BlackBerry Used Force Touch-Like Tech Long Before Apple

BlackBerry patented and used technology like Apple’s Force Touch long before Apple, which is now expected to include the technology in its next-generation iPhones. The Canadian firm pioneered the concept or the combination of fully-integrated touch screen mobile phones with haptic feedback several years ago with the introduction of the device named Storm in 2008, says Alex Lee, a patent expert from Envision IP.

BlackBerry the first to market Force Touch

The Storm was the first touchscreen device without a physical keyboard released by BlackBerry (known as Research in Motion then). At that time, the Storm competed with other touchscreen devices like the iPhone, the Palm Pre, and the HTC G1, but none of the competitors had the tactile feedback feature. BlackBerry called its version of the haptic feedback tech its “SurePress” technology.

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Envision IP analyzed BlackBerry’s U.S. patents pertaining to the SurePress technology to determine if, on incorporating haptic feedback into the iPhone display, Apple will face any freedom-to-operate issues. Envision IP identified 40 in-force U.S. patents held by BlackBerry related to mobile touchscreens that provided tactile/haptic feedback. The identified patents were related to screen and sensor manufacturing and components.

BlackBerry’s U.S. patent 9,092,057 is titled “Electronic device including touch-sensitive display and actuator for providing tactile feedback.” The patent details a mobile device that provides feedback to the user with the help of multiple disk actuators underneath a touchscreen display. So it seems BlackBerry has patetned the “general concept of integrating a ‘click’ mechanism with a touchscreen that provides a tactile feedback similar to what a user would experience using a physical keyboard.” The priority dates of patents in this area date back to 2007, Lee notes.

Apple has its own Force Touch patents

What’s interesting to note is that Apple acquired its own patents related to this technology so that it does not get outdone by BlackBerry. Apple’s patent U.S. 8,462,133, titled “Clickable and tactile buttons for a touch surface,” describes an iPhone having several “click-like” tactile surfaces on its display. Envision IP found that Apple owns 14 U.S. patents related to force-based feedback specifically for mobile device displays.