Apple – itself guilty of sending threatening looks its competitors' way – is the subject of a lawsuit alleging that its multitouch technology infringes another company's patent.

Taiwan-based chip design company Elan Microelectronics is claiming that Apple's multitouch functionality – as seen on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and MacBook ranges – infringes on two patents it holds. The bold claim is bolstered by the fact that the two companies have been in licensing talks for the past two years, but Elan claims they have been unable to “find a common viewpoint with Apple, so we decided we had to take action.

Elan's decision to sue Apple comes after it convinced touchpad specialist Synaptics to licence its technology after accusing it of violating one of the two patents it now believes Apple is breaching. While Synaptics intially countersued Elan and denied any wrongdoing, the two cases were recently dropped after the pair worked on an out-of-court cross-licensing agreement.

According to The New York Times, Elan has yet to reveal its intentions in suing Apple for patent infringement – although a lucrative licensing agreement on the company's popular range of touch screen devices must surely be the primary target. So far, Elan has yet to broach the subject of damages or injunctions against sale.

Elan's move comes as Apple increases its threats to smartphone manufacturers regarding a patent it claims covers the use of multitouch interfaces on such devices. Should Elan's case be upheld in court, not only would Apple be beholden to the company for licensing, but it would mean its own patent would be invalidated due to prior art – something Apple will be keen to avoid.

Do you believe that Apple might have trod on Elan's toes with its multitouch patent, or is Elan just trying its luck after its success with Synaptics? Share your thoughts over in the forums.
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