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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  1. Just a random academic

    You've got to be effing kidding me...

    1. P Zero

      Just use an unlock button

      It's not that big of a deal.

      1. Sphinx86
        Thumb Down

        Unless you mean a real phyiscal button, this would still require a touch. Pressing a touch button can still be considered a 'gesture'.

        Essentially if your design constraint is 'Only use a touchscreen' then 'unlock button on the touchscreen' is a pretty obvious invention.

        As is using different logos to denote different methods of unlocking - I'm sure 'prior art' could be made from video games where they use different methods to show how you have to open the door. Maybe a slight strecth but proof enough it is not an entirely unseen idea.

        1. Code Monkey

          Prior art

          I saw two Android-toting friends use unlock gestures this weekend. I was even thinking I should get one of those for mine.

          1. vic 4

            Prior art

            Regardless of who else did it first they've been doing that since the ipod touch. I thought something had to be new to patent?

        2. Adam Foxton

          Lots of different logos?

          How about 10 of them, arranged in a 3x3 grid with a single central low one? Tap in the correct code- which I'd count as a gesture given the broad nature of patent-language as it involves a predefined motion of the hands and fingers- and you gain access to the phone.

          Actually, didn't WinMo have the option to unlock screens from back when it was PocketPC?

          This has prior art going back years. Back when Apple were making colourful plastic toys rather than black-and-silver toys.

      2. RejReeder

        The swipe prevents you from pressing an 'unlock button' by accident.

        Imagine reaching for your phone, pressing the button by accident (in your pocket), calling somebody with the next mis-touch, then deciding not to use the phone while somebody listens from your pocket. Not a big deal, considering that could be a long distance call or you could be having a (seemingly) private conversation that shouldn't be listened in on?

      3. P Zero

        He said farcically, mimicking a dead tech iprophet, pissing off some the Register fanbase.

      4. PatientOne

        A button like the one on the kindle? What's the betting that's patented already.

        As to this patent: My Zen2 uses a gesture on the touch screen to unlock it. Guess what? That's been out for a lot longer than the iPhone. My HTC uses an unlock gesture, and that's been out for quite a while, too.

        So as to the comment of 'It's not that big a deal': Oh, yes it is. It's a big deal because this patent should never have been granted. It's a big deal because now companies either have to pay for a license to use what already exists and is in use. That or they have to pay for the lawyers to challenge this patent and have it revoked. Apple, in the mean time, can sit back and bleed their competitors of funds at a time when competitors want to be focusing on research and true innovation.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I wouldn't worry to much, it didn't do them much good as their developer's still f**ked up the security code and left the iPad wide open to abuse!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Dear Register Reporters...

      Please learn that it is claim 1 (or more genrally the independent claims) of a patent that define the scope of protection. Here, claim 1 reads:

      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.

      Therefore each of these elements must be replicated to infringe. It does not mean that simply indicating how to gesture or whatever will infringe.

      That said, my suspicion is that there will be prior art out there that the USPTO missed, and that in time this will either go away or be considerably narrowed.

      In the meantime, perhaps basing an unlock feature on the duration or timing of a movable image at certain keypoints along a path would achieve the same thing wihout infringing? oh look - thinking around the problem solves it better than whining....

    4. Ammaross Danan

      One would wonder....

      I wonder if a touch-screen security keypad (you know, the type that randomizes the grid of digits to press) infringes on this patent, since it shows "images" (of numbers) indicating the "gesture" (sequence of digits) one must enter in order to unlock a device (door). Obviously entirely NOT the original object of this patent, but can easily encompass based on the language.

  2. Stu J

    Oh for fuck's sake

    Shite like this should just not be patentable. Fucking useless USPTO, keeping all their lawyer buddies in business. Wankers. Steve Jobs will be laughing in his iGrave...

    1. Pete Spicer

      I'm going to get so downvoted for this, but what the hell!

      Why should it not be patentable? It fulfils the non-obvious part of the patent requirement that most of the patents out there currently for trolling seem to lack.

      Let's face it, having to slide across the touch area is not immediately and categorically 'obvious', because prior to the iPhone, I don't believe any device did it - they were all relying on pressing a key combination. Having a touch sensitive display doesn't prevent that still being used. (Caveat: it's entirely possible someone else did do it first, but if so that would be prior art, which would be a viable grounds for appealing the patent. However, that doesn't make it beyond patenting because it actually fulfils the other criteria as I understand it.)

