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Apple Granted Patent For Slide To Unlock 622

generalhavok writes "The United States Patent & Trademark Office has approved Apple's patent on the slide to unlock gesture used on iOS devices. Interestingly, this patent was earlier dismissed in Europe due to prior art. With many Android phones using a similar slide gesture, it will be interesting to see how this new patent will affect the patent wars between Apple and Android vendors."
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Apple Granted Patent For Slide To Unlock

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  • Oh ffs (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @05:17AM (#37841818)
    Go away apple!
    • Re:Oh ffs (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @05:19AM (#37841826)

      Seconded. Everybody who buys Apple products is supporting this abuse of the patent system and the market in general.

      • Yeah, what happened to Apples "People are prepared to pay more for quality, and we're the best" philosophy.

        • Re:Oh ffs (Score:4, Informative)

          by mosb1000 ( 710161 ) <> on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @09:12AM (#37843020)

          They also have a pretty strong "we'll sue you if you copy our ideas" philosophy. They've been pursuing these kind of lawsuits for quite a while, and this is nothing new.

      • Re:Oh ffs (Score:5, Informative)

        by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @07:43AM (#37842448) Homepage

        SO you don't buy Intel, AMD, Microsoft, Nokia, Motorola, Samsung, HTC, Sony, Panasonic, Kenwood, Ford, GM, Toyota, Honda, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Harley Davidson, or LG products then?

        Or are you just some idiot that like to parrot what others say without actually thinking.

        • AFAIK, none of those companies have a record of repeatedly filing bogus lawsuits to prohibit competition with their mediocre products.
        • Of those, only a select few would be seen as "abusing" the patent system.

          It seems you misinterpreted "abusing" as "using" the patent system, which is rather different.

          Correct use might be to get a patent on, you know, an actual INVENTION, which by definition is something that a reasonable person knowledgeable in the same field of study, could not figure out on their own. Its intended for non-trivial stuff.

          However, it seems the common misuse of the system is just to record who thought of an idea first, regar

    • Re:Oh ffs (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Oswald McWeany ( 2428506 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @09:24AM (#37843130)

      I'm sure I'll get modded down for criticising apple on slashdot- but - quite frankly- I'm the type of consumer Apple should be courting.

      I don't have a tablet- I'm considering a tablet. I am open minded to my options- I have no preference or alliegence at this point.

      I know everyone in the industry sues and takes rediculous patents- but Apple just goes over-the-top. They're involved in more law-suits than just about all the others combined.

      Statements from Jobs (RIP) about wanting to destroy Android even if it cost Apple all their wealth- shows the mentality within that company to stifle innovation of others.

      Apple goes beyond trying to get the best for their stockholders- the corporate policy seems damn-well belligerent.

      This is the tipping point for me- I'm no longer brand-neutral in the tablet sphere.

      From now on, I know, when I do get a tablet it won't be Apple. I cannot spend money on a product with a company who will misappropriate it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I'd agree with Europe, sorry Apple, that boat sailed, slide unlock is now "just the way its done" ... perhaps Henry Ford should have sued anyone who dared put black paint on their cars?

    • by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @05:57AM (#37841994)
      I know what you mean but you have it backward. Ford was trolled by the Apples of his day (the low volume high cost carmakers) who claimed to have patented everything from the wheel up. He had to spend years and a lot of money fighting them. He won, and the car was democratised. Whatever his faults, Henry Ford ought to have some special place as a Slashdot hero, because in a sense he "open sourced" the motor car.
    • I prefer the Android draw-pattern-to-unlock. Convenient, secure, and probably not patented.

      • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @07:20AM (#37842326) Journal
        Unless you are much more diligent with the little microfiber cloth than everybody else, or some kind of desiccated reptile-man, there is probably a grease trail on your screen containing a significant percentage of your unlock pattern for much of your phone's life...

        It's certainly incrementally more secure than slide to unlock, since that is merely supposed to protect against spurious unlocks; but touchscreens bleed usage data if they aren't cleaned obsessively.
        • Then people will think my unlock pattern looks like angry birds. I think the majority of the wear on my screen protector's surface comes from that.

