Apple Victory puts Gestures on the Frontline of the Patent Wars

One of the most significant effects of Apple’s court victory over Samsung will be that it puts gestural patents squarely on the front lines of the Patent Wars, according to New Scientist’s chief technology correspondent, Paul Marks.

Three of the Apple patents Samsung was found guilty of infringing on were patents on the use of specific gestures to interact with devices (like pinch-to-zoom). With rival gestural interface patents proliferating, Marks predicts that the question of who owns the right to read which gestures will become a major battleground.

A gestural patent Marks cites as particularly general is one Microsoft filed Aug. 2 for “Gesture-Based Search” which seeks to patent the selection of content to search by means of a gesture.  If the patent is awarded, Microsoft could own the right to interpret (for purposes of search) the act of circling something with your fingertip.

Sony has filed for one of the sillier gestural patents — one to allow viewers to skip commercials by standing up and shouting the advertised brand name at their TV.  While such a technology may slightly lower America’s obesity rate, it would likely be due to the calories burned by laughing riotously at the whole idea — and the gestures advertisers elicit from viewers may not be the ones they hoped for.

Still, with gaming consoles like the Wii and Microsoft’s own Kinect bringing gestural control into our living rooms at the same time Samsung and Apple are racing to bring computer functionality to TVs, the prospect of companies battling in court over who owns the right to read whatever gesture you make at your television must be making patent lawyers salivate.

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