Apple patents “Slide to unlock” gesture

By on October 27, 2011
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All Android phones in danger of copyright infringement.

The iPhone was in development long before Steve Jobs revealed it to the world back in January 2007. Therefore it comes as no surprise that one of the highlight features of the iPhone and iOS, the ‘slide to unlock’ feature on the lockscreen, was applied for a patent back in December 2005. Two days ago the US Patent & Trademark Office granted Apple this patent. Given how broken the current patent laws are, I won’t be going into whether this is right or wrong. However, as things stand, currently every Android phone manufacturer are infringing on this patent given the wording below.

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. In addition, there is a need for sensory feedback to the user regarding progress towards satisfaction of a user input condition that is required for the transition to occur.

That said, this patent doesn’t mean the end of “slide to unlock” gestures for all Android smartphones. In a recent lawsuit Apple filed against Samsung for both hardware and software patent infringements, a Dutch court ruled against Apple saying that another mobile device, the Neonode N1m already had this feature. The N1m was released in March 2005, so the tech already predates the iPhone. You can see the ‘slide to unlock’ gesture at the 4:13 mark in the video below.

So as you can see, the N1m already had this technology long before Apple, which means that just like the Dutch court, any other court in the world can also invalidate Apple’s claim on patent infringement since the “slide to unlock” gesture already existed. The wording in the bove patent though, about unlocking on an image in a specific part of the screen is where Apple can still win out. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if some update or the other comes out where Google essentially changes the gesture based unlock on Android, or whether they already hold a similar patent through one of their many recent acquisitions.


From auditing to editing, I now test and analyze the latest gadgets and games instead of the latest financial statements. Both jobs are equally intense and rewarding. When I'm not burning up hardware in the name of science, you'll find me nuking in DOTA 2 or engineering in TF2.

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