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Slide To Unlock Patented By Apple Despite Prior Art



As if you needed any more proof that there is something wrong with the U.S. Patent system, Apple has been awarded a patent for using Slide to Unlock as a means of unlocking  phone.

The Slide to Unlock action gained popularity with the iPhone in 2007, and since then has come to pretty much every smartphone platform. Now that Apple has the patent on Slide to Unlock, which was filed in December 2005, no other devices get to use this method of unlocking.

It will not likely affect the devices already in your hands, but it will be interesting to see if Google changes anything in Android 4.0.

Slide to unlock patented

Apple owns Slide to Unlock

Currently, the following devices use some form of slide to unlock;

  • Android Smartphones and Tablets
  • Windows Phone Devices
  • Windows 8 Tablets

We know that Apple loves to get legal with Samsung on patents, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a filing against the Samsung Galaxy Nexus in the near future. While the new version of Android 4.0 uses a different sliding interface, you are still sliding to unlock, which may prove to be an issue. This phone will also allow you to unlock with facial recognition, which is cool, but can’t help you unlock to inconspicuously check your email in a meeting.

Why is this so ridiculous? Even if you do think that companies should be able to patent designs and actions such as slide to unlock, the video below shows an earlier device using a slide to unlock gesture.

If you skip to 4 minutes in, you can see the Neonode N1m being unlocked with a slide action. This doesn’t look the same as the iPhone, but remember, the Android unlock screens don’t look exactly like the iPhone slide to unlock.

It will be interesting to see how this changes the way we unlock our devices. The Samsung Stratosphere, which just came out on Verizon, has a puzzle unlock control. You are asked to put a piece of a puzzle in the correct spot to unlock the phone. I’m not sure if this method is safe, but perhaps this will keep some devices safe.

Via ZDnet



  1. HildyJ

    10/26/2011 at 8:41 am

    What is significant is that nobody every tried to patent “slide to unlock” before Apple. It’s a patent that belongs in the toilet (contained in stall featuring a “slide to unlock” door). More and more it seems that Apple has become nothing more than a patent troll. I, for one, have had it with their methods.

    • Terrin Bell

      10/28/2011 at 9:50 pm

      A patent troll is a party that doesn’t invent anything and sits in the dark quietly waiting for other companies who actually do invent things to make a successful product. The troll then appears and threatens to eat the successful company unless it is paid. Apple hardly meets that definition. Apple invents things, and Jobs made it clear before the iPhone was even released and competitors had a chance to start copying that Apple would sue to protect its designs. That really is not the definition of a troll. 

      Now I might not agree with the slide to unlock patent, but I didn’t agree with Amazon getting a patent on one click purchasing that Apple currently pays Amazon a license fee on. The reality is you can come up with two different ways to do the same task and both ideas can be patented. Surely Apple’s competitors challenged the awarding of the patent. Moreover, the video shows that Apple did do it differently. Is that worthy of a patent? Google’s search is predicated on a patented mathematical formula. How can you patent math? 

      It really isn’t good for consumers when companies don’t challenge themselves to come up with their own product designs. Even Microsoft came up with its own Mobile OS that looks nothing like Apple’s and is quite innovative. 

      • Josh

        02/16/2012 at 8:06 pm

        Actually a patent troll is a company or person who enforces their own patents on alleged infringers whether or not they ever plan to use the patents themselves.
        Therefore, visa vie, ergo Apple = Patent Troll

        • Neo

          07/02/2012 at 4:26 pm

          Whoa …Are you the architect ?

  2. belly_lint

    10/26/2011 at 10:28 pm

    First of all, Apple needs to be put in its place for violating patent laws as well.  Look at this image of the Palm Pilot which came out, by the way, in March 10, 1997 !!! 
    Gee whiz, by the looks of it Palm has every right to sue the ever lovin’ crap out of Apple for copying its screen appearance and methods of using a touch screen interface…just my thoughts.
    Stop being a$$es Apple Inc.  Competition is good and produces innovation!!!

    • Terrin Bell

      10/28/2011 at 9:36 pm

      Really. Here is a picture of the Apple Newton, which was released in 1993. Development was started on it on 1987. That Palm sure looks a lot like it. The reality is that Palm borrowed heavily from the Apple Newton, which Jobs killed on his return to Apple. 

    • Tife Moyela

      02/17/2012 at 2:01 pm

      If that IS the case Palm also has the right to ‘sue the ever lovin’ crap out of Samsung,Motorola,HTC,RIM,LG and Sony for their screen appearance and methods of using a screen interface as well. Besides if  Terrin here’s source(if anything) is to be believed that right falls into Apple’s hands instead (if, of course they patented that).And finally, to sue you need to have patented something.Can you prove that Palm did for that device? If not your suggestion is  that Palm is just being ‘nice’ to Apple and doesn’t want to sue. If they could they would- obviously many of the other companies i mentioned are doing so and with gusto.

  3. Dale Strauss

    10/27/2011 at 9:42 am

    It has gotten totally out of hand. By the way where’s that Jobs’ patent on the repiratory process for inhaling and exhaling oxygen in a rapid manner when confronted with the next new, wonderful, magical Apple device? Soon we’ll just be asked to stop breathing during all competitor product announcements (and probably to stop clapping as well, for surely the process of clapping to signify approval at any other event is a patented exclusive of Apple).

  4. [email protected]

    10/27/2011 at 2:04 pm

    Well call it what it is, Steve Jobs got the drop on getting Apple’s butt covered by filling for a patten way back in 2005. Wow look at that people someone looking out for their company and not just letting everyone use it, going look at what I/ we have to offer you.

  5. Vaxholm2000

    12/07/2011 at 9:19 pm

    Apples claimed swipe to unlock patent is very fragile. Its now been granted to Neonode. Be interesting to see how Apple will pursue their legal actions against Samsung and others for patent intrusions. .!ut/p/c5/04_SB8K8xLLM9MSSzPy8xBz9CP0os3hff1NDc1NLYwN3Sz cDA08PwyD_YF8zINcYKB-JW97AiCLdBgR0h4Nci992vPIGEHkDHMDRQ N_PIz83VT9SP8ocpylGZvqROanpicmV-gW5oREGmQEZgY6KigBnIW_S /dl3/d3/[email protected]#$%NKRXFnLzRGR2 dzbzBWdnphOUlBOW9JQSEhLzdfTU81MTc1OTMwRzlGMDBJSDFST1NNN jMwMjYvV1NwS0U4MzM2MDAyNC9zYS5nZXRCaWI!/

  6. Seegras

    05/10/2013 at 1:30 am

    Slide to unlock? ca. 2000 B.C. There’s even a hieroglyph stemming from that:

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