Apple Now Has A Patent On Slide To Unlock

This is going to get messy. Really messy. Apple's been granted a patent on slide to unlock. You know what uses slide to unlock? Just about every other touchscreen UI out there, in one way or another. 9to5Mac reports on the patent, which was applied for well before the launch of the original iPhone; that's pre-glacial in smartphone terms. The patent — US Patent 7657849 to be specific — is for "Unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image" and the abstract reads as follows

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.

I'm no lawyer, but that seems like a really broad patent to grant, and a really big problem looming for every smartphone operating system that isn't iOS. [9to5Mac via ZDNet]



      I've had it.
      I'm patenting "things that do stuff" and sue everyone!
      Just to cover my ass I'll also patent "stuff that does things"

        Well I've already patented Stuff That Things Do, and your proposed patents sounds eerily similar. Ima gone sue you!

        Omgosh! I do things :[ I'm so going to be poor now.

        I blame apple for this mess! I'm releasing my own brand which will rip off of apple in every single way that it can without going against the Patents, then in all the ways I couldn't rip off them, I will rip off of other successful brands to substitute the loss. My Brand is called Orange.

        While we're at it, let's sue Christopher Martin ( lead singer of of Coldplay ) for naming his child Apple, HE'S GONE AGAINST THE PATENT, THAT'S ONE PATENTING TOO FAR! BURN HIM.

        You sir, made my day.

    This is just idiotic.

      No, it's not. It was novel and original at the time. Just because a whole pack of other companies copy it doesn't dilute that originality.
      It's another case of Apple coming up with something new, everybody else following along like sheep, and then complaining when Apple decides to exercise some intellectual rights.

        hate to tell you this but for me to get out of my side gate at home I have to 'slide to unlock' the bolt. All apple did was digitise this, not invent it.

        Please do some research on the Neonode N1m.

        This will be another case of Apple 'inventing' something, other companies invent something similar but better and then Apple getting all pissy over it.

        This is not Apple's original idea. Please read this

          You have got to be kidding. This is nothing like the "slide to unlock" concept. I know you wish it was, but it just isn't. Where is the object or image that you slide across the screen?
          I suggest you look again without the Android fanboy bias.

        I disagree with companies applying for very broad patients and not taking full advantage to what the patient covers. Companies like Apple should only be granted patients on what they actually use.

    If Apple sued every competitor out of the arena, I still wouldn't buy an iPhone.

      Agreed... I'd have to keep my sgsII and hope it lasted forever

      Surely there are rules against trying to get a monopoly on the market... isn't that what Apple used to complain to Microsoft about?

      +1 again

    I think Windows Phone is going to be OK.

    "The device displays one or more unlock images"

    Windows Phone doesn't display an unlock image. It displays a user defined wallpaper. You move the entire interface (including notifications & date/time) upwards to unlock.

      According to the patent's terminology it can be any image (even if it's user defined) and moving it upwards is a predefined location so a Windows phone will be just as liable as any other touch screen phone that uses this technology.

        MSFT and Apple don't sue each other anymore.

          If one sues the other, then the other will come back twice as hard. It's like the Cold War and the ICBMs. Matural Destruction.

          Plus didn't the two agreed a long time ago not to because of a certain court case that happened and that gave Apple a huge life line? I bet if Apple decided to sue Microsoft then teh ICBMs will come out before the court papers are even filed with a Judge.

        Incorrect. You do not move the WP7 wallpaper to a predefined location, you move it in a predefined direction. I think that distinction is more than enough to stop any infringement but you can add to that the fact that there is no specific unlock image, it is a gesture that moves the entire screen. I tend to call it the "blind" (as in "venetian blind") because that is exactly how it works.

        Of course, if the patent has only been granted today, I can't see how they can enforce it, given that other OSs have been doing the same thing for some time now.

          Yup WP7 is safe here, there are no unlock images or indicators of direction unless they are p ut there by the user in the custom wallpaper. The entire "blind" moves up to open the phone, not a swipe of an unlock image.

