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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.


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    Further evidence that our patent system is obsolete when it comes to software.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

  • Anonymous

    Im pretty sure Google will have better unlock gestures like the face sensor unlock in ICS. and unlike apple wil move on to a innovative way to unlock .. I believe LG Prada should be doing alot of suing since they had a touchscreen before iPhone ever existed.

  • Magabucks

    I hear that Apple was awarded the patent on how to be awarded patents.

    • Anonymous

      They also received a patent on taking a bite out of the right side of a piece of fruit while moving your mouth toward the fruit in a predetermined path. 

  • Jack Hoffman

    Reviewer seems be confused on the patent issue as she isn’t sure which side is “right”

  • Solution: Make the gesture location random, but limited to an area so small it is unnoticeable. Now it is not predefined.

  • Anonymous

    The prior art will render this patent invalid in the courts. 

  • Apple’s new slogan should be “Innovation through litigation”.

    • Anonymous

      Changing the lingo from “litigation, not  innovation” to “innovation through litigation” is not innovative.  They also would have to steal the idea from some obscure device, company, or even movie (rectangle type tablet device in  2001:A Space Odyssey) for Apple to want to patent it.  

      Wasn’t the whole point of the patent office to create and own the rights, not steal and claim the rights?  Remember the story of guy who invented the intermittent windshield wipers.  He took the idea to the big car maunfacturers, and they all told him nobody wanted such a thing.  The next model year, all of them had these new wipers on vehicles and he was able to sue for rights.  The point is that he tried to take his idea and market it to others, but they instead left him penniless and stole the idea.  The patent office needs to undergo some major changes and actually research the technology that they issue the patents for – it should not have to be over-turned in court years and millions of dollars later!

      • EC8CH

        “The patent office needs to undergo some major changes and actually research the technology that they issue the patents for – it should not have to be over-turned in court years and millions of dollars later!”

        This is exactly the problem… but I can appreciate the difficulties involved in more stringent patent application reviewal.  How do you expect the USPTO staff to be expert enough in all fields, where do you draw the line at what it innovative, etc.

        I agree that reform is desperately needed, but it is a difficult problem to solve.

    • guest

      here ya go

  • Daniel Archibald33

    I think someone should hack the new iphone 4s and install the latest version of android on it and then send it back to apple headquarters just to piss them off.

    • Anonymous

      I think we need to put that to the Developers at XDA i bet they can get it to work and ship it to Crapple, Now that would be friggin hilarious

    • Anonymous

      Apple probably wouldn’t care.  Its one phone that they sold.  They just care about selling phones and trying to litigate out the competition, since they can no longer out innovate them.  

  • Daniel Archibald33

    I think Apple is feeling threatened by a Superior Product. Android has outdone the iphone on every front!

    They are scared of competition. I think Google should sue apple for being lame

    • Anonymous

      This patent was most likely filed before Android came out…

    • Anonymous

      “Android has outdone the iphone on every front!”

      Except the front that really matters:



    • Anonymous

      If you are suing over a lock-screen I would say you are getting desperate.

  • I’ll give them a gesture they can patent.

    • Billy Jenkins


  • Guest

    I just wish they knew their left from rights back then.

  • Anonymous

    Man I hate apple.

  • Bear0013

    Im mad bro !!!!………..lol

    • Anonymous

      yea but u enraged bro?

  • Nobody

    Blue Jean manufactuers, watch out, you’re next!


  • Kira Sargent

    Ok google go patent slide down notification menu and make them take it out fight back.

    • Anonymous

      except that cydia made drop down notifications available on iOS before android..a lot of people (mostly android users)  dont realize this

  • They can keep it. I love the lock screens MIUI has. Thanks to Go Locker, those things may finally become standard.

  • Billy Jenkins

    its patents and lawsuits like these that make me hate Apple and every Apple product a little more every month.

    • EC8CH

      why shouldn’t *pple protect their brilliant and revolutionary breakthroughs such as this one.


      • Billy Jenkins


  • Anonymous

    Next apple will want to patent breathing or talking while on a mobile cellular device. This is getting silly. Shame on both Apple and the USPT Office.

  • Billy Jenkins

    I prefer the honeycomb lockscreen which technically isn’t the same as slide to unlock.

    • Bear0013

      I like that to

  • brian

    Ahhh… thanks to you Droi-Life I can now rest a little bit easier! 🙂 Screw the appholes!

  • EC8CH

    The ICS lockscreen doesn’t require a “predefined gesture”.  You can take any path you want to end up at the unlock point or camera point.

