In a patent world in which obviousness seems very much in the eye of the beholder, “a High Court Judge in the UK has ruled that HTC did not infringe on a number if Apple’s patents.” The judge determined that Apple’s slide-to-unlock feature was “obvious” since a similar function was available on an earlier Swedish handset. Two other Apple patents were ruled invalid, and a third was found not to apply to HTC. HTC said: “HTC is pleased with the ruling, which provides further confirmation that Apple’s claims against HTC are without merit. We remain disappointed that Apple continues to favour competition in the courtroom over competition in the marketplace.” HTC makes a good point. Apple does beat HTC in the marketplace, so why bother trying to win in the Courtroom too? Because they have $100 bazillion dollars and why the heck not? Yes, probably. Apple declined to comment on the specifics of the case, because when you lose you either say that or say, “we are disappointed in the decision and are weighing our options.” Apple did re-issue an earlier statement, saying: ‘We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.’” Nany-nany boo-boo! This after a similar victory for HTC in a different venue, when Apple’s request for an injunction on some HTC devices was rejected in the U.S.
It’s easy to say that slide to unlock is obvious to anyone who has ever used a bolt, but the first claim states:
1. A method of unlocking a hand-held electronic device, the device including a touch-sensitive display, the method comprising:
detecting a contact with the touch-sensitive display at a first predefined location corresponding to an unlock image; continuously moving the unlock image on the touch-sensitive display in accordance with movement of the contact while continuous contact with the touch screen is maintained, wherein the unlock image is a graphical, interactive user-interface object with which a user interacts in order to unlock the device; and unlocking the hand-held electronic device if the moving the unlock image on the touch-sensitive display results in movement of the unlock image from the first predefined location to a predefined unlock region on the touch-sensitive display.
Obviously (there’s that word again) a bolt lock wouldn’t infringe that claim or anticipate that claim.
You slide the graphical representation of something along a software-defined and graphically-displayed route and the device unlocks once the graphical object contacts the defined unlock region. Now, the bolt is an example of a physical item for which the slide-unlock, as it is currently implemented, is an exact digital representation.
Here, it wasn’t novel (some Swedish phone beat them to it), it was obvious (because I say so), and just because it’s “on a smartphone” doesn’t change that, at least in this one case.