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Apple Files for Face Unlock Patent, Are You Kidding Me? (Updated)

According to Apple patent investigator Patently Apple, the Cupertino based king of patent trolling has filed for a new facial unlock detection patent. Seriously, Apple? You don’t even have facial recognition technology out to the public yet, but your competitor does and you file for a patent on it? I mean, come on. We get that you hate Android with a passion, however, this just looks pathetic.

If you glance over the fancy little stick-figured depiction of this new technology, you will see that it matches up almost perfectly to what the same feature does in Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). Let’s see, it says that the device will look for eyes and a mouth in normal locations, analyze weight differences, and then unlock if it matches up to the one on file. Yeah, that’s exactly how Android’s face unlock works.  

Update:  According to Engadget, Apple actually filed for this patent back in June before Android had unveiled their Face Unlock and is just now being disclosed to the public. It should also be noted that Google purchased a facial recognition software company around that same time. Tough to tell if that company has any patents for their software or not. Ahh the patent wars – can they be anymore obnoxious?  (Cheers Dave!)

Update 2:  A reader who says that he is a patent attorney has weighed in through the comments. Both of his remarks are worth a read, one of which we have pasted below. You can find them here and here.

I am a patent attorney specializing in computer hardware/software,  telecom, mobile computing, etc., as well as a DL fan and reader. i see a lot of confusion about a number of items here so i want to clarify a few points that are clearly being misunderstood:

1. the shift from ‘first to invent’ to ‘first to file’ has nothing to do with prior art. no patent will ever be valid if there is publicly available prior art that has made the invention known to the public before the patent filing.  The only difference arises in a case where A invented something before B, but B was quicker to file his patent application.  Under the ‘first to invent’ doctrine, if A can prove that he invented first, he will receive the patent even if he filed his patent application later.  first to file changes this, whereby it doesn’t matter when you came up with the idea – only when you filed the patent application.

2.  no one (including apple) can simply get a patent on an ‘idea’ without (a lot) more. i can’t just patent the idea of ‘unlocking a phone with face recognition.’ in order for a patent to be valid, it must ‘enable’ the invention. in a nutshell, that means that there must be enough detail for someone else in the same field to be able to read the patent and understand exactly what the invention is, how it works, and how to make it.  abstract concepts are not enough – there must be concrete examples,steps,etc., which spell it out (here, likely a series of algorithms).


Via:  BGR, Patently Apple

  • boo Jay

    I take a dump daily.  I’m going to sue Apple for copying me.

  • Leo B.

    I am not sure if i understand this correctly but there is another firm called Tessera Technologies which filed a face recognition patent on September 8, 2008 it is #8,005,265.

  • James M

    That’s funny because apple patented the “idea” of being able to link text message data to apps back in ’95 before ever having a working prototype. Which is how HTC lost it’s last patient battle.

  • God. Sick of Apple. Can’t stand selling the iPhail 4.5 anymore. -.-”

  • This is no different than facial recognition login (and screensaver unlock) which has existed on computers for quite some time. See http://www.omgubuntu.co.uk/2010/09/login-to-ubuntu-using-your-face/

  • Skittleoid

    Go suck one Apple!

  • Funny thing is that if Apple gets this patent and if say some other entity uses it or is currently using it like say the government. Apple would have a hard time enforcing it without going after all parties.

    • lol all the patent does is “prevent” others from marketing it and give the government a cornucopia of a database for ideas.

  • Anonymous

    Next thing you know, Apple will patent apples and everybody who makes apple <> will get sued.


  • David Hollingshead

    Is Apple mean for filing a patent for face unlock or is Google stupid for not doing it?

    • Anonymous


  • Anonymous

    I don’t see the fuzz here. It is strictly business; and in the case of a
    giant, it is merely playing one of the core strings of capitalism which
    is self-preservation. If you are part of the supply and demand cycle, guess what, you created this problem. Now the patent process is also a whole other animal on itself, and I’ll let the experts speak to that.

