That sound you just heard was the jaws and share prices of iPhone competitors dropping. Yesterday, the USPTO granted a patent to Apple for the now-ubiquitous “Slide to Unlock” feature which many smartphones have nowadays. Steve Jobs implied that the feature was designed and implemented to prevent what amounts to butt-dialing (of which, BTW, I am a repeat victim, having a name Aaron with two As). Apple filed back in 2005, so it took over 6 years to be granted.
Here’s the abstract for patent #8,046,721:
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.
Is this prior art? In the Netherlands it is. A Dutch court recently invalidated the patent based upon the 2004-2005 “Neonode N1m, with a similar feature/device. (video here, see around the 4:00 minute mark).
I would bet dollars to donuts that litigation is imminent and will commence basically as soon as everyone gets their ducks in a row. Apple won a nifty prize, one which could allow it to maintain a name brand type of product to distinguish itself from and cast a generic light upon its competitors. As has been well stated elsewhere, Windows 8 is a potential infringer, as is every Android device. Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war! Julius Caesar Act 3, scene 1, 273.