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Tuesday, February 20, 2007, 11:45 am PT (02:45 pm ET)

Touch sensor firm issues legal warning to Apple over iPhone

Touch sensor specialist Quantum Research has yet another bone to pick with Apple, this time over the iPhone's underlying touch-screen technology.

The Southampton-based firm said this week it may file a second lawsuit against the iPod maker if it's found that the iPhone's charge transfer technology infringes on one of its patents.

"We will be looking very carefull y at the iPhone," Duncan Bryan, licensing director at Quantum Research (QR), told Electronics Weekly. "The description of the iPhone suggests it uses a rear-surface touch screen, and has proximity sensing which can tell if it is held to the ear. That’s a QR capability."

Charge transfer capacitive sensing was reportedly invented by QR’s founder and CEO Hal Philipp, then subsequently licensed to handset makers such as Motorola.

For QR, its beef with Apple dates back to December 2005, when it filed a formal complaint of similar allegations regarding capacitive sensing technology used in iPod Click Wheels. In that suit, QR charged that first- and second-generation iPod nanos employing Cypress’ PSoC chip do so in a way that infringes on QR's existing charge transfer patents.

Apple in July responded to the suit, "denying all material allegations" and filing counterclaims for non-infringement and invalidity.

"There are settlement discussions going on but I believe it will go to trial later this year,” Quantum’s Philipp was reported as saying last month.