Apple wins patent on key smartphone feature
Other software companies have incorporated the slide-to-unlock system, potentially leaving themselves open to lawsuits.
Apple first applied for the patent in 2005 (you can read the patent here), long before the first iPhone was unveiled. The idea is simple: A device with a touch-sensitive display may be unlocked via gestures performed on the touch-sensitive display.
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had a little more fun describing it in 2007: "To unlock the phone, I just take my finger and slide it across," he said in a presentation. "Wanna see that again? We wanted something you couldn't do by accident in your pocket. Just slide it across -- BOOM!"
Slide-to-unlock is an elegant, useful feature, and it's been copied by many other companies. The Android software by Google (GOOG) uses it, as does the new Windows 8 lock screen from Microsoft (MSFT). (Microsoft owns and publishes Top Stocks, an MSN Money site.)
So what will happen now that Apple owns the feature? Well, it's pretty clear that any devices using it could be sued for patent infringement. Time Magazine thinks we'll see a substantial drop in the number of devices offering it from now on.
Apple isn't saying anything about this publicly. But we might look to Jobs himself for clues about the company's legal strategy here.
In the new biography of Jobs out this week, he says he was "willing to go thermonuclear war" on Android. Google's copying of Apple's features amounted to "grand theft," he added.
He also said he would "spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank to right this wrong."
So I'm guessing Apple's lawyers are getting ready for a big fight.
It is not true, but it is a well worn idea in the patent world, that the 1st patent was for a bucket. The 2nd patent was for a bucket with a handle on it. The 1st patent holder could sell all the buckets he wanted, and the 2nd patent holder could sell all the handles he wanted, but if either sold a bucket with a handle on it, they would infringe the other.
The answer made the lawyers happy, they crossed licensed the patents, the inventors were happy, because they could sell (at least part) of their invention, and the general public was happy because the TRUE INTENT of the patent system was fulfilled.
IMO, the TRUE INTENT is not only to protect the work of inventors, but to FOSTER INNOVATION. Unfortunately, in this upside down and perverted system, only the lawyers still win. Whenever leaders take the stance that Jobs (and so many others) have in these cases, the people lose.
BTW, the 1st US patent was actually for a process to manufacture soap.... and I will get off that box now.
I have an Android Phone, and the slide lock feature is one of the only things I don't like about the phone. It would be so much cooler if something like MY thumbprint would open the phone. If I were Google, before I spent any of my money to fight to keep this feature, I would put a new locking system on the Android phone. There are so many unemployed IT people, they could have a design contest with the prize being a million dollars? with the winner agreeing to give up the patent in exchange for the cash and a job...and it would be MUCH cheaper than fighting Apple. It would also generate a ton of publicity for Google and it would probably produce some incredible ideas...maybe new technologies. That's what I would do...but I'm just an unemployed Administrative Assistant who really doesn't like the lock on my Android phone :)
In the Babylon 5 TV show from the mid 90's, they had touch-screen computers which they had to slide-to-unlock on the screen, just like an ipad. Prior art.
"Google's copying of Apple's features amounted to "grand theft," he added."
ummmm...What about all of the stuff that Apple copies from Google? How about Apple's "new feature" for a central Notifications Center that can easily be accessed by dragging your finger down from the top of the screen? (something that Andorid phones have been able to do for years and is accessed in the exact same way)
If Apple pulls this crap I hope that Google goes and patents that feature and sues them right back...fricken hypocrites.
this is crazy!!! and everyone thinks Microsoft is a monopoly... Patents are supposed to be specific... I'd have to read the patent in detail but if it just specifies "unlocked via gestures" then APPLE could then sue anyone who use just a touch screen and power button... Sounds like there's some illegal stuff goin' on here... first applied for in 2005... what's next SCHLAGE is gonna patent the gesture required for opening door locks... WOW...I can see it now " a device for securing entry and interior doors requiring a metallic implement to unlock it via gestures" point is the language it too vague...
HAHA. What a joke. Palm had a touchscreen keyboard long before Apple dreamed of anything like an iPhone. Maybe Palm should get the patent for that technology. And Bell labs should get the patent on cell phone calling. And Xerox (who developed the WIMP window icon menu pointer which evolved into the GUI with Jobs and former XEROX employees claim they had stolen from them) ought to get the patent on the icon idea, pointers, and networking.
Apple is lucky with this device. It isn't any more advanced than a fifteen year old palm pilot and barely gets beyond the capabilities of 10 year old phones. Besides they will never get away with it when they go up against a powerhouse. Basically if you type a password on the screen, use a pattern, or any mode that involves touching the screen in anyway to enter a password and apple owns the patent. Yeah that will hold up in court. Maybe I'll apply for the patent on using the number pad to dial a phone. It just shows the simple minds of Apple leadership. They stole the technology to make the device and violated patents and lost in court.
I would love to see Apple enforce this. About 4 minutes with a good team of attorneys could demonstrate why this patent would be invalid. Too bad Jobs isn't still around. I never tire of watching to idiots at Apple getting slapped in the face by real technology companies in courts. People could say a specific word to unlock, have a finger print scan, tip it left right upside down, push power or other button in a pattern, scan your retina with the camera. Besides there are three trillion hackers that will have free fixes for non apple hardware to rub lock, caress lock, stroke lock, finger fondle unlock, and apple would have the burden of hunting them all down and proving it was distributed and violates the terms of the patent.
now I know why the device is a shiny paperweight.
There is a point where you just need to tell a company to stuff it. Not everything can have a patient. Corporations do not need to be given the ability to charge people and others for everything and anything they do. It stifles productivity, ingenuity and new development.
It also just provides an outlet to funnel increasing amounts of capital to a smaller group of people, which is really the point. A point we've pursued in this country since really the late 70's and 80's and it needs to be relegated to the dust bin of history.
Also it was filed so long ago that I would think any actual court case would give current companies that use it the chance to remove the feature. You could have a update to the phone that takes the feature out and replaces it with something else - some other pattern that isn't a swipe.
From what I understand - Apple would have had to fight the case as the competition brought the item to market citing that it had a patent pending and no one else can use it. If they didn't fight it then, it's going to be a lot harder to fight it now.
Worst case scenario - a patch will someday show up on androids and whatever else to remove it. I didn't buy my phone because how it unlocks, I doubt anyone did.
@ marc anthony
When considering smartphones, look at all angles. Even though the first iPhone may have been an innovative product, now apple is starting to steal some tricks from other OSes.
(Example: Android`s pop down notifications)
A quote from Steve Jobs himself:
"Good artists copy, great artists steal".
(look it up on youtube)
These days, everybody steals from everybody. People need to decide what OS is right for them, not exactly what is the most popular.
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