    Even though this patent is bull, stock Android still doesn’t infringe upon it.

  • Gamer 28

    Haven’t you heard? Apple is also suing Mexico, aperantly the taco was Apple’s idea first.

  • GonnaBeRich

    I’m filing the “Turn to Steer” patent as we speak…

  • Ridiculously stupid.  But fortunately, there’s the word ‘predefined’.

    Force the OS to make you create your own unlock gesture during phone setup.  Done.

  • Keith Sumner

    You know what this means? More delays for ICS while they change the lock screen, and more delays for your precious Nexus.

    • Dominick DeVito

      easy killer. down boy. We’re all united against a common enemy in this thread!

  • Anonymous

    say that enough times and apple’s gonna go after another patent

  • Dominick DeVito

    Is this just for touchscreen devices? Or are all bathroom stalls as we know it going to change.  =)

  • Anonymous

    there are two things you can count on, apple suing everyone and mctypething posting on every thread with “u mad bro?”

    • Keith Sumner

      U mad bro?

      • Billy Jenkins

        u 10 bro?

        • Vince Lewis

          u bro?..bro?

      • Anonymous

        u a follower bro?

    • Guest

      and every time i see him do it i’m going to type “you a dick bro?” because if he can get away with posting that shit in every thread then i should be able to post asking if he’s a dick, which i think he is.

  • Anonymous

    this is downright crazy.  i hope they bankrupt themselves in this thermonuclear war their waging.  cause they’re certainly not out-innovating anyone anymore.  they should be really worried about that now that jobs is gone.

  • Does anyone know if Google has patented the Notification Center?

    • Anonymous

      Wouldn’t matter; Google has a policy against suing for software patents. Yet another reason I like Google over Apple.

      • No, I mean patent it for defense, not for suing, that’s the important part.

        • EC8CH

          in patent warfare the only defense is a good offense 😉

          Only reason to patent something is to prevent other’s from using it. They just need prior art to invalid anyone else’s patents claims against them.  Only thing patents would be good for is counter suits to try and strike some cross licensing deal.  See how this all just adds up to more money for lawyers.

          • I would agree, these lawsuits don’t help apple very much.  Even though they have win some import bans, I think Android is still growing stronger than iOS, it just causes a waste of money on both sides, and lines lawyers pockets.  I couldn’t agree more.  On another note, I dont’ think the new patent law that Obama made applies to this, being that this was filed before the law, unless somewhere in that patent law it says, “patents granted after this date shall be considered under this law” or something like that.

          • EC8CH
          • It’s going to be an ugly day in court.  I wonder if Apple will eventually die out without Steve Jobs like before

  • So, they got a patent for something that was, obviously, not theirs two days after the Steve Jobs bio was released. Quick, someone write a bio on Eric Schmidt.

  • Graeio

    you think you’re cool kid?

    • Anonymous

      LMFAO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  😛

  • Screw the Galaxy Nexus, when is this Neonode N1M coming out?  Who’s camping out with me?

  • Ben Kafka

    In other news, Mercedes has been awarded the patent for the steering wheel.

  • babadush

    I hope the honeycomb and ics lock screens are patented. They’re better anyway

  • Anonymous


    There is nothing predefined about the unlocks in Honeycomb or Ice Cream Sandwich.

    • Anonymous

      you could argue the other way pretty easily too.  they’re pretty predefined depending on how you look at it.

      • Anonymous

        I believe the actual patent also uses the word “path”.

      • Anonymous

        any unlock feature will be predefined, as it has to be coded to work.  Now that definiton can be really broad (touch the screen anywhere) or really defined (pattern unlock).  Seems to me they narrowed the defintion to sliding a graphic across the screen.

  • Dominick DeVito

    What would cars look like if Ford sued Chevrolet and Chrysler for building cars with 4 wheels?

    • babadush

      I think we all (android users) knew slide to lock was a gimme. That was pretty blatant

      • Dominick DeVito

        Is the swiping of app screens blatant also? How about the phone being rectangular shaped?

  • Allen Cross

    An interesting development but hardly worth worrying about. 

    In April, the Netherlands’ judge in ‘Apple v Samsung’ issued a preliminary dismissal of their European (‘slide-to-unlock’) patent on grounds of prior art.:


    He also treated their claim to a European patent on so-called ‘multitouch gestures’ with pretty much the same level of casual disdain.:


    With precedent like that, Apple would be silly to even consider using this new US patent against anybody with the cash for proper defense.