  • by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @05:18AM (#37841822) Homepage

    Manufacturers will simply ignore US patents everywhere else in the world and provide a crippled product with various functions disabled for the US market if this sort of nonsense continues. It strikes me the US patent office still thinks its 1950 with the US deciding the direction of technological advances. Someone should throw some strong coffee in their faces and wake them up to the reality of the 21st century before they fuck up US industry for good.

    (And I'm not a US citizen).

    • by melonman ( 608440 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @05:22AM (#37841840) Journal

      I think a more likely outcome is something like the patent pool that was forced into place by the US government around the 1920s to avoid a situation where, basically, no company could build a plane without infringing another company's patents. Otherwise, sooner or later, Android will be in trouble, but so will Apple and all other US companies.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @05:49AM (#37841952)

      Speaking as an American who lives abroad and works in Europe... this is how it has been working already for some time. The company I work for sells a software product globally. The version shipped into the US market was up until recently crippled to avoid infringing a ridiculous US patent that was granted in the mid-90's and just recently expired. Now we can finally ship a full featured product to the US.

      It's utterly amazing that the patent system in the US is still this bad. Where is the reform we keep hearing about?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @06:30AM (#37842124)

      As a non-American myself it is incredibly disheartening to see so many innovations created by American companies being denied to large segments of the American populace itself thanks to it's own utterly absurd patent system. Whatever people think about US...foreign policy, popular culture, overt consumerism or whatever..the one thing you cannot deny is that quality of life has been drastically improved for so many thanks to technological advances made by US companies. To then go and deny their own population the benefits of those advances because of bizarre and outdated patent laws just seems morally and ethically wrong on so many levels.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @07:37AM (#37842398) Journal
      Given that these sorts of features are increasingly implemented in pure software, or in hardware where every unit has all the features(because spinning a new mask is crazy expensive), but only some features are firmware-enabled, for price-discrimination or IP reasons, it will be interesting to see whether the "cheap DVD player" phenomenon crops up...

      In the US, at least, back when DVD players were something people cared about, there arose a curious little wrinkle in the market:
      The pricier hardware, with the traditionally respectable brand badges(Sony, etc.) had nicer build quality, and was more likely to include features that were genuinely expensive in hardware(DACs that didn't suck, absurd numbers of outputs); but also enforced the various region locking, macrovision, and other user-hostile features of the DVD spec to the letter.
      The cheap seats tended to have the usual downsides(somewhat... functional... build quality, dadaist user interfaces, a bit of scrimping and saving on BOM); but tended to enforce user-hostile requirements rather tepidly. There would either be some trivial 'debug code' that you could tap into the remote, or a 'test firmware' would 'leak' about 10 seconds after release that would remove all DRM features. The cheapies also tended to have the cheap-because-it's-software pirate-friendly features, like support for assorted audio and video codecs in files just burned to data DVDs and the like.

      If the patent wars become too hot, a similar phenomenon could theoretically crop up in other electronics markets. The "US Firmware" version would be oh-so-bare-and-legally-compliant; but the hardware would be identical because SKU proliferation is expensive, and there would be a strong incentive for players, particularly the weaker players, to 'accidentally' suffer from a 'bootloader verification bug' that allows the least-crippled English-language firmware, *cough*easily available for download from our Hong Kong TLD's support page, 'only for our customers in the region'*cough* to be flashed to US devices...
      • by E IS mC(Square) ( 721736 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @09:57AM (#37843452) Journal

        >> The "US Firmware" version would be oh-so-bare-and-legally-compliant; but the hardware would be identical because...

        Right on. A very good example was the old (but awesome) iriver H320/340 mp3 players. Hardware supported video playback, but US firmware took out the feature because of some patent/royalty bullshit. It was just matter of downloading the korean firmware and it turned it into a a great video player (for that time).

        Iriver used to make great products (in terms of build and quality), but their love for microsoft, proprietary madness and finally the ipod craze killed their US market.

