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Apple Wins “Slide To Unlock” Patent, More Lawsuits Imminent?

Yesterday, the United States Patent & Trademark Office issued a patent grant to Apple for their Slide to Unlock gesture. Since the release of the iPhone this gesture has been seen in almost every phone, found in both Android and WebOS. The USPT Office has described what other companies are now restricted from including in their touch-senstivie operating systems:

“The device is unlocked if contact with the display corresponds to a predefined gesture for unlocking the device. The device displays one or more unlock images with respect to which the predefined gesture is to be performed in order to unlock the device.”

In layman’s terms, companies who use a simple slide to unlock gesture will be violating Apple’s patent. However, is this really Apple’s patent? Well according to the United States Patent Office, yes it is – even though a Dutch court has ruled it invalid. The court ruled that the slide to unlock patent is invalid because of the Neonode N1m, an early Swedish smartphone. In the video below (around the 4:00 mark) you can see the N1m uses an early slide to unlock feature, thus proving that “prior art” existed.  

If prior art can be proven, a patent will be invalid. Samsung has already brought this device to light in the Netherlands, and I guarantee others will do the same elsewhere. For now, Android should be safe from the lawyers of Apple – at least when it comes to unlocking your device.

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Via: CNET, 9To5Mac

  • Anonymous

    Further evidence that our patent system is obsolete when it comes to software.

  • Anonymous

    I like how you left out when Apple filed for this patent.

  • Mike Lucki

    Anyone else notice that she fails at directions? Specifically “right to left”?

  • Jason

    I just heard that Apple is trademarking the phrase “You mad bro?”…

  • Anonymous

    This would be impossible to use when drunk.

  • Anonymous

    I have patented typing on any kind of keyboard

    Let it be known, each character you type will now cost you $.25

  • Jonathan Hunt

    Is #502 categorized as “Any object made of flesh that is pointy”?

  • Unleash the pundits.

  • Enough with these dumb patents! If Apple tries to use this to stifle competition yet again then this will show that they didn’t need Steve Jobs in order to be complete a-holes, they’re doing just fine with out him.

  • Anonymous

    I thought it was the “America Invents Act” not the “American We Patented Regularly Used Technology First Act”  Oh then again when you are like Apple, Inc. and your lobbying group spends over $1.3 million on lobbying related to the America Invents Act I guess it doesn’t matter if you actual invented it. Your lobbying paid off and I am sure there are things to make sure they get the damn patent.  

  • If this patent has to be in accordance with the drawing, I don’t see an issue here.  If predefined must bean, “the outlined space where it says slide to unlock, with the icon on the inside” of the predefined gesture that is outline on the screen, like it is in the illustration of the patent, I don’t see this being much of an issue.  If the lawyers say, “look at this, these words describe what is illustrated here, 100 percent of it,” then I dont’ see the issue.  There is an illustration that goes with this, so this should not apply to every unlock possible, no matter what the wording says, since the illustration must be in accordance with it.

  • Anonymous

    With Honeycomb and ICS, there is no slide to unlock as it’s really a drag to unlock (same goes with HTC’s Sense 3.x lockscreen).

  • what a waste of money and resources…

  • HansGruber

    Forget the Neonode — see this from 1992, go to ~3:13:


    Hell, they even use the “sliding gesture” nomenclature.  

    Using a touchscreen and a “sliding” gesture to manipulate the UI, and over a decade before they applied for the patent.  Changing from the On/Off toggle to unlocking the device is hardly a novel or non-obvious improvement, it is just another UI element to be manipulated.

  • Next apple will patent the world!!!!

  • Madcow06

    Does anyone else suspect that apple greases plenty of palms in the patent office.

  • Rizzidy

    Dan, buddy.  Just stop.  You know nothing about patent law and you are just adding to the confusion of your audience.

  • Joel Forsyth

    so can Google clarify and gain their patent on the “notification bar” that “revolutionized” iOS5, that has been instituted in the Android OS since it’s inception? seems like iOS5 wouldn’t be worth much weight in anything if it weren’t for that…

  • GCurry

    Stupid patent system.   Sometimes it’s about an idea whose time has come.   The value of being first by a day isn’t worth ownership of the intellectual property of such an idea.   Gestures as input to computer, gee, who would have thought of that?   How about speech input?   Apple going to patent that also?   Get a patent on “Open, sesame?”   Pathetic.

  • Tom

    I feel the need to file a formal complaint to the US Patent Office. All this patenting of ideas and gestures is getting ridiculous. That is not what the patent system was originally designed to protect. It was designed to protect intellectual designs and properties. And it was designed to do it at the LOWEST POINT POSSIBLE! So for software that would mean AT THE CODE LEVEL, which PROMOTES INNOVATION! If Google or WebOS does it using a different code it is different. Simple as that. Imagine if people patented general things like that for a minute. There would be no multiple computer parts, there would be no multiple car companies, there would only be monopolies! 

    As a side note… By their schematics that means that Google is in the clear. Their unlocking method in ICS is different by the design put forth by Apple. It uses a central point and not a left to right slide. So Google should be safe either way if that is the design Apple patented.

  • The smart phone wars have begun once again at the expense of the consumer – Get ready for an increase in device prices someone has to pay for all the litigation’s to ensue. With this patent they may not go after the OS manufacture at this point they could go directly after each consumer if they choose. 

  • Anonymous

    What can you say, this nonsense will continue because our patent system has no clue what they’re doing.  They’ll listen to Apple because they’re a huge company, so until another huge company slams down the hammer, they’ll keep giving them patents on things that aren’t theirs.

  • Anonymous

    The reviewer keeps saying right to left while she is doing left to right. Lol