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.
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.