Apple has been granted a renewal on a 2010 patent for: “a stylus comprising: a body with a first end and a second end; a tip located at a first end of the body; one or more position sensors disposed on the body, wherein the position sensor is in communication with the tip; and a transmitter operative to transmit position data generated by the one or more position sensors to a remote computing device.” The fairly detailed outline goes on to spec out more fully a design that involves accelerometers and other motion sensors to implement a stylus that can transmit hand movements remotely to a device without using a Wacom-style pad or other special surface to pick up the movements.
The patent also appears to apply specifically to “a method for capturing text written by a user” as well as “a system for entering data,” so it definitely seems to focus on at least onscreen inking, and perhaps even handwriting recognition. Whether this means that Apple has plans to implement a full stylus-driven input solution isn’t clear, but it certainly belies Steve Jobs’s famous comments about the iPad and the stylus. Other commentators certainly haven’t been slow to point that out.
It’s also not clear whether this patent gives Apple any kind of exclusivity on similar stylus designs. The original patent did date back to 2010, but Wacom has obviously been in business for at least that long. And Livescribe, which has its own stylus solution that, however, also uses “digital paper” for capturing hand movements, was founded way back in 2007. And of course, however detailed the patent, it may be hard to prove genuinely unique intellectual property on this idea – even given the dysfunctional U.S. patent system.