  • i think the real problem is how patents effect open source

  • Chris

    Read this: guess Ice Cream Sandwich wasn’t the first.

    The proposed invention, made public this week, was first filed by Apple in June of 2009. It is credited to Robert Mikio Free.

    Apple was rumored in September of 2010
    to have acquired a Swedish facial recognition company, Polar Rose, for
    $29 million. One of the company’s products, Recognizr, could take a
    photo of a user and recognize that same person when shown on video.

    Reports have indicated that Apple has long shown interest in having its
    devices identify users with facial recognition technology and customize a
    device based on their personal preferences. In early 2010, before the
    iPad was announced, The Wall Street Journal revealed that an
    early prototype of Apple’s touchscreen tablet would use a forward-facing
    camera to recognize users’ faces, allowing it to be one device easily shared by the entire family.

    Apple reportedly experimented with the ability to customize the device,
    and have it automatically switch to a user’s personal settings once they
    picked it up. One early feature included virtual “sticky notes” that
    one user could leave for another, and would be read the next time they
    picked up the iPad.

    • Anonymous

      Dude dont waste your time…..people around here aren’t interested in FACTS….

      • Hugo Pinto

        If by FACTS you mean that facial recognition has been around for a LOOOOONG time?

  • Kniven3

    Im so sick of Apples’s cap! I also thought some of this BS would stop when Jobs died but guess not .

  • Adam Brandt

    we are in an age of  touchscreens where every screen is gonna basically be either 16:9, or 4:3 which takes care of the length and height.  And the trend for all technology of this type is thinner, lighter, and smaller bezel.  So they are ALL essentially a touchscreen.  How much different can they all be?  This is a new age of electronics and the patent office needs to catch the hell up, because this just WON’T WORK, it’s as simple as that.  The current way they are giving patents out is ignorant and uneducated, and we will need a patent to breathe the air within 3 cubic feet of an iOS device at this rate.  Anyway, something has to give.  I am reminded a little of when Napster came out and the music industry had NO IDEA what to do with this new technology.  I know it’s not the same scenario at all, but once again we are dealing with a VERY OLD and archaic office (Patent) trying to catch up with new technology it doesn’t understand and has NO IDEA what the hell it’s giving out patents for and Apple knows it and is TOTALLY trying (and so far succeeding) at taking advantage of their ignorance.  My only question is, GOOGLE WHY ARE YOU NOT PATENTING EVERYTHING YOU EVEN THINK YOU HAVE CHANCE IN HELL OF GETTING A PATENT FOR?!?  I think this whole mess will end up in court eventually, and a new division in the patent system will have to be implemented by people who understand all of this (like any reasonably intelligent 18 year old).  But some of these patents by Apple are SO BASIC and just childlike, and it’s now OBVIOUS they are not going to stop, so Google, WHY are YOU not patenting everything from your original speech to text, and OMG, the BLATENT NOTIFICATION RIPOFF APPLE PULLED ON YOU, to any cute graphic of Andy, to well, ANYTHING you think you may have a shot in hell of getting a patent at?  Apple is OBVIOUSLY going to play as DIRTY as it takes, and it’s time for you to protect your ASSets.

  • Anonymous

    Update:  According to Engadget, Apple actually filed for this patent back in June before Android had unveiled their Face Unlock and is just not being disclosed to the public. ”

    June 2010, that is.  It only publishes18 months from application date.

  • Tom Harding

    And this is why I got rid of my iPhone this year and went to Android. I hate Apple with a passion. Not only do I dislike their locked down, awkward software (iTunes has to be the most demonic piece of software ever invented), but I also despise how they operate like a bunch of arrogant tools like they own the world.

    Unfortunately, as long as Apple gadgets are simple to use, the simpletons will lap it all up and keep them at the top of the market. 
    My life is so much easier with Android.

    • Well said.  Wish I could like that comment more than just once.

