"By putting your hands on the table and spreading them, you zoom into a region, a city, a neighborhood." That was my description, in a 2005 Newsweek story, of a Danny Hillis interactive table top map. If it sounds like the gesture-based technology in the iPhone -- technology that Apple patented and then sued Samsung and others for implementing -- that's because the Apple gestures weren't exactly original. That's the belated judgment of the USTPO, after finally figuring out that the Hillis patent on his gestures, and others predating Apple's work, proved that its "discoveries" weren't really novel at all, and by implication the patent office itself failed to recognize this. Two other patents were cited in striking down other interface claims.
Hillis's work wasn't exactly a secret, as my Newsweek article showed.
Don't get me wrong, Apple did fantastic work on the iPhone interface. But then it claimed a broad ownership of the very concept of such gestures. And convinced the patent office to give it a monopoly on such technology.
We've got to fix this.