      1. James O'Brien

        While this may not meet the definition

        IANAL, BUT I seem to recall my HTC Tilt (WinMo6.5) having the ability to touch the screen to unlock. Granted it was touching it to put in a code, just like I have my Evo 3D currently is setup (fuck Swype that insecure POS, unless you clean your screen all the time after). So unless that is outside of the patent (and it appears it is not) than how is that not prior art?

        That nervous tick I used to have with Apple, and which I thought was gone with the death of St. Jobs appears to be back.....

      2. Lord Elpuss Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        @Pete Spicer

        Pete, for the record I think you're right. Just because it's become ubiquitous to use gestures to unlock, doesn't automatically make it unpatentable (note: IANAL so this may be bollocks).

        Frankly it surprises me that Apple hasn't already patented it, given that it's one of the few things they did legitimately invent themselves.

        1. Greg J Preece

          "Frankly it surprises me that Apple hasn't already patented it, given that it's one of the few things they did legitimately invent themselves."

          Given that I was using it (after a quick mod) on Windows Mobile they didn't.

          1. Danny 14

            prior art

            I remember epos terminals at argos in the 90s that had swipe to unlock. Not a problem for lawyers.

            apple will be after temporary injunctions with no actual worry about being able to enforce it.

            1. David Ward 1

              yep, been done, not that it would bother apple..

              @Danny14. The tech was certainly there on POS systms in the 90's, the version we used also had a locking mechanism based on 'signing' the screen and the instructions specifically stated that it didn't need to be a signature as in a paper signature, just a unique shape. It also worked very well

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            HP Jornada - remember those?

            Yup, I had one of these back in 2005/6 and it definitely provided prior art with WinMo for gesturing to unlock...

        2. John 104

          What about Microsoft Surface?

          A quick look on wikipedia shows the surface came out in 2007, the ipad in 2010. I'm not sure if there are unlock combos for the Surface, but I wouldn't be surprised. Prior art it would seem.

      3. Lars Silver badge

        "to slide across the touch area"

        One would think that the ability to detect "a slide across the touch area" was "invented" when the touch screen was invented.

        To patent any specific use of that ability is madness and so is the the way patents are granted too.

        I "hope" Nokia has patented "the slide" in the Nokia N9 for changing menus. Wonder who patented "the slide" for booting the thing. one slide to the left, one to the right and the again one to the left and in an other great patent twice to the left and a tap on the right corner with the device held in the upright position. Great.

        1. craigb

          "one slide to the left, one to the right and the again one to the left and in an other great patent twice to the left and a tap on the right corner"

          for some weird reason the Rocky Horror Picture Show came to mind while reading this... must be my twisted mind

          <yeah yeah, mines the one with OT spraypainted on it>

        2. Kristian Walsh Silver badge

          N9 and swipe

          Nokia had patented the swipe gesture to move between screens of content long before the iPhone arrived. Apple breached this in the first iPhone (swiping between icon grids), and paid a settlement earlier in the year as one small part of the $450m (plus future, recurring per-device payments) it stumped up to Nokia.

          This patent is bad news for the "maze" lockscreen on Android phones, and maybe like Nokia's now-defunct "Bubbles" lockscreen (although that didn't use pre-defined paths), but the N9's lockscreen, and that Android one where you just "slide off" the dark layer over the screen should be fine, because they're a swipe of the whole page, not a drag of an object along a path.

          (I'd agree that Apple have some grounds for a patent here, but not anything as broad-reaching as they've just been granted)

          1. wheel

            No, the maze is fine

            ... as it doesn't require moving an icon from one area of the screen to another. The standard lock screen, however, may well fall foul of this.

      4. MacroRodent

        Obvious solutions to a problem

        The trouble your argument is that once you design a phone with a touchscreen only, you are faced with the problem of doing all operations through it, including unlocking. At that stage, the idea of a special gesture is one that probably presents itself after about a minute's thinking, or less.

        This is true also of almost every other patent I have seen: The special thing is the problem. Once you have stated it, the solution shown in the patent is either obvious, or something a person knowledgeable in the field reaches after thinking for a moment. No magic flashes of genius involved.

