Apple sued over multitouch IP: iPad & iPhone imports under threat?

Apple's iPad might be shipping out to preorder customers, but there's at least one company who'd like to put a stop to it.  Taiwanese company Elan Microelectronics have filed a suit against Apple with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) today, on the premise that the Cupertino company's multitouch implementation impinges on one of their own patents.  If upheld, the ITC could block Apple from bringing iPads – along with iPhones, iPod touch PMPs and the Magic Mouse – into the US.

Elan describes their IP as "a fundamental patent to the detection of multi-fingers that allows for any subsequent multi-finger applications to be implemented", and its choice of the ITC is surprisingly devious.  Rather than solely pursue a claim through the courts – which it has been doing since April 2009, in fact – by petitioning the ITC the company stands a chance of blocking Apple's imports no matter the outcome of the patent thanks to an "unfair trade practice" loophole.

Apple can't complain too much, however: they've been trying to do the same thing with HTC, after all.  Still, Elan have a track record to content with, having taken Synaptics to court over the same multitouch patent; that resulted in Synaptics licensing the technology.

[via GigaOM]