back to article Apple sued over iPhone smooth scrolling

A Scottish IP firm is suing Apple over the smooth zooming and scrolling featured on the iPhone. Glasgow-based patent licenser Picsel Technologies says the Cupertino iDevice maker illegally uses display technologies it developed. The firm sued Apple on Friday in Delaware District Court. Picsel claims Apple infringes on its US …

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  1. David

    Keyhole, anyone?

    Keyhole (from which Google Earth is derived) uses a similar concept: it scales up a low-resolution globe surface tile until it can download and render higher resolution data... and this dates back to the early 00s. As for "smooth scrolling" itself Internet Explorer has had this as a feature since 1998 in IE4.0 (although that's x/y scrolling, not z-axis).

  2. Matt

    I remember

    I remember the exact same technology in blade runner. Except it was even more advanced as Decker just had to tell his machine what area he wanted to zoom in on.

  3. Jason Harvey
    Coat

    patent '626

    experiment 626? aka Stitch?

    was it originally programmed to seek urban environments and create chaos?

    mine's the one with the red police space cruiser on the back

  4. Gareth Irwin

    Will the madness ever end

    I am patenting walking, you little gits better watch out.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    One patent troll suing another

    The only justice here is that both companies are trolling equally.

    The "invention" Picsel is claiming can be found in prior art 10 years back. Fractint did this when zooming in on (slow-to-re-render) fractals.

  6. Shaun Austin
    Thumb Down

    No way jose!

    Erm. No... if I read the patent correctly their patent does not cover what the iPhone OS does, at least not any part of the iPhone I have used.

    Seems to me what the patent describes is a sort of overlayed thumb image representation of the new zoom or scroll position if the user releases the touch at that point. That isn't what the iPhone OS provides by default. (Although apps developed by third parties might I suppose)

    Tenuous imho!

  7. Thomas

    They spent millions developing that idea?

    Someone said "what about if we did mip mapping, like on GPUs, but only generated the detail levels when they're needed?" and that cost millions?

  8. Brian Whittle
    Stop

    Patent smatent

    It about time that software patents where thrown in the bin probably 95% of all these have been in use in some form before some idiot granted the patent

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    @Shaun Austin

    Tenuous, yes. As tenuous as most of the claims apple make, probably. Justifiable based on the tenuousness of said claims, yes. Justice - definitely.

    Though, as everyone else has said, these software claims are just getting ridiculous (if only the first person to say 'wouldn't it be nice if...' had patented it). It's just nice to see someone getting all litigious back at apple (excluding that company whose name I forget who seem to file a complaint once a month).

  10. PaulK
    Flame

    Reward innovation, not hindsight.

    Fuck patents and the nerdy geek lawyers they rode in on. Wankers the lot of them.

  11. Steve Roper
    Boffin

    Smooth scrolling patented ?!?

    Well, here's your prior art: hundreds of Commodore 64 demo crews were doing THAT back as far as 1983... I can produce at least 20 demos by myself and my old crew (SCC/TAF) that did this back in the mid-late 80s, some of which are now in the C64 hall of fame! Not sure who first pulled it off, although I seem to remember ABC and the 1001-Crew claiming they were the first in a couple of scrolly demos that appeared around 1982 / 83. Not to mention which every goddamn scrolling top-down shoot-em-up on every 8-bit platform also utilised the "block-draw graphic tiles and smooth-scroll onto screen" technique shown in the article. What a bloody joke. No way will they get this one!

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Patenting core 70s, 80s and 90s computer graphics techniques in the 00s

    This is how the Commodore 64 and other tile-based computers of the 80s and 90s performed scrolling.

    They didn't do any memory copying (as per the patent), they drew onto the newly uncovered area of the screen (as per the patent, arguably even more advanced because the computers had off-screen areas of tile to load into before the scroll) and so on. They rendered the tiles from a tile cache (the graphical characters or bitmaps), as per the patent. They could smooth scroll (by scrolling by fractions of the tile's width or height). It was handled in hardware, not software, but that's because modern software is more advanced.