        It also means that independent reinvention of solutions is the norm, when a field of technology is faced with a common problem. This makes the winner-takes-all nature of patents fundamentally unfair. It is a relic from an era where there was no companies with systematic research and development, and you had to encourage individual inventors working in their sheds...

        1. craigb



          and by extension, the trouble with using a non-touch screen device is that to use it, you need to activate it somehow - wonder who's gonna try to patent the power button, the wake from sleep button, the power off button, etc.

          1. John 104


            That would be Apple...

      5. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        My cheapo 2009 Samsung Tocco Lite (S5230) has gesture unlock, I just draw an L on the screen to unlock it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          but your samsung was

          2 years behind the iPod Touch - which also used the gesture.

        2. MrEee

          Wait, Samsung copied this in 2009?

          So you're turning Samsung in for yet another violation? Because the iPhone came out in 2007, and I'm sure this patent was filed years ago as well and just took this long to be issued.

          I'm not a fan of patenting the obvious, but sometimes obvious isn't. I had several touchscreen devices before the iPhone (Sony MagicLink, Palm Pilot, PocketPC) and none of them ever used a gesture to perform the unlock - and I certainly remember people wondering how Apple was going to avoid phones making random calls with a touchscreen in your pocket.

          Others can use a keycode to keep the screen locked, use a hardware button or button combination, etc. I suspect the patent is valid and it did do something different and useful. And let me be clear, I loathe the concept of software patents lasting more than 5 years personally, but within this flawed system, Apple probably is in the right.

      6. Steve Martins
        Thumb Down

        Pressing a key combination...

        so that will be moving your finger in a predefined pattern across a (discrete) touch sensitive array

      7. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Wrong. For a long time before apple iPhone existed I was gesturing at 4 areas of the pin screen to unlock it. Sometimes I gestured towards a lock area too by touching it and the pone duly locked.

        Sometimes i stroke my coffee table with my left hand whilst whacking off with my right. Is that patentable? or just a sticky table?

      8. tslate


        Any patents are nonsense in this regard since Xerox created the GUI interface and gave it to the world. It is understood that they did not patent all of their technology that they invented. Windows nor Apple would have made it past puberty if the GUI wasn't invented by Xerox. So NO company has a right to patent any of this. Basically software patents are the bane of IT and only serve to create monopolies, of which Apple has a big part in software patent trolling or territorial terrorism. I'm tired of companies claiming innovations on the backs of engineers who actually created the tecnology, the technology stack and the infrastructure decades ago and it wasn't Apple or Microsoft either.

        1. MrEee

          I don't like the software patents much either (they need much shorter terms, weeding out the obvious, more discoverable, etc.), but Xerox not having patented GUI ideas and showing them to other companies in the hopes that people would implement them isn't really the same case as an unlock gesture being thought up by Apple to prevent capacitive touchscreen devices from going off in your pants.

          There are already other things that may be spuriously activated there, so no need for a phone to do the same. In any case, it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the lawsuits to start, and whether it will turn out that Google knowingly implemented unlock gestures despite being aware of this patent having been filed.

      9. LazyGit

        Someone else did do it first.

        The unlock gesture and graphic on iDevices is a simulation of the method for unlocking the cover of some classier types of pocket book.

      10. Tim Almond

        Obvious Impementation

        "Why should it not be patentable? It fulfils the non-obvious part of the patent requirement that most of the patents out there currently for trolling seem to lack"

        Apple have implemented the real-world sliding lock... on a computer. It's like saying that you could patent a shopping list... on a computer, or an accounts ledger... on a computer. It's just an implementation of something real world... on a computer, and that counts as obvious.

      11. bluesxman

        Prior Art

        Many moons ago, I had a security app on my Handspring Visor called "OnlyMe" which prevented access to the device via a security code. One of the unlocking methods available was to swipe the stylus in a predetermined (user defined) pattern through areas displayed on the touch screen.

        This was circa 2000.

      12. sisk

        "Why should it not be patentable? It fulfils the non-obvious part of the patent requirement that most of the patents out there currently for trolling seem to lack."

        No, it's pretty freaking obvious. The only reason it wasn't widespread before the iPhone (and I'm certain it was around earlier than that) is because there weren't many touchscreen-only devices around that fit in your pocket before then. USPTO is just being stupid in granting this patent, but then that's par for the course.

