Slide to Unlock is now Slide to Welcome the Wrath of Apple. Yes, Apple has successfully won a patent for the commonly used Slide to Unlock feature used to unlock capacitive touchscreen phones.
Steve Jobs during the unveiling of the iPhone way back in 2007 was almost giddy showing off Apple’s simple solution to preventing the pocket dialing dilemma. The patent application filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) dates back to December 2005, nearly a year and half before the iPhone would be announced. Scott Forstall, Senior VP of iOS, and a handful of other Apple engineers are credited with “inventing” the Slide to Unlock patent.
While the feature was apparently implemented in a Windows CE smartphone during the stone-age of mobile technology Apple and their Intellectual Property lawyers now have another patent packed in their arsenal for use in the U.S.. However, it seems Google and their Android developers anticipated this move by Apple as their unlock screens have progressively moved further and further away from the simple Slide to Unlock feature with each iteration.
This might not matter though because of the following excerpt:
A device with a touch-sensitive display may be unlocked via gestures performed on the touch-sensitive display. 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. The performance of the predefined gesture with respect to the unlock image may include moving the unlock image to a predefined location and/or moving the unlock image along a predefined path. The device may also display visual cues of the predefined gesture on the touch screen to remind a user of the gesture. — Patent 8,046,721
Thankfully, Apple has already unsuccessfully tried to levy this particular patent against Samsung in the Netherlands. A judge ruled the patent invalid because of the Windows CE Neonode N1m. The video below (skip to about 4 minutes) clearly shows the phone using a swipe to unlock gesture no less than two years before the iPhone’s unveiling and before Apple’s patent application. However, patent law in the United States is a decidedly different beast than in the Netherlands.
Whether Apple is able to successfully levy this far-reaching patent will be interesting. The patent literally covers all unlock screens, but was thrown out during proceedings in the Netherlands. However, if Apple successfully levees this patent against competing mobile operating systems in the U.S. the landscape for phones could drastically change stateside.
Source: The Register, Android Central