    • Anonymous

      That’s never stopped them in the past.

  • Is it too late for me to patent the direction arrows on the volume rocker?

  • Anonymous

    This is getting just plain silly!

  • WTF? Is patenting a method of walking, as defined by moving one foot forward and then the other, next on the list?  Apple patents the use of the index finger to dial a phone number?

    • trumpet444

      if there’s not a patent for it yet, I wouldn’t be surprised

  • Robd3100

    I loath Apple, but I like the Honeycomb/ICS unlock better anyway which is more of a pull to unlock lol. Android better patent that, and glass and metal so everyone can keep building phones…..Ridiculous!

  • Anonymous

    Steve Jobs smiling from his grave.

  • This is just plain ridiculous. 

  • Anonymous
    • Anonymous

      Thanks bro – they will never win with this picture out there  LOL

      • Anonymous

        i’m sure they guy who worked on the galaxy s photoshop could work some magic

  • Anonymous

    Is the Pope Catholic? 
    If I recall, someone said , last breath, thermonuclear..

    So yes, more lawsuits

  • Alias747

    I’m going to patent taking a dump, then I’ll have the last laugh

    • Nobody

      Too late, Apple’s already been crapping all over every other manufactuer that tries to build a mobile phone. ie: prior ‘art’

    • DougR

      i’m going to patent laughing, then sue you!

      • A Guest

        I’m going to patent suing!!! everyone will pay!!! 


        • Mike

          I’m going to patent patenting. And then I’m going to patent being ridiculous.

          All your money are belong to me.

    • Guest

      That’ll be rejected under 35 USC 102(f). “he did not himself invent the subject matter sought to be patented”

      you mad bro?

  • Are you kidding me? What other way to unlock a phone is there? Why does Apple insist on thinking they invented everything? They steal from others and then act like they came up with it and sue.

    • Anonymous

      Are you blind? Google themselves have come up with two brilliant ways to unlock the phone. Face recognition and pattern unlock. 

      EDIT: Not only that but HTC came up with the ring unlock, MS came up with their own way, so did Palm, and RIM.

      • Yes I know but technically a pattern is still sliding to unlock. And facial recognition while neat is not as quick as simply sliding to unlock the phone.

        • BUT, and this is a big one. The patent only covers a “predefined path”, seeing as a pattern to unlock is not a predefined, but user defined path, thats one strike.

          The patent also states that it is moving a widget, slide to unlock does not move a graphical widget asset around the screen.

          • Kidd_Funkadelic

            So then Android could get around it by tweaking the pattern unlock to have a minimum of 2 points in the pattern, and the ability to “show pattern points”, effectively making it the same feature just not a “predefined path”? I could live with that. Then provide ability to skin, and voilia, back to the puzzle screen I love from TW.

          • Anonymous

            isn’t that idea also predefined?

        • Anonymous

          “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.”

          No one else uses this EXCEPT for Motorola and Android versions of the past. WP7 isn’t a predefined gesture. You can swipe up ANYWHERE on the screen, same thing with webOS. Even the video posted in the article isn’t the same thing as the patent.

          • I guess it depends on how you’re interpreting it, because contact with the display that corresponds to a predefined gesture, that includes the ring long, You are making contact with the display and unlocking the screen in a predefined way. Same with drag down to unlock, same with ice cream sandwhich. I mean it can be interpreted to mean anything. 

            However, if the picture in the patent has any bearing, then it doesn’t pertain to anything in Android except the older motoblur lock screens because no one else I know has a background behind the sliding tab. 

        • John

          pattern isn’t a gesture.  pattern unlock will not be covered by this patent.

      • Anonymous

        That still doesn’t make “slide to unlock” either innovative or patent-worthy.

        • Anonymous

          But I suppose you think face-unlock is?

          • Anonymous

            Not in the slightest. Nor is fingerprint recognition, pattern unlock, etc. They’re all pretty intuitive things. Now, if we’re talking the actual software code that makes these things happen, that’s a different matter.

          • maybetroll

            Intuitive =/= Unpatentable

  • Anonymous

    Apparently nobody at the USPTO even bothers to do a 10-second google search to see if there’s obvious prior art before granting a bogus patent.

  • Anonymous

    Patent everything Android!  Watch the fruit company crumble…..

    • Dharpell

      Did they patient locked boot loaders? Can they sue moto for that?

  • jimbob

    Apple must have sore knees, seeing all the patents that are going their way.