The United States Patent and Trademark office has just approved patent number 7657849, which is the patent for slide to unlock. Apple submitted the patent back in December of 2005 and it’s finally been approved.
Before the patent was approved Steve Jobs put the patent pending technology on the first iPhone and at the unveiling for the original iPhone back in 2007 Jobs said
“To unlock the phone, I just take my finger and slide it across. Wanna see that again? We wanted something you couldn’t do by accident in your pocket. Just slide it across –
More after the break
The patent filing itself reads like this:
“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.”
Although the US Patent and Trademark Office granted the patent to Apple, a dutch court denied Apple’s patent based on the fact that a feature phone called the Neonode N1M feature phone had a similar unlocking mechanism.
Currently all Android devices have some kind of slide to unlock mechanism although each OEM seems to have a different way of doing it. The patent granted to Apple will probably be used against both Android and each individual OEM. Apple could decide to take the various “offenders” to court or they could decide to license the technology, similar to the way Microsoft is licensing their Android patents.
Either way you can chalk this up as a pretty significant patent victory for Cupertino.