          Still the patent system is obviously broken, i thought you couldn't petent something that had already been released to the public for sale. (unless of course the patent was lodged before any sales or public disclosure?)

      this is the same as for android 2.3 on my gsII aswell

      Yeah its sucks because Apples unlock gesture is lame balls, WP7's one is slick as.

        I meant to say, if they could sue them it would suck XD

      WP7 is fine simply because Apple and MS already have a cross licensing agreement in place.

      I wouldn't worry about android either though - a very similar Apple patent was already all but thrown out in one of the European cases vs Samsung. While a decision in the US or Australia could be different, it'd be pretty surprising in this case.

    Very broad patent indeed.

    The predefined gesture to unlock my phone is the press of an image (on the face of a button) and the predefined path is down slightly. I wonder if the patent is broad enough to affect any and all switches.

    How can the patents office grant a patent on something that's been in the public domain for years?

    Time to burn down the US patent office!

      I'm sorry AnthonyP, Apple just patented burning down offices, oh and all other forms of anarchy.. You'll have to find some other way of expressing your anger!

        Lucky for you apple havnt yet patented wit,probebly because they cant create it themselves

          you're mistaken they don't need to have wit to patent wit, they just need the money to patent wit or to buy the patent to wit off the wit patent holder.

          p.s. wit, patent, patent, wit, wit.
          p.p.s. that is all.

    Really Apple? While you're at it, why don't you get a patent on the use of Touchscreens, or a patent on the correct way to view a screen, or a patent on being douchebags?

      That don't need a patent on being douchebages. They've got the IP rights on that.

        You're such a badass Chazz :P

    Microsoft should've patented the right-click so Apple computers could never have more than one button... :p haha

      Right click was invented at Xerox-Parc (menu click), along with the mouse itself - Apple removed functions from the original (and correct) design because steve was a "simplicity" obsessive :-)

        He tried to remove keyboard shortcuts too, in his obsession to have One Canonical Way to do everything.

        Thankfully his design team snuck them in again, and eventually talked him out of that particular usability nightmare.

    Apple patented a mecahnism for unlocking. Locks and latches etc are patented all the time, and that is fair enough. The patent was taken out a real long time ago, everybody else just didn't check. The idea is not actually that obvious (except in retrospect). I suspect this one will stand unless someone finds prior-art, and as a long the touch screen user, I am thinking not - maybe palm pilot or old sybian devices?

      This has been looked at in a Dutch Court, and they found valid prior art.

      "The swipe-to-unlock gesture patent application was filed on December 23, 2005. But earlier that year, Neonode, a small and little-known Swedish manufacturer of mobile phones, released its Neonode N1m phone running Windows CE. That phone already had a slide-to-unlock feature"

      As for prior art, I believe the Neonode N1m was announced 6 or more months before apple applied for this patent. Check out how to unlock the Neonode N1m at the 4 minute mark of this video:

    im awaiting a "slide to interact" patent... nice

    Jokes aside.. why should my Galaxy SII's pattern lock be affected by a megalomaniacal (sp) company who doesn't even use pattern locks in their existing phones and most likely has no plans to use it....

    All this ridiculous petty patent stuff is going to ruin technology, not just smart phones.. innovation, design, invention all curtailed and stunted because of a communist regime called Apple.

      Will it really euin it?? really wht they are doing if forcing technology to evolve, Everyone hates on apple, but really android is just a copy of iOS. By making them have to actually invent there own technology might actually see advancements in technology from someone other then apple..And really any gadget lover wants new advancements not just copys of already existing stuff

        "android is just a copy of iOS"

        I can't believe someone could type this with a straight face.

      Your pattern lock wouldn't be affected what so ever but...


      Is that a touch interface to interact with your face using a gesture? You could be in trouble there!

    The patent was applied for about 5 years ago, when the first iPhone came out, and there weren't hundreds of Copy Cat devices around. It's not like Apple suddenly saw the competition and decided to patent everything 5 years after the iPhone first launched :P

      Seems pretty basic to me that if you have a touchscreen device, you use the screen to interact with it. This shouldn't be patentable.

        Theres many other ways you could unlock it. Using a physical button somewhere, image that you tap or long press, Androids unlock pattern, pinching something and thats just to name a few.

