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Firm that makes tech for museum displays sues Apple over touch

Flatworld Interactives says that with the iPhone, iPad, and other devices, Apple is knowingly violating a patent that covers selecting an image by touching it, flicking images off the screen, and so on.

A company that designed touch-screen technology in the mid-'90s for use in video displays for museum exhibits and the like has sued Apple, saying the iPad, iPhone, and other devices infringe on one of its patents.

Villanova, Penn.-based Flatworld Interactives filed a lawsuit yesterday in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California saying that Apple infringed on U.S. Patent No. RE 43,318, which, according to a release from Flatworld law firm Hagens Berman, "includes claims to touch-screen based systems that allow users to manipulate images using gestures, such as selecting an image by touching it, and flicking images off of the screen."

The suit claims that with devices such as the iPhone, the iPad, the iPod Touch, the iPod Nano, the MacBook Pro, and the MacBook Air, Apple has been knowingly violating the patent.

"Reading Flatworld's patent is like reading the description of gesture-recognition features of any of the accused products on Apple's Web site," Steve Berman, Hagens Berman's managing partner, is quoted as saying in the release. "It is clear that Flatworld owns technology that Apple has used to drive billions of dollars in infringing sales."

Flatworld is seeking an injunction against continued infringement, along with damages.

The company was founded by a professor of cognitive science and digital design at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, who first developed gesture-recognition touch screens to make interacting with computers more intuitive for kids, the release says.

Apple declined to comment on pending litigation.

Update, 1:18 p.m. PT: Notes Apple's "no comment."