    The entire concept is trivial. There is no way they spent millions developing it. You get any software engineer, posit the problem, and they'll come up with a similar solution.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    patents are supposed to be non-obvious, too

    hm, need to show big hi-res data, only have small lo-res data while that's coming down the pipe, what to do, what to do... duh...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    they wait HOW LONG?

    and not just that - obviously they coudl have sued on day one - but no, wait until the device is successful first..get more cash.

    the fact that this is being contested in Delaware - now world renowned as THE place to get your patent case heard must also be a direct give away

    oh, and finally, they are also gunning for the 3x damage claim - like all money grabbing patent trolls

    they claim it cost them millions to develop this tech? This is Msc Computer science work - hundreds of students are taught the methods to implement this sort of thing each year..a couple of grad students at $25k a year certainly didnt cost them millions. game software houses write algorithms far more complex than this every month for their new game engines

  15. Frank Bough
    Stop

    I think theymight have a point...

    my wife had a Sony Clie which was supplied with Picsel Viewer and the scrolling and zooming performance was, indeed, superbly responsive and very much prefigured the iPhone. This was/is a real - and capable - product, folks, not some kind of patent-fraud bullshit.

  16. Adrian Esdaile
    Jobs Horns

    Mutually Assured... Dockheads?

    With any luck they will both counter-sue each other and vanish in a puff of logic.

    We can but hope.

  17. Allan Rutland
    Thumb Up

    Very interesting.

    Interesting one...so they have licensed the technology to Palm, who are using it in the Pre, and who Apple are rattling the lawsuit saber at over using the technology. When it may turn out that Palm is legally using it, and Apple are the thieving little sods in all this. Heck, would almost be worth Palm aiding them a little bit in this with a few lawyers.

    Could prove a huge kick in the nuts for Apples shoot down the Pre plans.

  18. nobby
    Happy

    @matt - "i remember"

    But you'll notice that in blade runner the computer ignored his commands and zoomed in on another part of the screen entirely. If you ask me Deckard was trying to zoom in on the girls tits and the computer censored his commands in the interests of common decency. Or the computer was a prude. Actually that's much more likely.

    So - are we trying to replicate the scrolling function or the prudish part?

  19. Nano nano

    Smooth scrolling ?

    Didn't the VT100 have that ?

  20. Joe K
    Stop

    I've had it with this horseshit!

    Let the US sue and countersue itself into technological oblivion, just let the rest of us ignore their ridiculous "patents", which aren't fit to line a birdcage.

    Seriously EU, abandon the patent system, its done, it cannot work in this corporate led time. Its nothing more than an anchor holding back progress.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    @Wait how long AC

    MSc Comp Sci? I'm a bloody amateur and I figured this one out for a top-down-scrolling thing. Before their patent was granted (2003). While drunk.

    @raging antipatentist above:

    Nothing wrong with Patents. They're designed to get an idea out in the open rather than keeping it locked away in a company's R&D department's "EXTRA PRIVATE" folders as would otherwise happen. You or I could go look at the Patent records anytime we liked (well, when the office was open) and have a look at how, say, the multitouch arrangement on the iPhone worked.

    They don't even last forever- so everyone will be able to use the idea free of charge eventually.

    The problem is software patents- they're crap. And not policed anywhere near enough. The bit where they check for any previous examples of the idea being used before should probably be punted out to "The Internet" on general.

  22. Steve Taylor
    Stop

    Remember the "blitter"?

    On my old Dragon 32 sometime in the 80's, you achieved fast movements of on-screen thingumies using the "blitter" that mapped a screen buffer area to another nearby area, in hardware, then the software filled in the "uncovered" area. Sounds pretty similar.

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hollywood Movies Visual Clique

    That's a stock plot device in movies for the last 30 years, just find a movie where they zoom in and you see fuzzy image till the enhanced data appears.

  24. Mark
    Thumb Up

    Not Trolling

    This isn't a patent troll, it is a technology company who create thier own technology and use it in house and have licensed it to a lot of people. These people may only have had thier patent approved in 2006, but the article does not state how long they had been working on the technology before the patent was granted, the company has been around since 1998, and who knows what the founders were working on before that.

    This is actually a legitimate case of a company defending thier IP that they are currently using, and have licensed out to a large number of partners who do pay them royalties for using it. Apple don't have any right to be the only major player who doesn't pay them royalties just because they are Apple......

