Apple Wins Pinch-to-Zoom Patent, with Caveats

Apple has won a patent for the coveted pinch-to-zoom feature. The patent application was filed in December of 2006 (patent #7,812,826).

However, the patent issued does not give Apple complete control over the pinch-to-zoom functionality, which now exists on just about every current-generation platform. Here's the section of the patent that Engadget pointed out.
  1. A multitouch display detects at least two contacts.
  2. Those contacts perform a first gesture.
  3. That gesture adjusts an image in some way: magnification, orientation and rotation are specifically claimed, but the patent is broad enough to cover virtually any adjustment.
  4. The first set of contacts is broken.
  5. A second set of contacts is detected.
  6. The second contacts perform another gesture within a pre-determined period of time.
  7. The gesture continues to adjust the image in the same way.
Naturally, when they speak of contacts, they are speaking of contact with the screen. The time between step 4 and 5 is unclear. As Engadget states, this makes 5-7 somewhat murky.

You'll possibly remember that when webOS debuted with pinch-to-zoom capability, Apple vowed to protect its IP. However, they never sued Palm, and many believe that is because Palm had tons of its own patents to protect itself. Whether or not this leads to anything, or turns into a set of cross-licensing agreements, remains to be seen.