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.