    Not quite the same thing as a patent troll company who bought a few patents and then decided to sue anybody who are using any technology that looks like it could be slightly similar, and it is a shame (and speaks volumes) that this is the first thing people think they are.

    I say good luck to them!!

  25. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Parasites

    Yet another patent parasite landing on a big company and having a go at syphoning off some cash.

    The concepts in these patents are so vague, they could be applied to so many things.

  26. druck Silver badge
    Unhappy

    A sad day for Picsel.

    I knew some good engineers at Picsel, who were far more interested in making a better product than having the firm play the patent troll game. I suspect they might be dusting off their CVs about now.

  27. Rob Crawford

    Talk ablut living under a bridge and waiting for the billygoats gruff

    That was the standard screeen scrolling on the Amiga (ahh the joys of blitter mod values) and just about every other machine (till gfx cards got too much horsepower).

    If they want prior art, I can offer my old source disc (if they have survived living in a garage and several attics for the last 20 years)

  28. Neil Alexander

    Re: Shaun Austin

    "Seems to me what the patent describes is a sort of overlayed thumb image representation of the new zoom or scroll position if the user releases the touch at that point. That isn't what the iPhone OS provides by default."

    Holding your finger on quite a few text entry boxes on the display to move the cursor about with a pretty "overlayed thumb image representation" is very much provided by the iPhone OS by default.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What an embarassment...

    If it wasn't for the fact that it's Apple being sued (irony of the whole thing), I'd be even more embarassed being an American. Did my country's patent office really allow this lame thing to be patented???

    Some days, I wonder how we manage to function as a country.

    Just keep in mind that we have lots of nukes.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    another day...

    ...another company suing Apple for patent infringement. Still, keeps the lawyers in jobs.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Re: Not Trolling

    "This isn't a patent troll, it is a technology company who create thier own technology and use it in house and have licensed it to a lot of people."

    Really? Do Picsel produce anything that could be targeted in a counter-suit?

    As far as I'm concerned, any company threatening others over software and user interface patents are parasites because such things are not legitimate items of property, and such companies are merely trying to monopolise a field of endevour, blocking entry to that field and insisting on being paid a tax, regardless of whether new entrants have done the hard work themselves completely independently. The fact that people can bring up a ton of prior art, or at the very least highly similar material, should alert people to the fact that it is inappropriate to award monopolies on material which can be easily discovered by many people independently. Patents on mathematical concepts are simply unethical for these reasons and others. (And given the prior art, one can wonder whether applying for a monopoly on something already known, claiming an "invention", isn't actually fraudulent behaviour.)

    As for not being a company specifically set up to make money through litigation, at what point do we stop giving patent aggressors the benefit of the doubt? Caldera/SCO wasn't set up to make money through litigation, so are they still an honest technology company, too? As I see it, patent litigation is a sign of a failing company that can't make its money the honest way.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Jobs Horns

    Re: Re: Not Trolling

    "Really? Do Picsel produce anything that could be targeted in a counter-suit?"

    The document viewer application on my Samsung D900 was written by Picsel.

    I hope they take Jobs & Co. to the cleaners.

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Re: @Wait how long AC

    "Nothing wrong with Patents. They're designed to get an idea out in the open rather than keeping it locked away in a company's R&D department's "EXTRA PRIVATE" folders as would otherwise happen."

    There are many things wrong with patents. Sure, in their infancy, the idea was to get people to disclose the details of making their "secret sauce" for a temporary monopoly. These days, however, patents don't seem to be limited to the process of making the sauce, they cover the recipe (which is covered by copyright, anyway) and even vague aspects of the sauce, or even the very fact that it's a sauce.

    "You or I could go look at the Patent records anytime we liked (well, when the office was open) and have a look at how, say, the multitouch arrangement on the iPhone worked."

    This panders to the myth that patents cover superhuman intellectual achievements that not a single person nor any other group would be able to replicate independently without peeking at the patent book and having a "eureka" moment. That's why large companies perpetuate this myth: "we're large and/or smart and are thus the only ones who could have solved such monumental problems". The vast body of experience and evidence suggests otherwise.

    "They don't even last forever- so everyone will be able to use the idea free of charge eventually."