    • USA is also trying to push its IP bullshit onto other countries and make them enforce it as well. This is just a sign of trying to remain relevant while really having nothing at all to offer.
  • by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @05:26AM (#37841858) Homepage Journal

    To The US Patent Office []

  • by saphena ( 322272 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @05:29AM (#37841870) Homepage

    that everyone's patent laws were brought sharply up to date by restricting the term to TWO YEARS instead of the hugely anachronistic 20.

    • Re:It really is time (Score:4, Interesting)

      by betterunixthanunix ( 980855 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @08:16AM (#37842632)
      It is not anachronistic in other fields. The problem with patents on software is not the length of time that the patent is valid, it is the fact that people are being granted patents on mathematics and pictures. Software is already covered by copyright law; why should it also be covered by patent law?
    • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

      Because it makes perfect sense that something that takes years to develop and perfect (e.g. a new medicine, very complex machine, etc) would have a maximum lifespan of 2 years to recoup the development cost.

      Pharmaceutical company: Sure you can take this pill that will save your life. It will only cost you $5m/pill since we have to recoup the $1b development cost.

      • Precisely. Patents should be applied depending on the patent in question. It takes a shitload of R&D to create a drug, but it takes a weekend with a little too much creativity to invent something like gesture based unlock.

        Ignoring the whole software vs hardware patent issue, patents in general need to be timed to suit the market. I would propose that patents in technology last a product generation or two. e.g. A swipe unlock patent would last the life of the iPhone 4, when Apple released the iPhone 4S t

  • by TESTNOK ( 2476330 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @05:29AM (#37841872)
    Here [] is an article from the FOSS Patents Blog with some details on the case ruled on in last August in the Netherlands, which is what I guess is being referred to as "earlier dismissed in Europe". It's certainly amazing how one judge can say "this clearly existed before" and another can say "no it didn't" based on the same info.
    • It's not really that amazing if you take into account that the judges are in completely different jurisdictions with differing laws and criteria for determinations of this sort.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @06:36AM (#37842154)

      It's less amazing when you recognise America's history of protectionism when it comes to this type of thing.

      I guarantee if someone like HTC or Samsung had gone for the same patent they would not have been granted it.

      "Great American Companies" (tm) have a massive advantage of widespread patriotic bias on their home turf in the courts and at the patent office.

  • Prior art? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mykos ( 1627575 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @05:29AM (#37841874)
    I think someone already beat them to it [].
    • Re:Prior art? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by am 2k ( 217885 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @06:13AM (#37842062) Homepage

      But it's on a phone, so it's something completely new and nonobvious! "On the Internet" patents are soo 2000.

    • Re:Prior art? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Myopic ( 18616 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @08:53AM (#37842874)

      Agreed. Here's more. Did the patent office not look very hard for prior art? I only had to look for about two seconds: []

      There it is: a slide-to-unlock mechanism, already implemented, on a handheld device even, available for many decades.

      The problem with the patent system is not the theory but rather the implementation we have in this country. Patents are theoretically okay, but they are actually bad. Apparently prior art like I have quoted here, and which is widely available, I'm sure, in many other products, doesn't count -- and that's a problem. It SHOULD count.

      • Yes, but you missed the "on a screen" part. Didn't you know that transposing physical activities to a computer screen require great leaps of individual insight? Clearly, YOU didn't think of it, or you would have already patented it.

        Now bend over. Apple does not like to lube up.

  • I admit to only a quick scan through of the patent doc - but if they're 'predefined' paths, whether or not this is dismissed as prior art, does it count as a predefined path if you nominate your end points to swipe, or just have a swipe in some general direction e.g. left right, or up/down anywhere on the screen... then there was the Android style of sensing a swipe pattern. Would these fall foul? or only an iOS style "here is the predefined one way to unlock" built in to the OS?

  • I have to get rid of chain lock on my house door.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @05:50AM (#37841954)

    Does this mean that Nokia's physical slider for unlocking phones is patentable? I wonder if Nokia has a patent for that and if not, whether USPTO would grant one?