    • because when they copy someones elses stuff it changes everything. blah

  • Anonymous

    apple is….there are no words to describe it…. when is this apple going to go bad so android can be -un-bothered 

  • Irie

    I’ve had this on my dell laptop for the past three years and I don’t think it was new when I bought it!  LOL  Apple blows! 

  • Anonymous

    I thought about buying a iPad and i have a transformer (most for better apps).. now, id rather go with a Quad Asus Transformer Prime or something else. No reason why anyone should support such a messed up company. They patent the obvious.. slide to unlock. On a touch screen device?

    • Anonymous

      Wait for the iPad 3 and obviously the dumb people from this site is going to tell u just get an Android tablet!

      • Im waiting for the nezus tablet

  • Anonymous

    I love pussy and money

  • Crazyhand

    I love Apple!:)

  • Anonymous

    Oh wow, after all these comments I think I may have clicked on the kiddie section of the site. Anybody know where the adult section is? You know. Where people actually converse without using personal attacks and acting like zit ridden high school kids. Oh, I digress. In this day and age you can’t have one without the other. 

  • Amador2324

    Heyy y’all I’m just a trolling apple fanboy and just to mention That apple submitted it in June 29,2010! So if I were a fandroids I wouldnt say anything ;D
    -Apple rules and Android just copies off Apple 😀

    • GNEX=SEX

      This is a joke right? Hahaha I needed a good laugh today 🙂

  • Granted

    Well Kleenex, you’ve finally hammered in the last nail on the coffin of becoming a complete and utter sellout advertising whore, by having a “Sponsored” post for T-Mobile. Of course you locked the comments because you indeed know how pathetic that is. I’m sure some moron will say “Hey we all have to pay the bills…”, well there is paying the bills and having integrity, and then there is being a complete whore and having an advertisement as a post. That is just pathetic greed and completely forgetting where you came from and having the conviction and integrity of a used car salesman. In all my many years of being on the internet I’ve never seen an ad as post, ads on the page sure, but damn that is so pathetic.

    It’s just a shame I seem to be the only one who doesn’t appreciate being pandered to. I choose to view it in the vain hope it would return what made it great, but alas it keeps deteriorating like a meth-addicted low-rent prostitute, day by day. But the closed comments for that post should speak quite enough for what I’m saying, I mean you surely don’t want to piss of a paying sponsor while you inundate to the people that give you reason to have a sponsor…..damn that is just an unmatched way of urinating all over your readers. But I guess if your constantly ramming your nose into his fecal dungeon, well you are too blinded by crap to even notice. But it’s beyond a slippery slope and eventually this site will look like Myspace. It won’t be long now before you have to click and view an ad to read the second part to a post. I’m sure my truth will be deleted, but at least I don’t have to live with having the integrity of a Congress member.

    • Anonymous

      No one else likes it, but at least they have the decency to include [Sponsored] in the title. And obviously comments are blocked, if the sponsor reads your nasty comments they might pull out – ain’t rocket science.

      Chill out bro.

  • Anonymous

    apple, please burn, thanks

  • Guest

    Apple actually does have SOME sort of facial recognition technology that they use in iPhoto. The tech is able to learn specific faces as well.

    • Most photo software has face recognition…not justbapple but my gnex has it facebook has it google plus has it…i think its two different things tho

  • the signs of a once innovative company becoming not so innovative, what a shame. 

  • Kim

    Interesting  read
    describes a small part of the technology that FastAccess has used since we
    innovated this type of face recognition in 2006. At CES in a couple
    weeks, we will demonstrate FastAccess Anywhere – for mobile. Using patent
    pending technology, we have optimized it to recognize faces in real-world
    mobile conditions.  Our tech is highly resistant to photo and video of an
    enrolled person’s face.  

  • Well, at least Android got it out first to Apple has to catch up to it. But if Apple wins I will crush my second gen iPod touch. 

