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back to article Apple gets patent for ‘unlock gesture’

A US Patent granted today (October 25) will send Google and Android phone makers around the world reaching for their lawyers. Patent 8,046,721 is quite dull, but all-embracing in that special way that patents have become in America: “A device with a touch-sensitive display may be unlocked via gestures performed on the touch- …

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Unhappy

I remember the US of A

Right now the US market is too important to ignore. But that will change within the decade as its economic importance fails.

Trouble is - if we feel the USPO is a threat to innovation and free trade, what thoughts do you have on a emergent Chinese Patents Office will prior art everything back to the Ming Dynasty and claim the world as its own?

Crossing the Chinese will make defying the USPO/Apple etc lookm like a walk in the park.

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Mushroom

Why not-

the US ingnores everyone elses; it's only fair to reciprocate.

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Not that simple

Patents are now used as weapons by companies with billions to protect them. Given that the fundamental reason for patents has been thrown out the window concerning the software side of IT it has now become standard predatory practice to try and stifle competition using patents as weapons. The nature of software IT is so fluid that it is impossible to contain innovations. But large companies can at least receive monetary rewards which they do. All companies of that size ignore patents on a pay you later basis because they can make a whole lot more by copying an invention and be sued then doing nothing at all. Apple is not innocent in this regard.

That said, ignoring is not an option for a little guy who the large companies wish to suppress. Product will never see the light of day. For example, research emulators of IBM systems, none were ever commercially availble although 2 very good ones exist. For example TurboHercules.

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FAIL

So

When you're arrested for contempt of court, do you ignore your cellmates?

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FAIL

Ignore it?

That approach works fine, right up to the point where you ignore a court summons. Then you are breaking the law of the land, and the police will come and take you away....

Actually, I think that patents are still (just) civil law. So you don't get a 'summons'. You get invited to court. If you don't turn up, judgement is automatically given against you, and then your opponent can apply penalties, enforced by the law of the land. In this case the balliffs would come and get your belongings....

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WTF?

Oh, fuck off Apple.

This is just beyond stupidity now.

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Right, that does it.

I'm going to patent a revolutionary idea - I call it a "personal power management cycling system", with multi function capability:

A single activation of the PPMCS causes electricity to be diverted from the battery of the device to the main operational areas, such as the CPU and screen.

A second activation causes a temporary interrupt to the electricity diversion system for all non-critical device functions, such as the screen.

A long activation of the PPMCS causes a gradual cessation of the electricity diversion function, allowing all active device functions to cease operation in a controlled manner.

Someone get me Apple or Google on the blower and we'll talk.

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Joke

hardly revolutionary

Douglas Adams got there first, and called it Mode Execute Ready.

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Dig

too late

"I'm going to patent a revolutionary idea - I call it a "personal power management cycling system", with multi function capability:

A single activation of the PPMCS causes electricity to be diverted from the battery of the device to the main operational areas, such as the CPU and screen.

A second activation causes a temporary interrupt to the electricity diversion system for all non-critical device functions, such as the screen.

A long activation of the PPMCS causes a gradual cessation of the electricity diversion function, allowing all active device functions to cease operation in a controlled manner."

unfortunately you will have violated this patent in doing so

http://www.electronicsweekly.com/blogs/low-power-design/2011/09/a-closer-look-at-power-managements-problematic-power-patent.html

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Anonymous Coward

Nope

Prior art example: (Patent speak for already invented before it was patented).

Microsoft required the entry of a pin into a touchscreen device since early versions of CE. This required a "tapping" gesture to be made on a pre-defined pin-pad, accompanied by a message indicating that the device was locked.

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Facepalm

My old Palm M125 did the same thing

Nothing new here.

Facepalm because, well, it has the word "Palm" in it

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Indeed

My 1996 (USRobotics) Pilot5000 uses this method - OK, you have to enter a password using Graffiti, but it's still a screen gesture and I can set it to a single character if I wish.

[Thinks: did an Apple Newton use this method? Never had a chance to play with one.]