        1. Jaybus

          Is it any wonder? Why would any competent engineer work for peanuts at the USPTO when he or she could earn twice as much, at least, anywhere else? One reason is that they are new immigrants from non-English speaking nations. As such, though they may very well be technically qualified, they don't necessarily have the English language skills needed to decipher something this simple when it is presented as 17 pages of "lawyer-ese" gibberish. The lawyers, naturally, do this on purpose to render the PTO affectless, thereby forcing many more court cases than would otherwise occur. After all, they make much more money in litigation fees than in reviewing boring patent applications.

      13. heyrick Silver badge

        @ Pete Spicer

        Isn't a caveat of patents that it should be "non-obvious"? How else would you propose to "securely" (as in non-accidental) activate a feature when your only method of input is a touch screen of some sort?

        FWIW, I would call prior art. I had a little "organiser" thing with a touch screen and stylus back circa '98. It had an on-screen keyboard, I could "draw" words (like Swype) and I could tap-drag to switch the backlight on and off (this was important for running off two AAAs the backlight was horrendous on battery consumption). The tap-drag was remarkably similar to Android's unlock. The only difference is it turned a feature on and off, not unlock. Same principle. If I could find the thing, I'd power it up and drop a video on YouTube. I wonder if the Psion5 did anything similar, given it's touch screen and stylus arrangement.

      14. coderguy


        Stating the use of a slide would. This patent is so broadly defined, typoing a code into the keyboard falls under it.

        Keyboard == touch sensitive ( for the slow ones in the class )

    2. tslate

      Reality Check

      Apparently that means laughing at himself since Apple is the patent holder who ISSUED the application for the unlocking patent.

    3. heyrick Silver badge

      @ Stu J

      Did you notice it was patent eight-million-and-something? Therein lies part of the problem, I think. In a country based upon lawyers and greed (although they call it "capitalism"), there is some merit in: 1, making this system so broken that arguments are frequent and costly; and 2, perpetuating this rubbish for as long as possible. Common sense dictates various things, a big one being that patent holders should *exercise* their patents, not just collect them to sue the asses off of everybody else. But common sense does not equal money, so this situation is only going to change when companies start actively dropping America from their distribution, and given the economic benefits, who is willing to do that right now?

      Us dweeby end users? We're the ones that will eventually get rogered to pay for this shit.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    Nuke 'em from orbit....'s the only way to be sure...

  4. Jolyon Smith

    I see a way to avoid patent issues like this...

    .. ignore them.

    No seriously...

    "Dear sir, I am a lawyer representing Apple and we have reason to believe your product violates our patents X, Y and Z. Please cease production and enter into negotiations for licensing of our technology as described by these patents."

    Bin it.

    "Sir, we wrote to you recently and you failed to acknowledge our concerns. If you fail to act we shall have no choice but to initiate legal proceedings on behalf of our client."

    Bin it.

    "Summons to appear in court."

    Bin it.

    "Contempt of court proceedings"

    Bin it.

    Eventually the party attempting to enforce their patents will have to take such steps as make their actions so disproportionate to the apparent/claimed "injury" caused by "violation" of the patent that the nonesense of the whole sorry system will be thrown into sharp relief.

    Giving these patents actionable credibility by *defending* against them or submitting to their legitimacy is the biggest mistake anyone can make, imho.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      Oh that it were that simple

      I applaud the sentiment, but I fear it won't work that way. All they need to do is get a court ordered import ban, and that's it. The state will then do the dirty work :(

    2. Thomas Davie

      Nonsense thrown into sharp relief

      The only nonsense thrown into relief here would be you trying to ignore our legal system.

      1. Magnus_Pym

        The key here is the phrase 'cease import'.

        What you end up with is a two tier system where the rest of the world moves on and the US remains locked into the past like the post war soviet bloc.

        1. Stuart 22

          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.

      2. hplasm

        Why not-

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

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ignoring it will cause problems with import restrictions etc. The more obvious solution is to move innovation out of the US and set up separate companies to handle production for the patent encumbered market. The problem with articles such as this one is that they all take a US-centric view. The majority of people in this world live in countries which do no endorse software patent. About 1/3 of the world does not endorse patents at all. Learning by example is one of the driving forces of evolution. Patents are a relatively recent invention. I doubt that we would live in a high-tech society today had USPTO-style patents been the order of the day since the dawn of time.