  • Childish (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jevring ( 618916 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @05:51AM (#37841966) Homepage
    All I see is "wahh, waah, we want to be a monopoly!" I hear that doesn't get people attention from the government at all.
  • by __Paul__ ( 1570 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @05:52AM (#37841970) Homepage

    Given that the Neonode N1M is likely to be considered prior art [], how would one go about getting the patent ruled invalid?

  • by giorgist ( 1208992 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @06:00AM (#37842010)
    Announced 1Q, 2005

    Go to 4:00 to see the slide to unlock in action ...

    Now Apple requested the patent on December 2005, I am guessing some form of prior art should kill that.
  • This only makes my determination to never buy anything Apple related stronger. Yes, other corps are "evil" too, sometimes patenting stuff which is too obvious, but this is one shining example of ignorance and greed (USPO also continues to "amaze" me). Apple which I known for openness and will of providing amazing tech has grown into controlling monster of greed. It seems that most IT business success stories in US ends up like that.

    I won't even bother to comment about obviousness of this patent. Maybe there

  • by wienerschnizzel ( 1409447 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @06:25AM (#37842106)

    Why don't we see a drugs manufacturers killing themselves with an 'oval shaped pills' (or as they would put it 'an anatomically efficient vessel for introduction of effective chemicals into the gastro-intestinal system') patent?

    What the hell is the department of the Patent Office responsible for SW doing?!

  • by andydread ( 758754 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @06:59AM (#37842242)
    Look. This is an attempt to take wholesale ownership of other people's code. Plain and simple. They want to do on to others what they do not want to happen to them. Microsoft is doing the same thing. They want to own _all_ useful code in the marketplace. It is their strategy of fighting against the freedom for you to write your own code. A push back against open source and free software and a way to raise the barrier of entry for any small newcomers to the marketplace. They have said over and over again that Open Source "does not respect intellectual property rights" and they will use litigation to drive up the cost of producing anything with open source. Apple and Microsoft have been beating their chest a lot about this. They have said they were going use software patents in this way and guess what they are doing it. The days when you can freely write code without Apple and Microsoft trying to stop you in your tracks are coming to an end.
    • by jonwil ( 467024 )

      Apple is on a mission to DESTROY Android in any way it can. Why? Because Android is the only platform that is any kind of real threat to the iPhone and iPad.

  • by Lumpy ( 12016 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @07:40AM (#37842428) Homepage

    Lick to unlock.

    It's not as popular, but I can call their patent a ripoff of mine!

  • by poofmeisterp ( 650750 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @09:39AM (#37843268) Journal

    If it gives you an idea what kind of idiots work for the USPTO, let me give you an example:

    A company I know of applies for a copyright to a word (not common everyday word, but the name of a famous person from old times). There are hundreds upon HUNDREDS of other patents that were granted the copyright because each one of them fits into a different category. Let me repeat, it's a one-word name, and hundreds of copyrights WERE granted. The copyright that this particular company applied for was not only under a different category than all of the above, but it even had another acronym attached to the name, so it was TRULY unique.

    USPTO denied it because they said (and I can't recall the phrasing exactly) already granted to someone else. There is no one else that applied for it!!!!!! *bang head*

    So moral of the story is, you can have prior art all you want. You can LACK prior art all you want. The ones who make the decision at the USPTO are individuals, and the whole process doesn't have a voting system. It's just a "so-and-so decides that you are the first; you're clear to go."

    The USPTO needs a damned voting panel system. Public voting would be the best, but hell, that ain't happening in this lifetime. At least an internal voting panel would be nice.

  • by Sark666 ( 756464 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @10:01AM (#37843510)

    I thought the two main criteria for a patent are: It hasn't been done before (prior art) and it's non-trivial. Like as in holy crap! What you just made there is awesome!! Please patent how you did this so society at large benefits from this and it is never lost!!

    I don't think a swipe to start using a touch interface qualifies...

  • by ToasterTester ( 95180 ) on Wednesday October 26, 2011 @12:15PM (#37845272)

    Any device without a keyboard you're going to swipe something to do everything include unlock function. I used to be fairly pro-patient (I just thought they lasted too long), but BS like this is moving me anti-patient.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!