An initiative to standardize the way touch enabled devices interact with web content has had a wrench thrown into the works, at least temporarily, by Apple.
The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Web Events Working Group was created last year and tasked with standardizing the way touch devices, from smartphones and tablets to drawing pads and spatial sensors, interact with web applications. One of the specifications they have been working on is called 'Touch Events.'
As part of the standard development process, the working group sent out multiple requests for patent exclusions. In layman's terms, these are requests for disclosure of any existing or pending patents which might be required to implement a standard.
Responding to the third of three calls for exclusions this year, Apple provided the group with a list of four patents, one of which has already been approved, two which are pending approval, and a fourth which is in the early stage of application, which they say are related to the Touch Events specification.
A developer for the Opera browser who blogs under the name Haavard is crying foul on Apple's move, and says they are simply trying to impede the creation of the Touch Events spec. He points to similar occurences in 2009 and 2010, when Apple made exclusion claims with respect to the W3C Widgets specification.
Of the three patents listed in those claims, two were found to be nonessential, while the third was deemed both nonessential and invalid due to prior art.
When a patent exclusion claim is made to a W3C working group, the organization must appoint a team to examine the patents in question to determine whether they are, in fact, necessary to the spec in its current state. This means delaying finalization until the determination is reached.
Perhaps the key technology which Apple has used as a cornerstone for their multitude of patent lawsuits against handset and tablet makers around the world are is the touch screen. Simply put, Apple wants to use patents to restrict other companies' touch implementations.
Of course that's despite the fact their touch screen technology isn't necessarily as revolutionary or original as their patents suggest. In some cases they cover technology which was in production by other companies before the Apple patent application was even filed.
It's also notable that Apple decided not to participate in the Touch Events working group. One possible reason was that they don't really want standardization in that area. But according to Haavard, the additional benefit was it allowed them to wait until the last minute to disclose the patents they say are required for the specification.
The advantage in this would be delaying the adoption of any kind of standard by at least a few months. Work on the standard will essentially grind to a halt while Apple's claims are examined. Given the ever increasing number of devices on the market with touch screen interfaces, that's not really good for anyone - not even Apple.
VIA: Techdrift.com, Opera.com