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Apple sued over multitouch patent

Elan Microelectronics asks the International Trade Commission to ban the import of all Apple products with multitouch input, including the iPhone, iPod Touch, and forthcoming iPad.

Apple iPad
Apple is accused of violating a multitouch patent with several of its products, including the iPad, which arrives in stores Saturday. James Martin/CNET

A Taiwanese chipmaker is suing Apple over the use of multitouch technology in several products, including the iPhone, iPod Touch, and forthcoming iPad.

Elan Microelectronics filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission Tuesday, accusing Apple of violating an Elan-owned patent that covers "touch-sensitive input devices with the ability to detect the simultaneous presence of two or more fingers."

Elan claims the iPhone, iPod Touch, MacBook, and Magic Mouse are in violation of Elan's patent, No. 5,825,352, and when the iPad goes on sale this Saturday, it will be too. Elan has asked the ITC to ban the import of all five devices into the U.S.

"We have taken the step of filing the ITC complaint as a continuation of our efforts to enforce our patent rights against Apple's ongoing infringement. A proceeding in the ITC offers a quick and effective way for Elan to enforce its patent," the company said in a statement Tuesday.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.

Elan says it is seeking to enforce its patent because it's "a fundamental patent to the detection of multi-fingers that allows for any subsequent multi-finger applications to be implemented."

The chipmaker has had some success defending this same patent before. In 2008, it sued Synaptics in U.S. District Court and several Synaptics touch-sensitive products were found to be in violation of Elan's patent. In the end, the two companies agreed on a licensing deal.

There's some irony to Apple getting sued over a multitouch patent, since the iPhone maker just sued another handset maker for similar reasons. Apple filed suit against HTCand lodged a complaint with the ITC over 20 patents related to the iPhone's graphical interface and software.