    4. tslate

      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.

    5. Chad H.


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

    6. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

      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....

  5. Neil Alexander

    Oh, fuck off Apple.

    This is just beyond stupidity now.

    1. Thomas 4

      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.

      1. AdamWill

        hardly revolutionary

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

      2. 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

  6. R.Blastbody

    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.

  7. Jeremy Chappell


    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.

    1. 404

      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.

  8. jonnycando

    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.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      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

    2. James Henstridge

      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.

      1. Owen Carter

        From the patent as linked in the article:


        Filed: June 2, 2009


        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:



        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.


        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.

    3. Thomas Davie


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

      1. Random Handle

        >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 :)

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      My old Palm M125 did the same thing

      Nothing new here.

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

      1. Chris Miller


        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.]

    2. Giles Jones 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.

      1. Will Astill


        the patent says "gestures"...

    3. Stuart Elliott

      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.

  10. cloudgazer

    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.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's OK

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

  12. Eddy Ito

    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.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    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.

  14. AdamWill

    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

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

      How dare you bring facts to the table.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

        Many phones out there do just as described above

        So it is still too flaming obvious.

        1. what_fresh_hell_is_this?

          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.

        2. AdamWill


          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.

    2. ratfox
      Thumb Up


      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.

    3. It wasnt me
      Thumb Down

      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.

      1. Colin Miller

        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.

    4. Magnus_Pym

      "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.

  15. Michael Thibault

    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.

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

      was that not on the xxxPad

      Sorry, couldn't resist

  16. SteveMcC

    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.

  17. dcd

    Ye gods!

    That is all.

  18. gerryg

    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

    1. AdamWill

      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*.

  19. bitten

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

  20. Lord Lien

    Next in the News...

    ... Apple patent breathing in & out.

    1. Michael Thibault


      Wouldn't that be two patents?

      1. Lord Lien

        @ Michael Thibault

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

  21. Anonymous Coward
    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.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Mouse (and by extension, touch, since touch emulates mouse) gestures were available in certain applications since at least 1998 (that was the first time I have seen gestures in 3DStudio.

      Various sliders were moved by moving stylus across screen in touch-screen enabled devices since the beginning of touch screen. In fact, virtual sliders are no more innovative than virtual buttons. Moreover, you see one such slider to the right of the screen now, it's called a scroll bar. And if your screen is touch-sensitive, you can drag it using your finger gesture, along the track displayed on the screen, and the moving display will provide the visual feedback.

      Could one patent a virtual button to unlock a touch-screen device? Guess not.

      Then why could one patent a slider?

      And what next? A radio button? A light switch? A turn knob?

      I am afraid that an ability to detect touching and sliding was part of the original patent on touch screen itself.

      Should I patent a menu item that minimizes my application window when pressed?

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    all your swipe gestures are belong to us

    So how long until they sue manufacturers over their use of the Android pattern lock? That would seem to fit the description in this patent, doesn't it?

    It seems to me they're trying really hard to shoot themselves in the foot with this strategy. I played with a Samsung tablet at Costco the other day and imo that thing runs rings around my iPad. My now-ancient android phone is substantially more capable than the wife's iphone (widgets, proper maps and nav, etc.) and my little Roku box can do a whole lot more than my Apple TV. It was already an uphill battle for Apple to get more of my money and this arrogant we-invented-everything attitude doesn't help.

    Sent from my MacBook.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      ...proper maps..?

      Im not bothered with anything else you've written, but what do you mean by 'proper maps'?

      My iPhone (and my iPod Touch before that) have proper maps - in fact they're Google's maps.

      Does Google provide different maps for it's androids?

      As it happens I have other maps on my iPhone and I suspect the same applies to Androids.

  23. Christian Berger

    What I find worse than this...

    Is that companies _will_ rather be paying royalties to Apple than doing more sensible things like having a lock/unlock switch or a clamshell design or maybe some sort of code entry.

    So get over it and build sensible products. Don't just try to out-iPhone the iPhone, but make a product that's different. A product you can actually do something with.

  24. seven of five


    lots of them. Into the patent office. And a few 43mm themobarics just to be sure...

  25. Ashton Black

    Does the USPTO even look at Prior Art?

