Stick Them With The Pointy End: Apple Files ‘Active Stylus’ Patent

Apple filed a patent with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) last week for an active stylus. According to the filing, “the stylus includes an electrode at a tip of the stylus; and powered circuitry coupled to the electrode and configured for capacitively coupling the electrode with a capacitive touch sensor panel. The powered circuitry can further include drive circuitry configured to output a drive voltage at the electrode and/or sense circuitry configured to sense a voltage received at the electrode.” In other words, the design can improve stylus sensing on conductive displays without being more costly to manufacture.

As PatentlyApple notes, the patent wasn’t filed in Apple’s name, but by two employees of Apple, engineering manager Jonah Harley and hardware engineering manager David Simon, and the Cupertino-based company can take assignment for the patent before it is granted.

As everyone who follows Apple may remember, Steve Jobs famously dismissed the stylus when the first iPhone was revealed in 2007 (“Who wants a stylus. You have to get ’em and put ’em away, and you lose ’em. Yuck. Nobody wants a stylus.”) and Samsung received plenty of ridicule when its Galaxy Note/stylus bundle was first revealed, as detractors mockingly compared it to a Palm Pilot. But this latest patent filing certainly isn’t the first time that Apple patents have surfaced for styluses. And, of course, just because Apple files a patent doesn’t mean it actually plans to bring the design to fruition. But it’s another sign (along with the iPad mini and the iPhone 5) that Apple is keeping a keen eye on Samsung and other competitors as it continues to work on new products.