Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Pinch-to-Zoom FUD

If you were to follow just the standard news cycle, you’d think Apple won a victory in Apple v. Samsung for a patent for pinching to zoom. Matthew Yglesias for Slate:

What troubles me is the verdict upholding the US Patent and Trademark Office’s decision to say that, for example, Apple should have a legal monopoly on the pinch-to-zoom feature which I think is a great example of how the modern-day patent system has gone awry.

Austin Carr for Fast Company Design:

In Apple’s $1 billion patent lawsuit against Samsung, which the company won last week, a jury decided that a slew of Samsung’s mobile devices had violated a number of Apple’s utility patents for interaction designs, including the pinch-to-zoom gesture.

Jeffrey Van Camp for Digital Trends:

Two of the key patents that the jury just upheld were for “pinch to zoom” and “double tap to zoom.”

The problem with these stories is that Apple simply didn’t win a patent victory for pinch to zoom. In fact, Apple probably doesn’t even have a patent for it.

Nilay Patel explains in a series of tweets, which I will quote and link to in flagrant disregard for Twitter’s new rules:

None of the three Apple patents in the Samsung case were about pinch-to-zoom. Let’s all remember that. A lot.

The three patents were bounceback scrolling, tap-to-zoom, and detecting a one-finger scroll vs a two-finger translation.

[The] patent is on detecting a one finger scroll vs a two finger translation. Not the translation [itself].

Patent[s] narrow in scope as they go through the application process. This is what the USPTO let Apple have.

To be fair, Apple could potentially use in a case the detection of one or two fingers to determine behaviour. But if their opposing lawyers are worth their salt, they should be able to defend against that angle. In any case, there simply isn’t a patent regarding the pinch-to-zoom gesture at stake here.