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Micron Lands Broad "Slide To Unlock" Patent 211

Posted by timothy
from the is-it-malice-blindness-or-incompetence dept.
Zordak writes "Micron has recently landed U.S. Patent 8,352,745, which claims priority back to a February 2000 application---well before Apple's 2004 slide-to-unlock application. While claim construction is a highly technical art, the claims here are (for once) almost as broad as they sound, and may cover the bulk of touch screen smart phones on the market today. Dennis Crouch's Patently-O has a discussion."
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Micron Lands Broad "Slide To Unlock" Patent

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  • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @01:05PM (#42752069) Homepage

    The USPTO is holding roundtables with software developers to ask for suggestions. If anyone can add to what's there already, I've some suggestions on this wiki:

    http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Suggestions_for_the_USPTO_in_2013 [swpat.org]

    (But remember, the patent office has only a small role in patent policy. Most substantial changes will have to come from Congress or the Supreme Court.)

    • by h4rr4r (612664) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @01:09PM (#42752129)

      Here is a simple suggestion.

      MATH IS NOT FUCKING PATENTABLE YOU IDIOTS! STOP ALLOWING SOFTWARE PATENTS SINCE THEY ARE JUST MATH.

      This should be pretty simple, but they would never accept that.

      Slashdot admins; The caps are supposed to be yelling, that is why I used them. Sometimes yelling is needed.

      • by logjon (1411219) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @01:15PM (#42752221)
        Alternatively, since they have to follow court rulings, we could try: OBVIOUSNESS TEST FOR SOFTWARE PATENTS SHOULD BE DONE BY SOMEONE WHOSE EXPERTISE IN THE FIELD INVOLVES MORE THAN SENDING E-MAIL IN OUTLOOK. Seriously, where do they find these people? If it's software to do X, it should be examined by someone with expertise in the field of software AND the field of X.
        • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @01:48PM (#42752587)

          The very first test should be - ask a bunch of software guys - "If you had to do X in software, how would you do it?"

          If ANY of them gets even close the patent should be thrown out.

          That said, there shouldn't be any software patents. Asking how to improve the process of patenting software is like asking how to improve the process of circumcision. Just because you do it now, and lots of tribal elders say it's a great idea, doesn't mean it's true.

          • by ColdWetDog (752185) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @01:59PM (#42752755) Homepage

            Asking how to improve the process of patenting software is like asking how to improve the process of circumcision. Just because you do it now, and lots of tribal elders say it's a great idea, doesn't mean it's true.

            I was going to nominate you for some sort of award, but I am puzzled as to exactly how to proceed. Non sequitur of the month? Most inappropriate Off Topic rant of the week?

            Were you trying for anything in specific or was this a toss-it-against a Library of Congress to see if it was saluted?

          • by sjames (1099)

            Meanwhile, if between the time it is filed and granted, anyone else either files for or implements the patent, it is presumed insufficiently non-obvious.

            • Meanwhile, if between the time it is filed and granted, anyone else either files for or implements the patent, it is presumed insufficiently non-obvious.

              Flag down. Bringing logic and reason into an argument about imaginary property. 20 year penalty.

            • That would have to be "Meanwhile, if between the time it is filed and granted and before the patent filer has released their own implementation, anyone else either files for or implements the patent, it is presumed insufficiently non-obvious."

              Since patents can apparently take 13 years to file.

            • Meanwhile, if between the time it is filed and granted, anyone else either files for or implements the patent, it is presumed insufficiently non-obvious.

              Keep in mind that patent applications are made public relatively shortly after they are filed, and usually long before they are granted. I think the standard is 12 or 18 months after filing.

              • by sjames (1099)

                Of course, it also takes time to implement a patent even if it is laid out before you. If it can be implemented in a very short time, it probably fails for triviality.

          • Cut it all off. The problem will be solved in a single generation.

          • by hairyfeet (841228)

            Wow, way for you and everybody else to miss the point. Don't feel bad, I used to miss the point to, trying to apply things like common sense and logic to these things.

            But you see logic and common sense need not apply here, just like how copyrights have become "forever minus a single day" and protect the "rights" of people that have been worm food for decades its ALL about allowing a bunch of old fucks at the top to continue to stay at the top, that's all. It lets those in power put up toll booths that their

          • by Creepy (93888)

            In this case, I'm not so sure, especially if the software guy wasn't shown the patent in the first place. In 2000, when Micron first filed for the patent, there were no smart phones and few touchscreen "mobile" devices (like drawing tablets - usually those were tethered like a traditional keyboard or mouse). To draw a squiggly (or even as simple as a straight line) to unlock the touchscreen rather than, say, enter a numeric code or a password would seem rather novel. The touchscreens I used back then all ha

        • by MCRocker (461060) * on Thursday January 31, 2013 @02:57PM (#42753477) Homepage

          First to invent vs. file conflicts could be used to raise the bar on obviousness.

