An obscure patent by three Frenchmen describes a new way of controlling touchscreens

Source: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

With speculation about the Apple AAPL tablet computer rising to a fever pitch, Gus Sentementes at the
Baltimore Sun
has scored what may be an important scoop.

He’s put his hands on a patent filing, recently assigned to Apple, that describes in detail a graphical user interface “for navigating three-dimensional virtual spaces and manipulating three-dimensional objects in the virtual spaces using simple finger gestures.”

The descriptions of how this might work jibe with rumors that the tablet interacts with the user in a new and unusual way. Other rumors have described the tablet as utilizing 3D graphics.

The patent is available here. It was filed by three French citizens, Fabrice Robinet, Thomas Goossens and Alexandre Moha, at least two of whom now work at Apple.

According to the Patent Office, Apple obtained the rights to the patent in Sept. 2008.

You can read Sentementes’s report here.

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[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]