    • Mike Johnson

      I got a Samsung Galaxy music device after my iPod was stolen. I like it much better and its Android. 

  • Drod2169

    If they filed for it in June, Android still announced facial recognition software with ICS in May at I/O.

  • Anonymous

    to all those wondering ‘why doesn’t google patent stuff too?’:

    please take my (very well informed in this respect 😉 ) word that google is doing just that

  • As some one who works in security I can say that facial recognition has been around a while and really isn’t our preferred method most systems can be fooled by a picture, which is why they are generally paired with some sort of biometric scanner aka (hand reader, finger scanner, or retina).  So it is possible that they have some improvement or adaption that they want to patent.  I do find it hard to believe they could possibly have something more innovative than the systems used in government buildings and secure businesses.

  • Adam F.

    So, let’s turn around and file a patent for voice recognition software that filters through a server first.

  • R Greeney

    Hello..Toshiba had that years ago…..

  • Eric Richardson

    From June 2009. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nRLFXkPrKs

  • Applying does not translate into granting a patent. Google wasn’t born yesterday. So, unless you’re working for both camps, we’ll have to wait and see.

  • edwards311

    Apple is an absolute piece of sh*t…..this is just ridiculous.
    Hey Apple……F*CK YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    Android FTW !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    wow i know you guys are not shocked by this

  • More and more this is loooking like a tempest in a teacup. Even a just a few minutes of very casual Google searches show that there’s plenty of prior art and already well-established patents out there that would be impossible to ignore and which narrow the potential scope of this patent filing tremendously. Anybody who is still worried that Apple is going to try to use this filing to get one over on Android is likely either paranoid or lazy.

  • patentlyinformed

    This post is embarrassing.  Learn about “filing dates” and “prior art” before sounding off like a complete uninformed fanboy.  PS this is coming from someone who owned nothing but android phones since the 2nd iphone.

  • Anonymous

    This actually would be a perfect test to prove to the world exactly how broken the US patent system is.  If the patent is granted, there should be an immediate investigation and overhaul of the patent system.  

  • Anonymous

    This was filed BEFORE ICS. 

    Therefore, Android stole from iOS, yet again.

    iKid, iKid!

  • Mjsplicer78

    UPDATE-Apple applies for the right to be a douchebag patent. It was instantly granted based on merit


    wow, another b.s apple move. they should just shove an android up their ass… tried siri today in the store…too many voices…couldn’t get it. pulled out my thunderbolt…soon to be gnex and it google voice worked fine..

    • QtDL

      My Apple fanboy boss tried to demonstrate Siri to me on his new 4S…..def took 5 tries or so to get a correct answer for something.

  • Good grief!

  • Kellen you might want to update this. According to Engadget, Apple filed for this back on June 29th, 2010 and only now is it coming forward. However in Google’s defense according to some commenters over there, Google bought out a facial recognition company back in July called PittPatt. Unfortunately Engadget won’t recognize this. This could get interesting.

    Sources below:

    Engadget Article


    TechCrunch Article and PittPatt Website (Links Commenters from Engadget are using)



    • QtDL

      Your post made me think of this….completely irrelevant and obscure. Wonder how many of you know where it’s from….

  • Anonymous

    I’m assuming they are trying to patent the technology that they plan to use for their own version of Face Unlock. Google should have tried to patent the entire idea like Apple did with Slide to Unlock, but they seem to be more interested in innovating then trying to slow their competition like Apple is.

  • Google please start documenting NOW! crapple is winning this battle. 

  • Manuel Olague

    F*CK APPLE!!! Google needs to get to patenting there stuff before apple can. Patent notifications, folders, pattern and face unlock. Anything! Don’t let apple take over!

    • Anonymous

      This patent was filed over a year ago. They aren’t stealing from android.

  • Ian Santopietro

    Give ’em the patent. When they sue, there’s so much prior work on this it’ll make the lawyers’ minds spin.