          Obviousness is surprisingly difficult to determine because some of the best and most brilliant ideas are also very simple ideas that seem obvious only in retrospect. So the patent office is deliberately reluctant to interpret the obviousness constraint too rigorously.

          Recently, the US has switched from awarding priority of similar patents to the first one to be filed instead of the first to be invented. Since there is often a very long delay from filing to patent award, during which filers must not publicly disclose their idea, priority becomes an issue more frequently than one might expect.

          It seems obvious to me that instead of struggling with who has priority, the patent office should simply look at two similar patents being filed at about the same time as a failure of the obviousness test because, clearly, two different practitioners of the art came up with similar solutions to a problem. So both patents and any similar future filings should be rejected as obvious.

          This doctrine would have disallowed a lot of patents in the past including the light bulb and telephone, which, while revolutionary were being investigated by several inventors who came up with similar solutions and even filed within hours of each other!

          • Since there is often a very long delay from filing to patent award, during which filers must not publicly disclose their idea, priority becomes an issue more frequently than one might expect.

            Are you proposing that it should be changed to be this way? Currently, that is absolutely not true.

        • by gutnor (872759)

          Right after graduating, the USPTO equivalent here was trying to get people to go work there without much success.

          Simply put, it is a boring job. Even worse, it is still a government job (although extremely well paid, it was like double the starting salary of the other well paid job), with all the office politic, policies and general slowness. What they would need is to hire successful professionals, people that have had to actively solve problems, that are continuously learning, ... i.e. the exact same

      • Is physics patentable? I mean, my new catapult design is just physics.
        • Catapult designs are an application of engineering, physics shouldn't be patentable, but the productive result of applied engineering is: a technique for accomplishing something (your catapult design is one technique for flinging pianos i.e.)

          These should by all means patentable, but the physics equations used to prove it does what it does? Those have no reason to be patentable.
          • Thanks, you stated what I was implying. My point apparently was lost on most people; I didn't realize there was such a large population here who honestly believed that all patents are bullshit.

            Software is not "just math" in the same way that catapults are not just physics.

      • Here is a simple suggestion.

        MATH IS NOT FUCKING PATENTABLE YOU IDIOTS! STOP ALLOWING SOFTWARE PATENTS SINCE THEY ARE JUST MATH.

        Software patents that are just math are not allowed. You'll see that this one involves hardware, which is not just math*.

        *unless you're saying that all hardware can be abstracted as mathematical relationships, and are therefore arguing that all machines are unpatentable too?

        • *unless you're saying that all hardware can be abstracted as mathematical relationships, and are therefore arguing that all machines are unpatentable too?

          QED

          (and reason #794 that patents are bullshit)

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          Here is a simple suggestion.

          MATH IS NOT FUCKING PATENTABLE YOU IDIOTS! STOP ALLOWING SOFTWARE PATENTS SINCE THEY ARE JUST MATH.

          Software patents that are just math are not allowed. You'll see that this one involves hardware, which is not just math*.

          *unless you're saying that all hardware can be abstracted as mathematical relationships, and are therefore arguing that all machines are unpatentable too?

          yeah sure, that would apply __IF__ this patent was tied to some hw. if it were, it wouldn't be a problem and nobody would have to care about it either.

          • Here is a simple suggestion.

            MATH IS NOT FUCKING PATENTABLE YOU IDIOTS! STOP ALLOWING SOFTWARE PATENTS SINCE THEY ARE JUST MATH.

            Software patents that are just math are not allowed. You'll see that this one involves hardware, which is not just math*.

            *unless you're saying that all hardware can be abstracted as mathematical relationships, and are therefore arguing that all machines are unpatentable too?

            yeah sure, that would apply __IF__ this patent was tied to some hw. if it were, it wouldn't be a problem and nobody would have to care about it either.

            You have a software-only touch screen? What do you touch it with if it's not tangible?

            • You have a software-only touch screen? What do you touch it with if it's not tangible?

              General Purpose Computing Devices should not count as the apparatus in "Method and Apparatus For ___" that all software patents use as a loophole.

              I can implement this slide to unlock bullishit on paper: A greeting card, for example. It's implemented on my damn door, Already. Those are examples of hardware tied to the software. The idea of sliding to unlock something is not new or innovative. Applying it to general purpose computing devices with general purpose touch input screens whereby dragging or

              • You have a software-only touch screen? What do you touch it with if it's not tangible?