    So the argument here is that if you keep the lawyers in expensive suits and luxury vehicles, the pace of innovation can be maintained. Otherwise, look forward to Firefox 4 in the year 2217.

    "The problem is software patents- they're crap. And not policed anywhere near enough."

    The first sentence I do agree with here. The second sentence panders to the myth that the problem can be solved through higher standards and increased regulation. When there is no incentive to regulate patent applications, because everyone involved makes money from patents being granted, then it would appear to be futile to expect any change in behaviour - in short, talk of regulation is mere lip service to the demand for change. And since patents on mathematics (software, algorithms) are unethical and unjustifiable (they monopolise knowledge of potentially natural processes, penalise independent discovery, presume the guilt rather than the innocence of all who "infringe"), the only kind of raised standards we should tolerate are those which forbid software patents altogether.

  34. null

    Software Patents Are A Joke

    "The entire concept is trivial. There is no way they spent millions developing it. You get any software engineer, posit the problem, and they'll come up with a similar solution."

    This is the problem with ALL software patents. Programmers define a problem and program the solution. If you give 100 programmers a problem, 90 of them will will come up with a very similar solution. Software patents patent the problem, not the solution, as the patent holder doesn't release the source code in the patent. If they did patent the solution (the code) it would be obvious to all that copyright law is enough to protect their work.

    Frankly, I think software patents are bs. They're no different from patents on mathematical formulas.

  35. Rex Alfie Lee
    Linux

    Egads! Shock, Horror!

    The damned arrogance of this nothing company. Bugger, if Crapple doesn't deserve this one.

    I can't think of a more deserving organisation. Oh wait a minute. It's all coming back to me. That's right; Microsoft for starters, then Microsoft & of course Microsoft as well.

  36. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  37. Rex Alfie Lee
    Unhappy

    Patents on Thoughts

    I thought I'd crapped myself & it was patently obvious that I had. Now that I realised that I figured I should rush out & patent my crap-provoking-thought so I could make some money out of it & charge everyone who had a crap-provoking-thought despite it being a natural thought but now the thought & patent was mine.

    I would only charge people a pittance per day, perhaps 2 cents each for use of my crap-provoking-thought. I charge just a little more on top of the cost of postage for a printed description explaining how to have a crap-provoking-thought. I figure that I can make a lot of money with Google's Adsense on my site & therefore I need not charge the readers for looking at my site. If however they steal the content, Apple better be taking notice now, I'll sue them for all the crap they produce.

  38. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Time for a bit of cynicism

    "they [patents] monopolise knowledge of potentially natural processes"

    doesn't sound too scary to me, since I've never come across a "potentially" natural process

    "As for not being a company specifically set up to make money through litigation, at what point do we stop giving patent aggressors the benefit of the doubt? Caldera/SCO wasn't set up to make money through litigation, so are they still an honest technology company, too? As I see it, patent litigation is a sign of a failing company that can't make its money the honest way."

    SCO went round suing for copyright infringement, rather than patent infringement. So does that mean the copyright system is broken as well ...

  40. Daniel B.
    Coat

    Re: patent '626

    I'd be very careful with that patent. Don't give it coffee unless you want to unleash real mayhem!

    Mine's the one with the blue Elvis impersonating "dog".

  41. Rob Crawford

    @mark

    The term is prior art, even I came up with that method a considerably period before 1990

    Not only is there prior art it was obvious and as I remember patients have to be "non obvious or novel"

    This was neither

  42. Aaron
    Jobs Halo

    Prior Art

    Apple will have no problems establishing prior art and completely invalidating their patent. I was writing games back in 1982 that used a similar technology for scrolling the screen.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    meh

    I'm just wondering why every diagram I see taken from a patent application looks so ropey. A company dealing with manipulating digital images could have come up with something better than that Shirley?

  44. Michael
    Stop

    Not a troll

    Sorry but Picsel have been developing their software for years. I know a number of very good software engineers that work for them and they have done some pretty good work over the years. Picsel don't make the stupid patent laws, however, if they want to keep the patent they need to defend it. Also, you will probably find it has take time to build a case against apple and to determine whether they think that they have indeed made use of the Picsel patent. I disagree with the whole concept of software patents, but as the Americans are stupid enough to have them, I hope Apple get screwed.

