Apple has patented (US7864163) the behaviour in Mobile Safari whereby double-tapping zooms in just enough to fit on the screen the particular box of content that was tapped.

A computer-implemented method, comprising:

  • at a portable electronic device with a touch screen display;
  • displaying at least a portion of a structured electronic document on the touch screen display, wherein the structured electronic document comprises a plurality of boxes of content;
  • detecting a first gesture at a location on the displayed portion of the structured electronic document;
  • determining a first box in the plurality of boxes at the location of the first gesture;
  • enlarging and translating the structured electronic document so that the first box is substantially centered on the touch screen display;
  • while the first box is enlarged, a second gesture is detected on a second box other than the first box; and
  • in response to detecting the second gesture, the structured electronic document is translated so that the second box is substantially centered on the touch screen display.

The priority date is 2007-09-04.

This is one of the patents that was asserted against Samsung in their recent lawsuit. Unlike the other two patents asserted in the case, this one is not already subject to a reexamination, probably because the "second gesture" part is not a stock Android behaviour and it was likely Google themselves who submitted the other patents for ex parte reexamination. Nevertheless, is there any prior art for this?

5 Answers 5


This seems an obvious development to stuff that opera were doing with their mini browser in 2007. In their version, you zoom to parts of the screen by tapping them.

Evolving the Internet on your phone: Designing web sites with Opera Mini 4 in mind

  • This article is dated August 31, 2007, so what it describes can be prior art. However, I can't see anything like the invention at hand described in this article. What in particular do you think constitutes prior art? Commented Sep 23, 2012 at 1:51
  • Agreed, I also can't find anything in this reference about "tapping to zoom". Also, note that this patent claims priority from a bunch of provisional applications, some going back to June 2007 and earliest being about 2004. Any of those may have sufficient relevant details to overcome this as a prior art reference.
    – kinkfisher
    Commented Sep 25, 2012 at 22:43

I don't think the right standard here is whether "double tap to zoom" has been done. Rather, it needs to be separated into two parts: have people used double-tap as a user interface input, and have people used zooming as a user interface verb? If you don't separate them, you might imagine an analogous "Ctrl+Q to search" patent. While it's unlikely that anyone has used that particular hotkey for that particular action before, everyone who's putting together a device knows that there's a list of available actions (tap, slide, double tap, etc) and a list of desirable functions (select, pan, zoom, etc); putting them together is a matter of choosing priorities, not innovating. That's all that happened here.

  • The double tapping is relevant here, because the two tapping locations are the corners of the box to zoom on. Commented Sep 21, 2012 at 22:33
  • @gilles that's not my reading of this. I think 'first gesture' relates to double tapping on a first content box, and 'second gesture' refers to double tapping on another (unrelated) content box, with the screen translating to this other content box. So as jimrandomh says, arguably the double tap itself is irrelevant? Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 8:49
  • @PaulRussell Upon reading more closely, you're right, I had misread the effect of the tap locations. Nonetheless, the fact that there are two taps in different locations is relevant, so this patent is not just zooming plus double tap. Commented Sep 24, 2012 at 9:50
  • @Gilles agreed. Commented Sep 26, 2012 at 10:06

This seems to be a little more than a double tap and zoom patent. This is like double tap and zoom on your tablet and it zooms on your laptop also. But it's interesting that the patent was filed 4 days after that opera article came out.


Puma 'Sattelite Forms' and Symbol were working on a browser for the Symbol Ruggedized devices in 1998 that had a double tap (With a stylus) to zoom in on a picture. Unfortunately I don't know there would be many examples now that PalmOS is defunct. Might be a good area to research though.



The issue is not the gestures but the sensing technology. Capacitive sensing has been around for decades. No particular gesture can lay claim to a patent because they are all normal and natural human functions.

  • No, a patent can claim the use of a particular gesture to accomplish a particular function as part of a concrete system, or more precisely, a concrete system that reacts to a particular gesture in a particular way. Commented Sep 23, 2012 at 15:48

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