                General Purpose Computing Devices should not count as the apparatus in "Method and Apparatus For ___" that all software patents use as a loophole.

                Why not? Bearing in mind that a general purpose computing device won't help with novelty or nonobviousness, why should it not be a good limitation that anchors an otherwise abstract idea?

                ... Except that you didn't bear that in mind:

                I can implement this slide to unlock bullishit on paper: A greeting card, for example. It's implemented on my damn door, Already. Those are examples of hardware tied to the software. The idea of sliding to unlock something is not new or innovative. Applying it to general purpose computing devices with general purpose touch input screens whereby dragging or "sliding" is a well understood, non inventive input method is asinine, obvious at best.

                You're confusing three different statutes. Patent eligibility is under 35 USC 101 and defines what subject material is potentially patent eligible - processes, machines, articles of manufacture, compositions of matter. You're trying to conflate a rule under that with 35 USC 102

        • by tragedy (27079)

          But it doesn't require particular hardware, any general purpose computing hardware with an appropriate display and sensors will do. It doesn't matter how they're implemented or what they're made of. The hardware could be made of condensed dark matter with darkenergytronic circuits and this patent would still apply. This patent covers math, and not just math, but an idea.

      • by gstoddart (321705)

        All computing has a foundation in math, but not all patents relate to mathematical things. They relate to trying to map physical analogs to digital things.

        Swipe to unlock? Pretty much no math there except the graphics libraries. It's a concept, but there's not exactly some mathematical formula for swipe to unlock.

        I've never subscribed to the argument that all computing is math, because as much as it affects how efficient your algorithms are, software is not mathematics.

        The problem with patents is they se

        • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @01:57PM (#42752737)

          Indeed.

          Swipe to unlock for doors == a bolt.

          Swipe to unlock for GUI == ?

          Patenting GUI analogs of physical devices is an oxymoron - you're copying a user interface that already exists. The very reason you made that analog in a piece of software is because it ISN'T a new and innovative idea. It's familiar and obvious to people or there would be no point.

          If you want to patent UI metaphors, you should first demonstrate that no-one understands how to use it without first reading the manual.

      • by Grond (15515)

        MATH IS NOT FUCKING PATENTABLE YOU IDIOTS! STOP ALLOWING SOFTWARE PATENTS SINCE THEY ARE JUST MATH.

        Well let's look at claim 1 of this patent. "A system comprising: a touch screen upon which a user is to enter, by drawing, a geometric pattern in a specified direction to gain access to the system; and a processing circuit coupled to the touch screen to compare the user entered geometric pattern to a predefined geometric pattern stored in a memory."

        Certainly some parts of this can be reduced to mathematics. The geometric pattern, obviously, as well as whatever algorithm is used for comparing the input wit

        • Certainly some parts of this can be reduced to mathematics. The geometric pattern, obviously, as well as whatever algorithm is used for comparing the input with the pattern. But no amount of math is going to cause a touch screen to appear out of thin air.

          Invalid. The components employed are general purpose touch input screens, and a general purpose computer. These are allowed to NARROW the patent field, but should not be the basis of whether or not the thing is patentable. Screens made for touch input were developed well before year 2000. General purpose computers existed as well. These general purpose devices could implement a wide range of algorithms to implement a myriad of User Interfaces based on Touch and Computing and Geometry. What the patent

      • Imagine if Internet RFCs were patents instead. *sigh*

  • by StrangeBrew (769203) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @01:09PM (#42752139)
    once my twist to open patent is approved.
  • processing circuit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stevejf (2724307) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @01:12PM (#42752181)
    The claim still requires a 'processing circuit coupled to the touchscreen.' The disclosure also talks about a 'compare circuit.' I would think that a software implementation would not be covered by at least claim 1 of this patent. They may be able to argue software implementations are covered under doctrine of equivalents, but personally, I would think that dedicated hardware does not function in 'essentially the same way.'
    • by Zordak (123132)
      The CPU is a "processing circuit." It doesn't matter that the specification includes a "compare circuit," because it's not part of the claim. You can't just read stuff from the specification into the claims (except when you can).
  • by pv2b (231846) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @01:15PM (#42752231)

    I'm not a patent expert, although I did once watch a very informative video about how patents work. This makes me eminently qualified on the subject by slashdot standards.

    Looking at the independent claims, it looks like at least the lock screen as implemented by Samsung (starting at the unlock button, drag a certain distance in any direction to unlock) and possibly other Android phones out there is safe from this patent.

    1. A system comprising:

    a touch screen upon which a user is to enter, by drawing, a geometric pattern in a specified direction to gain access to the system; and

    a processing circuit coupled to the touch screen to compare the user entered geometric pattern to a predefined geometric pattern stored in a memory.