    1. Whitter

      USPTO and prior art

      No, they don't look outwith the US patent system really. However, they often rely on the "due dillegance" requirement wich states that the patent application must specify any prior art that could be seen to interact with the "invention" and describe why the invention is not invalidated by such: ideally, once you show failure of due dillegance, the patent dies pronto. Alas that last bit is also terminally broken too.

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
        Thumb Down

        "the patent application must specify any prior art that could be seen to interact"

        aahh!! Self-regulation, that great lie.

    2. hplasm


      Just the list marked 'Not Invented Here'.

  26. Steve Evans


    Sounds like the norm for the US patent office.

    Given the wording, if you just used the text "LOCKED" you could be okay. The patent specifically says image. Then the lawyers could have a lovely argument about the difference between images and text :-)

    Having recently seen an ios 5 device, I can't help but notice it now has a top status bar which is revealed by pulling down the screen... Which rather reminds me of a non-ios device I have in my pocket. Now I could be wrong, this could be something ios has had for year, but it is certainly the first time I have seen it.

    One thing that does amuse me, it appears it took 7 people to invent that... LOL!

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple probably did submit the patent a long time ago - just granted now. Android should stop just copying iOS.

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Filed December 2005

      Prior art by the dozens, possibly hundreds. A lot in Windows Mobile and Windows CE.

      Android may or may not have prior art as well - I forget when that started shipping.

      It's past time for "the 99%" to go and shut down the USPTO, they are clearly not fit for purpose and are doing far more damage to the US economy than Wall Street ever could. It is however unclear from the outside as to whether the abject failure is primarily caused by leglislative failure or incompetence, but there is clearly a lot of both.

      There are a lot of companies that simply don't have anything to do with the US market because of stupid patents like this - getting patents thrown out as b******s costs too much, so why bother trying to develop/build/sell anything there?

      Sure, the big corporations will because they can already hang patent lawyer oblivion over each other.

      Unfortunately big corps don't create many local jobs or do much innovation, they tend to buy innovation from elsewhere and export jobs to other countries.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ".. ignore them."

    What a joke! They would possibly end up winning by default and you may lose the right to license the intellectual property you infringed at a much lower cost. Nice advice - keep it to yourself.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It seems obvious now as Android ripped it off iOS.

    1. Craigness

      Obvious indeed

      Which is why it was done before and after the iphone. If it's possible for the Neonode N1m designers and the iphone designers to come up with this concept independently then is it not possible for other designers also to do so? Once you have decent touchscreen technology you realise you can get rid of some (or all, in android's case) of the buttons. Once you get rid of the buttons you look for touchscreen metaphors as replacements. It's obvious, no less so than answering a call by touching the screen. If Apple patents enough touchscreen obviousness then they will be the only ones allowed to use touchscreens and your smartphone will cost you a fortune.

      1. Ivan Headache

        The neonode N1m didn't use a touch sensitive screen like the iphone. it used light beams which were interrupted by a finger or stylus.

        If I remember correctly - wasn't that how a lot of 'touch-screens' worked in the early days?

  30. Craigness

    No problem

    Use the method defined in the patent to open a screen which displays an area where a code or pattern may be entered. The phone remains locked until the correct code or pattern is entered.

  31. muttley

    April 1st already?

    Oh, wait...

    In other news, XDA (2002), unlock code anyone..?

  32. Hubert Thrunge Jr.

    Beam me up!!

    I'm sure you'll find that someone at Paramount Studios had something like this in mind on the set of Star Trek - The Next Generation. Look closely and you'll see lots of touch screens, some which appear locked, but with a few presses or swipes become unlocked.

    Prior Art in my mind, and Gene Roddenbury's estate should be the patent holder because all of that pre-dates any of Apples contentions designs.

    1. Greg J Preece

      JMS also

      I distinctly remember Mollari in B5 rather grumpily swiping down a control on the right of a comms screen to turn it off.

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

        OT; more JMS copyright

        from Imdb

        "During the run of the show, the show's creator, J. Michael Straczynski, was contacted by NASA officials who asked if they could borrow the design of the show's fighters - the StarFuries - for use on the International Space Station. NASA wanted to use the ships as a combination tug and forklift, adding, "Your design is the most practical we've seen." Straczynski replied that it was fine with him, but that NASA had to call them StarFuries. NASA agreed."