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Gold badge

Each touch of the screen to enter a number or letter is a gesture. But the patent is on about unlocking using a single gesture.

Therefore typing in a number to unlock is not really the same.

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Pin code entry

That's not what they've patented though, they've patented the concept of swiping the finger from one side to the other to leave a locked state the phone is in.

And just because they've only just been awarded the patent, doesn't say when they APPLIED for said patent.

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...

the patent says "gestures"...

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As bad as this is I think the linkify patent was actually worse and neither come close to my personal all time least favourite - the 1-cilck patent.

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Facepalm

The stellar bit

A quick glance at the patent reveals it took a brain trust of no fewer than 7 Apple staffers to come up with this idea. Perhaps their next trick should be using the camera to snap a pic of the proper key to unlock a device... aawww, did I just spoil that? Pity.

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Facepalm

And this surprises anyone?

Patents rights in the U.S. are given out like Halloween candy to fat kids in Naruto jackets. This just the latest in a long line of numbskull decisions by the patent office, and it sure a help won't be the last.

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Anonymous Coward

It's OK

ICS now has Face Unlock feature which, well, kind of works, and guess what it's patented too.

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Taste?

Do you not think you've just crossed the line here? Imagine someone using terms like the ones you just did about someone you were close to who'd just lost their battle with cancer at just 56.

Have a little think about what kind of human being you want to be.

You want to rag on Apple? Fine, but let's let Steve rest in peace.

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Terminator

Aww hell....

"You want to rag on Apple? Fine, but let's let Steve rest in peace."

Why should that be? Old boy left a four year roadmap for Apple to go by - this is just one of the fun tidbits to look forward to. I can imagine a special place n hell where Steve is forced to code Windows95 over and over by his exact duplicate for a boss on an ancient 286 IBM clone with no mathco in DOS... fun to be had by all.

Just saying...

Looking at my Acer A500 tab, round circle with a lock, touch it and it expands to a bigger cicle that you move to the right to another lock to unlock the device - I suppose it's in violation to the numbnuts at the patent office. Fuckers should get out more.

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

FAIL

Oh; grow up.

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FAIL

Clearly Apple have somehow managed to patent prior art. Such will not withstand an appeal if the Android world (read Google) chooses to do so.

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Mushroom

Allowing patents for prior art is USPTO standard practice

This is how patent trolls work: scour the literature for interesting ideas, apply for a patent, and sue anybody using it EXCEPT the guy who came up with the idea in the first (he could too easily take you to the cleaners, if he works for a big company, if not sue him too).

USPTO: Fire the lot of them, and replace them by half the number of competent people

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The patent says that the original filing was from December 2005, so prior art would have to come from before that date.

Android could have independently reinvented this idea between the time of filing and issue of the patent and still be found to infringe.

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Trollface

Which

Got an example of a device prior to apples that used sliding your finger around on a touch screen to unlock it?

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Boffin

From the patent as linked in the article:

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Filed: June 2, 2009

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The Patent from 2005 is one (that was apparently not granted!) that they are trying to extend with this new filing. Again, from the linked filing:

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RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/322,549, filed Dec. 23, 2005, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,657,849 which application is incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.

This application is related to U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/322,550, titled "Indication of Progress Towards Satisfaction of a User Input Condition," filed Dec. 23, 2005, which application is incorporated by reference herein in its entirety.

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So looks like they are just incorporating a general UI element (a form of progress bars? hardly a new tech) as part of this, ie the visual feedback of your 'progress' towards unlocking the phone.

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>Got an example of a device prior to apples that used sliding your finger around on a touch screen to unlock it?

10/950,088 was filed the year before - now part of BenQ's rather extensive mobile IP portfolio and a good match for the Android password gesture.

Dunno why but Apple didn't cite it in their filing for some reason :)

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Boffin

So how is this different to…

… entering a password into an on-screen keyboard? "Tap" is a gesture too.

I think I smell some prior art.

