Apple Patents Rotary iPhone

from the there's-no-app-for-prior-art? dept

theodp writes “It took almost five years, but Apple now has a patent for its Telephone Interface for a Portable Communication Device, which essentially uses an iPod click wheel to emulate an old-school rotary phone dialer. The nine listed inventors of the Rotary iPhone include Apple CEO Steve Jobs. Guess the USPTO couldn’t find any prior art for using a wheel interface to spit out numbers and letters!”

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Comments on “Apple Patents Rotary iPhone”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Unless it spins a mechanical device for making signalling interrupts on a copper wire phone line, it is something that has not been done before. Also, it isn’t clear that you have to spin this, rather it is a positional number selection interface using a circular input device.

It is actually pretty unique. I can’t remember anyone doing it.

Freedom says:

Patent for "Magic"

Yes, but on the iPhone you have “magic” that makes it work …

Seriously, if this is something that gets a patent, the patent office and defenders have lost all their moral standing.

So let me see if I understand how this works, take something that already is common place, do it on the iPhone and get a patent? So does that mean if I wipe my a** with an iPhone, I can get a patent on that now as well? Hell, I’m pretty sure their isn’t any publicly available prior-art to me wiping my a** so I might even have a better patent application …


The Baker says:


Way back when they were coming out with push button phones,my mom bought a push button DTMF phone with the buttons arranged like a old rotary dial. You pressed the buttons, nothing moved. It would seem that this would take the same mechanical action of the user as pressing a virtual button on a iPhone. The mechanical action of a rotary phone was to actuate the pulse dialing mechanism, DTMF replaced this decades ago. Seems that there is plenty of prior art here.

Who patented displaying a keyboard on a touch panel? Same thing!

Anonymous Coward says:


It would be a unique input method on a phone as well. I can’t remember there being any phones with push buttons instead of rotary with the numbers and * and # keys done like this.

It hasn’t been done as mechanical device, and I don’t remember seeing anything like it in a digital device. “on a digital device” is only an observation, not a requirement.

It is actually a very interesting and ingenious use of a very limited input system. Maybe it has been done before, but I don’t remember seeing it.

Lawrence D'Oliveiro says:

doesn't justify a patent

On the contrary, that seems to be exactly how patents work.

* Develop a theory for representing sound waves in mathematical form that can be freely converted to different representations, e.g. acoustic, electrical?not patentable.
* Build a machine that makes use of that theory?patentable.
* Build an improvement on the original machine that makes use of that theory?patentable.
* Take an old idea from analog mechanical devices and implement it on digital virtual ones?even more patentable.

So the more fundamental and far-reaching your innovation is, the less patentable it is.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Monty Python Patent

In the first place, I have an Innovision MAG 786PF computer monitor, manufactured in July 2002, which uses approximately the same system to set brightness, etc. Take it from me, it’s a really dumb idea, whether on a computer monitor or an Ipod/Ipad/Iphone. On examining the patent language (below), the system would appear to be the same. However, that does not save it from being an artifact of the Ministry of Silly Walks.

In the second place, will someone, anyone, please teach the Patent Office the first principles of structured programming? I find that I have to reformat claim text in order to understand it. At any rate, the critical Claim 1 would seem to be substantially anticipated by the MAG monitor interface.

Claim 1, Patent 7,860,536, reformatted:

1. A method, comprising:
at a portable communication device
having a display and a click wheel:

detecting a first input on the click wheel;

in response to detecting the first input:
displaying a telephone user interface on the display,
including a current image of a rotary dial,
wherein the current image of the rotary dial
provides visual clues
as to the functionality of the click wheel
for a current mode of operation;

and entering a first mode of operation,
wherein, in the first mode of operation,
the current image of the rotary dial is a
first image of the rotary dial
including a plurality of icons
arranged proximate
to a periphery of the rotary dial,
the plurality of icons include numbers,
there is an absolute angular relationship
respective contact points on the click wheel
corresponding icon positions on
the first image of the rotary dial;

detecting a second input on the click wheel;
and in response to the second input,
entering a second mode of operation
distinct from the first mode of operation,
wherein, in the second mode of operation,
the current image of the rotary dial
is a second image of the rotary dial
including a different shading pattern
than the first image of the rotary dial.


In the third place, I chose, while skipping and knocking two coconuts together, to sing comic songs about patent examiners Patrick N. Edouard and Shantell Heiber, comparing their intelligence unfavorably to that of a South American Llama. The Patent Office would work much better if it were run by “J. Fred Llama and forty South American Llamas.”

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