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Apple Wins Slide-To-Unlock Patent

David Gilbert by

Apple Slide-to-Lock Patent

Apple’s latest patent success could spell a lot of trouble for Android and Windows Phone 7 handset manufacturers.

In the US, Apple has won a patent on its slide-to-unlock feature having initially filed the patent in 2009. The feature was first introduced by Apple in 2007 on the original iPhone by Steve Jobs, and as you can see from the video below, it elicited a lot of gasps from the audience on first showing.

With Android and Windows Phone 7 having similar systems, this patent is likely to become another stick with which Apple will hope to beat its rivals. However the patent has only been granted in the US, and a Dutch judge had previously thrown out Apple’s application in Europe.

This was because a small Swedish company called NeoNode had introduced a slide-to-unlock technology as far back as 2005.

The full patent filing is:

"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."

With the acrimonious legal battles between Apple and Samsung being waged across four continents, having a well-stocked patent portfolio is becoming as important as having the best hardware or best software.

Apple Slide-to-Lock Patent

This patent is certainly broad in its description of the technology involved, and may be challenged by other manufacturers in court, but it does signal that Apple is intent on tying up as any patents as possible in the current smartphone wars.

Go to comments


October 27, 2011, 6:58 pm

"WTF" doesn't even come close to describing this!

As far as I'm aware, Apple doesn't even offer a "predefined gesture" other than "left to right" so how the hell can they be granted a patent that can now be used against Throttle-Lock (remember that one?) and the "pattern" of Android phones as well as a simple "slide to unlock" as with existing iDevices.

I saw a picture a while ago on the internet that describes this situation quite well: A photograph of a dead-bolt with the caption "Slide To Unlock: Apple patent"

This also goes back to my rant a few weeks ago when Apple got the Galaxy Tab blocked because it imitated their "simple and minimalist design" - given how inherently insecure just pressing an "unlock" button is, how else are you meant to implement a touch-screen based unlock mechanism that DOESN'T involve moving your finger across a predetermined path? Other than a "press-release-press" password typing of course


October 27, 2011, 7:16 pm

Well this is easily sorted, just remove the slide to unlock thing and replace it with numbers 1-9 and have people input a 'passcode' which can be entered by either pressing the numbers or sliding around for them like like on some on screen keyboards. Advertise it as better security and the problem goes away.

I find it annoying that if I set a passcode I have to slide to unlock and then enter it, whilst the passcode itself acts as an unlock screen. Why challenge it when you can work around it so simply.

Alternatively, gestures from the game black and white when played on a touchscreen are now infringement.


October 27, 2011, 7:50 pm

I'm not a patent lawyer, but this does seem a bit ridiculous. And as much as I think Android is a better system, watching this original launch video again does remind me of how much of a quantum leap forward the iphone really was, as a user device, and also, how charismatic Steve Jobs was.

Something else though. If they continue to try to prevent the sale of other devices through patents, sooner or later they are going to become victims of their own success by being anti-competitive. Patents should be used to licence on occasion, rather than blocking the competition. This is something Apple don't seem that fond of.


October 28, 2011, 12:48 am

Surely the way around this is for the other manufacturers to present the user with an on-screen keyboard that supports a Swype interface. Then people can decide their own pattern to unlock, and who are Apple to stop people making it "qwertyuiop"

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