        It's obvious because Apple brought it to the masses and the competition then followed suit. It's not like the iPhone was the first touch screen device on the market, and while there may be the odd case of prior art here and there, generally they werent using this mechanism to unlock the device so calling it obvious for its time is very debatable.

      Neonode N1m announced in Q1 2005, apple applied for this patent in December 2005. Check out the 4 min mark of

    Well ... at LEAST there's face unlock - as buggy and flawed as it is.

    Still, patents ruin progress. Imagine if electricity was patented, we would be well behind where we are now

      You can't patent natural phenomenon. You can however patent a specific method for generating elevtricity, just not the electricity itself.

      I would have to check, but there were a whole heap of patents for electricity generation and transmission (the whole fight between AC and DC power technologies). Thing is Patents last 25 years and then thats it. There has been a push to make patents in tech last about 10 years as the pace of technologcal change increases. The drug compainies are against it though so that is not going to change.

    How can a patent even be validated when the technology exists prior to applying for the patent? This is all I have to say on this matter:

      Quite easily, did they patent it? no probably not.

        There doesn't need to be an existing patent to claim prior art.

        So by your logic I can patent anything I like that hasn't already been patented and then sue anyone who has ever used that thing that I patented, no matter how well established that thing is?

          You are correct. In fact the US passed the law which changed the burden of proof from "first to invent" "to first to file"

    It was something that didnt exist until Apple came up with it. Should LCD screens not be patented just because everyone uses them? Apple obviously met the requirements under the law. Bag out your government, not the company that is obeying the law.

      It did exist and there is big difference between obeying the law and using bullshit loopholes just because they can't match their competitors.

        "just because they can’t match their competitors"

        I keep hearing this, but which company sold 4 million phones in one weekend?

          Which company has been dropping marketshare with their mobile OS for the last 18-20 months?

            That 'Dropping marketshare' is due to the size of the market expanding.

              Bingo. Their customer base is still growing.

          Dare I even ask Chazz what he or she means by 'cant match'. I suspect from previous comments it means "For some reason I get annoyed by the success of products designed for people who aren't interested in computers as a hobby'. :D

    Beyond a joke...

    Anyone patented BREATHING yet? If not, i'm on it!

      Terrible attempt to make a point. A touchscreen unlock gesture is a specific way to unlock a phone (yes, there are buttons, and the traditional way to unlock a phone is to hold one down for a specific amount of time, so it's not the only way to unlock a device).

      Breathing is a function controlled by the medulla with inputs from chemoreceptors in response to central and peripheral protons, carbon dioxide and oxygen, with signals carried by the phrenic nerve from nerve roots C3, 4 and 5 with the C5 coming from the brachial plexus, and contributions from intercostal nerves amongst others in forced expiration.

      Completely different things. No, seriously, completely different things.

        *rolls eyes*

    Nice good work apple. Keep it up!

    I've been wracking my brain and I can't think of any system prior to iPhone that used that method to unlock. This very broad patent covers the lock "grid" in Android and all methods of unlocking WP7 and WP8 touchscreen devices. This may actually be a novel unlock method developed by Apple.

      Didn't HP's iPAQ range have something similar to this?

        didn't SPB have this for WM6 and WM6.5? If they did before iPhone then wouldn't the patent be invalid?

          Yep, SPB did have that. They copied it from the original iPhone, and actually admitted to it.
          It wouldn't be the first time a Russian company didn't quite get the concept of copyright and patents.

      There is no way this applies to WinPhone 7 or Win8, neither of which have an "unlock image".

        All that is needed is that the screen displays an image, "with respect to which the predefined gesture is to be performed in order to unlock the device."
        i.e., the "slide up" gesture, or the (very cool sounding, but still covered) user-defined unlock gesture in Win8.
        The only way to get around this and still use a gesture to unlock is to have the phone display nothing while you unlock, or an image that does not relate to the unlock gesture.

    Oh dear.

    Does 'Prior Art' have to happen before the patent was applied for or before it was granted?

    I'm going to assume this patent was applied for around the time the first iPhone was released and nobody was using slide to unlock, as opposed to now when everyone is?

    This is like trying to copyright pressing keys to type a password.

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