Firm Warns Apple over iPhone

From Electronics Weekly

“We will be looking very carefull y at the iPhone,” is the warning to Apple from Southampton-based touch sensor specialist Quantum Research, which already has one lawsuit proceeding against Apple for patent infringement, and is prepared to bring another.

“The description of the iPhone suggests it uses a rear-surface touch screen, and has proximity sensing which can tell if it is held to the ear. That’s a QR capability,” Duncan Bryan, licensing director at Quantum Research, said.

If Apple has used charge transfer technology, QR’s patented technology, to give the iPhone that capability, then Apple could be infringing the firm’s patent.

Charge transfer capacitive sensing was invented by QR’s founder and CEO Hal Philipp. It has licensed Motorola, which uses it in its mobile phone keypads, and also STMicroelectronics. Apple is using charge transfer technology in the wheel control of some of its iPods, and it is this usage which has caused QR to take action.

There are other techniques, beside charge transfer, for capacitive touch sensing, such as relaxation oscillator technology or current injection but these are inherently unstable across humidity and temperature and are susceptible to EMC.

Apple has tried, and failed, to patent wheel-based sensors and manufacturers are adopting capacitive sensing rapidly.

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