    Since the system on Samsung phones works no matter which direction you drag, it looks like the "slide to unlock" implementation in Samsung phones is clear.

    However, I think this patent may very well be applicable to the "pattern lock" of android phones.

    • by tlhIngan (30335)

      Looking at the independent claims, it looks like at least the lock screen as implemented by Samsung (starting at the unlock button, drag a certain distance in any direction to unlock) and possibly other Android phones out there is safe from this patent.

      Dirty little secret - Google actually intentioned things to be like that to AVOID any patents held by Apple, Microsoft, etc!

      And yes, Android is better for it - like the home screen and app launcher that Android has over the springboard that iOS has, which add

  • I have an application to patent "intent to unlock" comprising mind-reading and intentional software.
    However, bugs in the dynamics of intentional flaws intended to unlock locked the unlocked locks tight. I always managed to unlock my neighbor's lock but my locks tended to become more locked. My intention is to lock the unlock code into the cloud to create a crowd-sourced intentional unlocking mechanism locked into a plurality of metaphoric intentions.

  • by cellocgw (617879) <cellocgw@NOsPAm.gmail.com> on Thursday January 31, 2013 @01:48PM (#42752601) Journal

    Disclaimer: I have never come within 1.6 km of a machine running Win8. But I've seen the slick TV commercials showing people logging on by drawing shapes on the screen. If this patent in fact covers "slid[ing] in any direction" does it cover Win8 ?

    • by uncanny (954868)
      I decided to install windows 8 pro on one of my computers to try it out since i wasn't using it much anyways (and i practically get windows 8 free from work). It actually has a slide to unlock as the default. Instead of CTRL-ALT-DEL, i have to click on the bottom of the screen, and slide up.
      this might be a good thing if they get someone like microsoft into the battle
  • Reading the patent this shouldn't apply to phone lock screens, the patent seems to be for a multi-factor unlock system that uses several different kind of user authorisation interactions (password followed by finger print scan followed by a gesture pattern for example), where mobile unlock screens are universally just a single action.

    If this patent actually covered mobile phone unlock screens then it would also cover screen-saver wake passwords etc.

  • All of the claims in the Micron patent refer to the user "drawing" the geometric pattern. The term "drawing" is not defined in the patent, so a court would likely give the term its ordinary and customary meaning given to the term by those of ordinary skill in the art. Phillips v. AWH Corp., 415 F.3d 1303 [google.com], 1313 (Fed. Cir. 2005) (en banc). But I don't think "drawing" has a particular technical meaning in this context. The Oxford American Dictionary defines it as to "produce (a picture or diagram) by making

    • by cfulton (543949)
      Honestly who cares about how the lawyers would argue about definition of the wording as applied to the patent and how the court case would come out.
      The problem here is that the patent office clearly forgot to purchase a stamp with the word "Declined" on it. So, everything is "Approved" because that is the only stamp they own.
  • you shouldn't be able to patent common sense. Simple as that.

  • as long as they don't put rounded corners on it.
  • Can't we just patent getting a patent and be done with it. Then we could all just write one check a week to the company holding a patent on getting patents and not have to go through this craziness. Slide to unlock, one click ordering, A UI connected to a server connected to a mobile device, making a graphical element disappear, accelerating a scrolling list, a method of displaying an electronic list; all of these are patented. If I, as a developer, had to pay the patent trolls for every infringement of
  • So a physical slide-lock is not covered by a patent because it's age-old technology. However, a computer emulation of such a lock is automatically covered by this patent-troll, regardless of implementation?

    How the hell does the legal "logic" work out for this?

    Mere emulation of an age-old physical concept should NEVER be patentable, period. (Implementation of different emulation techniques is another matter.)

    I should have patented the emulation of "running around with guns", then the video game industry and

    • by abies (607076)

      Hmmm. One can argue that no software should be patentable ever. Thats ok. But if you DO allow patenting software, I don't think that 'no allowing emulation of physical concept' is a valid rule. If I create super-smart software emulating protein folding using some new concepts, allowing it to quickly solve all current problems, should it be non-patentable just based on grounds that that concept exists in physical reality for billion+ years?

  • This is excellent news. Congress is the one that has to change patent law and congress hardly listens to the little guy. But with a patent like this that will impact the finances of the big players (and contributors) like Apple, Google, Microsoft, etc. Maybe, just maybe, software patents, and the strangle hold they cause with development, will get the attention they deserve.

  • Now that's news!

Nothing is more admirable than the fortitude with which millionaires tolerate the disadvantages of their wealth. -- Nero Wolfe

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