        Apparently the design of the StarFuries is want you would do in a zero-G environment, place the engines as far away from the centre of mass as possible to create biggest turning moment from the smallest engine. Seems NASA were concerned about possible copyright/design issues so it seems that some legal eagles think that what appears in SiFi may constitute prior art! Looks like Samsung’s use of Kubrick’s 2001 may be legit prior art of a fondel slab!!!!!

        1. Greg J Preece

          Oh man, why didn't they build them?? That would have been awesome - a working Mk II StarFury. But then that's one of the things I love about B5 - their tech is futuristic, but looks and feels very practical, and because of that comes across as more plausible.

          NASA, I am disappoint.

  33. Ron1

    Patent business = an insult to all inventive minds

    This patent business has become a total sh*t and disgrace. The ones with loads of money can patent literally ANYTHING.

    I always say the penultimate patent is the one for letter "E". When someone succeeds in patenting the most common English letter (only a matter of time it seems, with all the "one click shopping" and "unlock gesture" and similarly obvious patents granted) and then we'll have to stop using "E" and delete it from all books (or better yet - burn them all), remove from keyboards, alphabet, etc.

    The ultimate patent is the one for "procedure for inhaling & exhaling" (=breathing). Then Homo Sapiens becomes extinct and there will be no more such stupid & embarrassing patent grants.

  34. LarsG

    NEWS FLASH!.............

    All touch screen phone manufactures (except Apple) will now have to disable touch screen gestures on all phones by way of update.

    Please note any person failing to update their phone will have their phone remotely locked until such a time as it is updated.

    Catch 22

  35. I Like Heckling Silver badge

    It seems like companies are trying to get through as many of the 'silly' patents as possible before the changes to the USPO come in.

    When that happens, there is a 9 month window for objections to be made against any patent. With any luck it will allow them to be shot down before any litigation can be started.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I keep wondering...

    Way before pads, touchscreens and evil fruit (and even integrated circuits) existed something called potentiometers. These variable resistance devices came in two flavours : rotary and sliding. The sliding ones, for example, were used in all manner of devices, for instance studio mixing consoles.

    While there were many brands of said consoles, I can't remember any instance of one manufacturer sueing another for using 'changing volume by means of a sliding variable resistor', never mind the bloke who came up with said resistor suing everybody for using them without his permisson.

    Were PO's in those days much more sensible, didn't anyone think of patenting it or weren't judges prone to being taken for a ride ?

    1. Ivan Headache

      That's probably because

      Nearly all of those slider things were made by the same company, Penny & Giles.

  37. Mage Silver badge

    "what is claimed is",

    All this kind of stuff is:

    Been done before


    Dates to research on Gestures 1970s to 1990s

    Even if no one did it, it's not worthy of a patent.

    This is what happens when only 2.5% of Budget is R&D in a Tech company.

    Point to me ONE Engineering development by Apple.

    Point to one user interface feature that should be really patentable.

    One GUI feature that isn't just a prettier and slicker implementation of concepts that others did earlier.

    Possibly some aspects of a GUI should be covered by copyright and the absolute appearance definitely is. But not a rounded rectangular box to put it in, nor rounded icons. Just the actual image on the Icon.

    The court system for enforcement and the system for awarding patents is "broken". It's allowing who ever has the best lawyers and spends the most on "patent" applications to have a monopoly on the obvious and already out there.

  38. Peter 48

    easy to invalidate

    this is a patent that should be pretty easy to invalidate. Simply show a graphical representation of a typical physical unlock slider found on laptop lids for decades and when apples lawyers come knocking explain to the court that this is simply a representation of an action already long in use and hey presto the patent is not worth the paper it is printed on.

  39. martin 17

    Apple copy too, but then it's theirs thereafter

    Just seen the new iOS5 Notification Center. Seems very similar to the Android Notification Center. Google travelling through time again and pre-copying Apple's revolutionary and magical devices?

    I wonder, in a year's time will Apple sue Google for using something they 'made popular', but Android had been using before Apple?! Surely the US Patent office will agree.

    1. Craigness

      Wouldn't put it past them

      I wouldn't put it past them patenting some of the specific functionality which is not in the Android version. It's definitely different even though it's so very much a copy, but it's different none the less. Icultists will notice these differences but ignore where Android has "copied" and made different, and vice versa.

