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USPTO Reissues Key iPhone Patent to Apple

This specific patent, entitled "portable computers" describes a touch-sensitive computer called SmartQuill, which was invented by British Telecom's Lyndsay Williams in 1997. BT filed the patent in 1998 and was granted the rights to it in 2005. Apple purchased the patent in May of 2008 and apparently filed a reissue patent application, which is often done in order to correct errors in the original document.

The SmartQuill is a pen computer with a monochrome LCD on the front. The LCD is used to display emails, other messages as well as simple application UIs such as calculator, time or a diary. The display is surrounded by eight "touch-or pressure sensitive" buttons. There is also a touch scroll strip to navigate the screen, a "pyrolectric detector" that serves as proximity sensor, docking pins as charge and data transfer connectors, as well as a microphone that is tied to a speech recorder using "Sequoia" technology with a capability of recording up to 60 seconds of audio. And no, there was no wireless connectivity.

Of course, Apple was not interested in the computer feature of the device. The device also feature an accelerometer that enabled the device to adjust the orientation of the content that is shown on the display. It is believed to be the first patent that describes this feature for a mobile computing device and could provide Apple with more ammunition in ongoing patent infringement lawsuits against its rivals.

Douglas Perry is an author and journalist from Portland, Oregon. His many articles have appeared in the likes of Tom's Guide, Tom's Hardware, The Oregonian, and several newspapers. He has covered topics including security, hardware, and cars, and has written five books. In his spare time, he enjoys watching The Sopranos.