  45. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Re: Time for a bit of cynicism

    ""they [patents] monopolise knowledge of potentially natural processes"

    doesn't sound too scary to me, since I've never come across a "potentially" natural process"

    What I meant was that some of the algorithms that are patented (illegitimately, of course, for reasons already stated) are quite probably realised through natural processes. For example, someone might argue that their computer vision algorithms are extra-special, yet the visual systems of numerous organisms could well implement variations of such algorithms.

    Play word games if you like, but it would be very undesirable for natural processes, whether they are currently known or whether knowledge of them is widespread or restricted to a specialised domain, to be owned by someone who claims that they have "invented" those processes.

    "SCO went round suing for copyright infringement, rather than patent infringement. So does that mean the copyright system is broken as well ..."

    SCO did indeed sue over copyright infringement as well as on various contractual issues. My point here was that litigation, especially over illegitimate instruments of "intellectual property" - software patents, fictional copyright claims (in SCO's case) - is often the last resort of a failing company. Care to contradict this assertion?

    As for copyright, there are various problems with the copyright system, too, but the patent system is fundamentally broken, especially in software but also in other areas, as well.

  46. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Re: Not a troll

    "Sorry but Picsel have been developing their software for years. I know a number of very good software engineers that work for them and they have done some pretty good work over the years."

    This may be true: I am also somewhat aware of Picsel's heritage. However, as I noted with respect to litigation, at what point do you peel the back off the "troll" sticker and stick it on? When Picsel becomes some kind of shell company licensing its "IP"? This kind of action sets the scene for that very day.

  47. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    So?

    Like a wasp landing on a nettle, someones going to get stung and you don't care who it is.

  48. Mark
    Alert

    The point is....

    For all you people screaming patent troll stop and think for a minute.

    Picsel currently license this technology to a bunch of big hitters (Palm included). If they do not defend thier patent against Apple why should the other companies they license thier tech to keep paying them?

    This is nothing to do with a failing company, or a patent troll. This is to do with a company protecting thier IP and ensuring that thier revenue stream from said IP does not suddenly dry up when everybody realises that if Apple can't be bothered to pay them and can get away with it, they may as well do the same thing....

    Not all patent disputes are without merit and started by patent trolls!!!!

  49. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Re: The point is...

    "This is nothing to do with a failing company, or a patent troll."

    They look like a failing company from what others have said. Thus the clock is ticking towards the point in time where they do become a patent troll or have their assets acquired by one.

    "This is to do with a company protecting thier IP and ensuring that thier revenue stream from said IP does not suddenly dry up when everybody realises that if Apple can't be bothered to pay them and can get away with it, they may as well do the same thing...."

    It would be interesting to envisage a situation where ARM, as an example of a company making most of their money through licensing, were unable to obtain revenue from their "IP" and had to litigate. The difference is, perhaps, that ARM's "IP" is more widely recognised, although I dispute the supposed protection semiconductor vendors seek on things like instruction set features. Picsel, in contrast, have built any comparable licensing activity on a weak foundation: software patents are not considered legitimate throughout the software development profession and, with any luck, will be eliminated in the not too distant future.

    And the term "IP" is convenient for hand-waving by patent advocates since it obscures the desire of a party seeking "patent protection" to acquire a monopoly. Few people have much sympathy for monopolists any more, especially when such monopolies merely introduce needless obstacles to genuine innovation because everyone is supposed to consult stacks of issued patents before writing each line of code. This is why lawyers seem to want to stick their fingers into the software business: everyone suddenly needs more legal advice, and the business of writing software suddenly starts to resemble a legal activity, ruining it for actual practitioners but making it a very comfortable source of income for lawyers.

    And not many people are in the habit of arguing for more lawyers on the planet.

  50. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    The Tandy Color Computer had smooth scrolling...

    I remember typing in the machine code for a computer program from Rainbow Magazine that gave a Tandy Color Computer the ability to do smooth scroll on a graphical text screen back in 1987!

    It was used for scrolling titles on video that we sent to the television station...

    Sorry - this is complete junk. They should be counter-sued for a frivolous low suit!

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