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not really, no

You're reading the wrong bit of the patent, Reg.

First rule of patents: search for the phrase "what is claimed is", as that's the only bit that actually matters: the claim. The abstract, introduction etc are just bumpf.

In this case, the main claim is:

"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. "

the most interesting bit there, to me, is "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"

so any unlock method which doesn't actually involve a single specific icon on the screen which moves when you slide it is probably fine. that's a nice big loophole to drive through.

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Anonymous Coward

But, but, but that's not as scandalous!

How dare you bring facts to the table.

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Many phones out there do just as described above

So it is still too flaming obvious.

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Thumb Up

Correct

This patent only covers a sliding icon. I actually don't think there was prior art for this. Digital pads to enter a code are something different. Also, the android swipe-a-shape is not covered by this either.

In fact, it looks to me like no lawsuits should come out of this. Then again, lawyers are known to be irrational when a big payout is involved.

H6242 — Kill all the lawyers.

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O.K then

Ive been answering calls on my HTC phones by sliding a button (left- answer, right- hang-up) since before the Iphone was invented. To a non-lawyers eyes that make apples 'unlock' feature downright theft. To a lawyer though answering a call is not the same as unlocking. Even if you do the same thing. Apple, just fuck off.

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"so any unlock method which doesn't actually involve a single specific icon on the screen which moves when you slide it is probably fine."

So what you are saying is that a manufacturer should take the risk of a malicious multi million dollar legal circus preventing import of a device to the US for years because it will 'probably' be all right in the end.

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It might be obvious now, and the patent might apply to phones sold now, but the relevant date for considering whether the patent is obvious or inventive is 23 December 2005.

So if you want to declare something as prior art, it needs to have all, or just about all, of the features mentioned above by AdamWill and it needs to have been made available to the public before 23 December 2005.

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Indeed. Nokia S60 touchscreen phones are similar.

On the incoming call screen, there are two sliders at the bottom of the screen.

The top one is green, swipe it to the right to answer the call. The bottom one is red, swipe it to the left to reject the call.

On the alarm screen, again two sliders are displayed. Swipe the green one right to deactivate the alarm, swipe the red one left to snooze.

Both of these screens work when the phone is locked.

Most touchscreen nokias have a physical slider to lock/unlock them, so they don't need a unlock gesture screen.

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sure

i'm not saying it isn't, i think all such frivolous patents should be burned at the stake. but it's not quite as terrible as the original article suggests.

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Mushroom

Does the wording not suggest ...

that the unlock gesture will be of the type 'touch-me-continuously-here-then-here-then-here-and-oh-yeah-right-there'?

Popcorn and buttery fingers.

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Coffee/keyboard

was that not on the xxxPad

Sorry, couldn't resist

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I would really hope the Neonode N1M here should be enough prior art, and in Europe Dutch court seems to have already deemed it invalid at preliminary stage anyway.

http://fosspatents.blogspot.com/2011/08/dutch-judge-considers-apples-slide-to.html

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dcd
Meh

Ye gods!

That is all.

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And the inventive step is...

The screen is a metaphor. A GUI is covered in visual representations of physical phenomena. The slide on my N900 looks suspiciously like the slide lock on a toilet door. The buttons on my calculator app replicate real life. And so on.

So I don't understand why this isn't a patent on metaphor.

It's as though companies are having a competition on who can get the silliest patent app past the USPTO.

An alternative theory is USPTO + WTO + TRIPS = USA trade war

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they did

"It's as though companies are having a competition on who can get the silliest patent app past the USPTO."

rather infamously, Sun engineers *did*.

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Go

It looked innovative to me, only Opera's mouse gestures come close.

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Coat

Next in the News...

... Apple patent breathing in & out.

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err....

Wouldn't that be two patents?

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Happy

@ Michael Thibault

You a lawyer by any chance? You got me!!! :)

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Anonymous Coward

With 20/20 hindsight

This is obvious with hindsight, but it is innovative and non-obvious at the time.

I just don't know if there was prior art.

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