybe add a receptacle to hold golf balls in order to change fonts in a word processor app.

    1. ratfox

      Re: How sensible can you not get?

      That was my reaction too, but I admit your example is excellent. I have seen a stylus which acted as an eraser if you used the other end, and I guess that was fine; but actually having different tips you must manually change and take care not to lose has got to be more hassle than using a damn drop down menu.

  11. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

    Maybe the cost of filing a patent could be made variable

    A fixed component + a DON'T WASTE OUR TIME fine (DWOT-fine) if prior art is found

    The latter could be expressed as

    DWOT_fine = base_fine * num_hits * age_oldest / rank_first_hit;


    num_hits = number of hits on prior art in relevant search engines;

    rank_first_hit = the rank of the first hit on prior art in a relevant query

    age_oldest = age (in years) of first mention of prior art

    base_fine = a figure in the order of 1,000,000 $

    Alternatively, crowd-source this: publish the application, and have a contest who can find the oldest prior art. The DWOT-fine (computed based on age of oldest prior art, number of valid responses, and speed of first response) is split between the person finding the oldest prior art, and the person giving the first valid response.

    THAT would cut back frivolous patent applications

  12. AMBxx Silver badge

    New use for iPad

    Does this mean I can turn my iPad into a Xylophone?

  13. MooseNC

    Prior God-given art

    I have ten pressure-sensitive stylus', they are attached to my palms.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Prior God-given art

      Let's see you change the tips then…

  14. This post has been deleted by its author

  15. Robert Jenkins

    Old hat...

    Even the stand-alone 'clipboard' style drawing board / notepad digitisers available from some office supplies places (and occasionally Aldi) for many years, have styluses with interchangeable tips.

    You can use a plastic tip to 'draw' on the bare unit or a ballpoint insert when drawing on paper.

  16. David Paul Morgan

    I bought this the other day:

    one of the best capacitance stylii I've ever bought. much better than the carbon-fibre rubber tipped ones. It converts into a paintbrush!

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