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Apple Sued Over Multi-touch Tech

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We love multi-touch, let's not beat around the bush here (is that phrase starting to become inappropriate with 21st century slang?), it won our TrustedReviews 2007 Award for best technology and remains the single biggest product differentiator in the iPhone (and now MacBook) arsenal. So naturally there are stormy waters ahead...

Taiwanese company Elan Microelectronics is stepping where many wouldn't dare to tread and showing the stones to sue Apple over infringements of its own touchscreen patents, one of which - you got it - includes multi-touch. Elan calls this 'Multi-finger'. *cough*

"We couldn't find a common viewpoint with Apple, so we decided we had to take action," confirmed Elan spokesman Dennis Lui. The lawsuit includes disputes of the use of the technology in both the iPhone and iPod touch along with the multi-touch trackpads now used in the MacBook range.

Now many would dismiss Elan's chances as Apple rarely loses at the game of who-can-make-a-lawyer-rich-faster but in 2006 it did take touchpad giant Synaptics to court and win a cross licensing agreement. Elan also supplies the multi-touch capable touchpads fitted to later generation Eee PCs, something Apple left curiously alone.

Of course fallout from this could be huge. Palm - the one manufacturer daring to use multi-touch in its eagerly awaited Pre - says it has rights to the tech from its own patents so could be dragged in. And what of Microsoft Surface? Conversely the T-Mobile G1 Android handset has multi-touch functionality disabled so as not to risk Apple's wrath and all other handset makers have steered clear up to now.

Interestingly, a victory for Elan could be a good thing. The company has been struggling during the credit crunch/downturn/god-awful recession and winning rights - or at least cross licensing rights - would undoubtedly see it offering the technology to any manufacturer who wants it (surely all).

I know which way I'd like to see things turn out...

Update: Here's a video of Elan's multi-touch technology running on Android, it may just have a case...

Links:
via The WSJ
Elan Press Release

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