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Thursday, November 21, 2013, 10:21 am PT (01:21 pm ET)

Apple files patent for Touch ID sensor found in iPhone 5s

The United States Patent & Trademark Office on Thursday published an Apple patent application covering the electronic packaging and sapphire lens of the company's new Touch ID fingerprint sensors.

Touch ID

Apple's marketing material for the Touch ID sensor, left, and patent application, right.


The patent, entitled "Capacitive Sensor Packaging," almost exactly mirrors the implementation found in Apple's latest flagship handset. The packaging includes a "responsive element" that detects the proximity of a user's fingerprint — the stainless steel ring that surrounds the iPhone 5s home button — and a sensor cover made of "an anisotropic dielectric material, for example sapphire."

Touch ID's aesthetic treatments have been included as well, as the patent details "an ink assembly...printed on the lens" that "has the effect that the otherwise-translucent button can be made opaque, so the elements of the fingerprint recognition sensor are not immediately visible to the user."

Other methods of proximity detection — like optical or infrared sensing — are also covered. The filing predicts that new methods like these might be needed in the future because requiring a user to place their finger within a specific area limits "the design flexibility for the fingerprint recognition sensor."

Fingerprint Sensor

An earlier Apple patent application showing a method for embedding a fingerprint sensor inside an LCD.


Interestingly, the patent leaves open the possibility of embedding the sensor behind a "display element." This marks the second mention this year of an in-display fingerprint sensor, after a separate patent filing surfaced in June detailing a method of embedding a fingerprint sensor within an LCD.

The application was filed on March 15 and credits no less than nine inventors — Benjamin J. Pope, Shawn Arnold, Barry J. Corlett, Terry L. Gilton, Syed Husaini, Steven Webster, Scott A. Myers, Matthew D. Hill, and Benjamin B. Lyon.