      Seeing what developers have been doing with it, one wonders if iphone users actually are crying out for widgets and homescreens, not just a notification centre. The notification centre looks like the place in iOS to put things which in Android would belong on a homescreen.

      When Apple finally gives its users that sort of UI it will be clear who the real leader is.

  40. Tom 7

    It was only 30 years ago

    I was using gestures on a tablet to control a 16 bit computer for designing microchips

    I cant make my mind up whether people who support this kind of patent are just pig ignorant or secret modern luddites who see their lives being replaced by two lines of code in the future and are hell bent on stopping any IT progress .

  41. alain williams Silver badge

    A gesture for Apple ...

    In response to that I have a gesture for Apple:

  42. wsm

    What is not obvious about touch and movement being needed to operate any part of a touch-screen device? What is not prior art about all of the other devices that used touching and moving to "unlock" them?

    Insanity has not been patented, it has only been practiced by the USPTO. Plenty of prior art there.

  43. Matt 52

    Up yours Apple

    I've just received provisional patent approval for a gesture whereby I extend the middle digit of either hand whilst keeping the other digits clenched into my palm, rotate my hand so that the finger nail of my extended digit points towards Apple and I them raise and lower it repeatedly ....

    I hereby freely licence my patent to anyone who doesn't work for Apple

    1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart
      Paris Hilton

      Are you gesticulating at me?

      Sorry, I'm going to have to sue for that gesture.....

      Paris, she knows how to gesticulate

  44. Stuart 22

    Steve Jobs is no Humphrey Davy (chose not to patent his eponymous lamp). Steve Jobs is no engineer, no scientist 'inventing' anything. Just a zombie pestilent parasite.

    One day I will say what I really think.

  45. stooz

    notification pulldown

    maybe google should prior art patent the notification pull down screen and make apple remove it from all their 4s phones...#

    when will the madness end...

  46. Keith Spencer

    AdamWill. Thanks. Somebody who clearly has read a few patents in his time. The trick here is the combination of touch screen, gesture and the movement of an icon. Whilst they may have existed independently it is non-obvious that the combination would work. The clue here is that nobody else has combinaed these three elements before. So whilst the prior art may be cited, the new patent is non-obvious because of the combination. Sure it all seems obvious now but when the patent was filed it hadn't been done. That's the other point people have missed. There is a considerable time lag between filing, publication and subsequent prosecution and granting. And in practice it's first to file that wins. USPTO have just changed to the rules such that it's first to file that wins not first to invent. The rest of the world tends to use first to file. So, Apple, have won this one. If you remember back to the iPhone launch Steve did refer, even then, to having lots of patents and that they'd defend them. Maybe Google shoudl have planned ahead a bit better......

    1. thesykes
      Thumb Down

      So, what you are saying is that, by having an image move under your fingertip as you swipe, that is suddenly something new and magical? Other devices which used a swipe gesture to unlock, but, didn't use an image were not prior art? Wow... so, you just add a picture to something already in use and it's revolutionary?

    2. Not That Andrew

      It's no more non-obvious than visually highlighting an icon to indicate its been selected, and falls into the same general class of visual metaphor, IMHO.

    3. Craigness


      One of the prior arts presented to the Dutch court which decided the slide-unlock was not a valid patent (or not patentable) was a slider on a virtual mixing desk. You drag the icon up or down in a predetermined path, it gives feedback to show that it's being dragged, it moves to where you release it. IIRC this was a touch screen, but in any case I don't see why everything that existed on a WIMP environment should be fair game for patent hoarders when a new input method is created.

      If you think that an unlock function is a new use and therefore patentable then there could also have been patents on using sliders for brightness, position in a media file etc within the touchscreen environment. Now you can see where the patent game gets silly. Fortunately angry birds does not predefine the path on which you drag the bird, but they could probably define an non-predetermined path and patent that. It's hardly any less obvious given the prior art.

  47. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Why would they need to patent this?

    If on an iPad 2 you can get in without unlocking it anyway?

  48. Magnus_Pym

    US protectionism

    It's just another form of trade protectionism. All you will get are special US versions of everything with all the good bits taken out. The US consumer sees this and thinks that the rest of the world is lagging so far behind US tech and feels smug.

    Years later, when it is too late, reality floods in and swamps them. Look at what happened to the US motor industry.

  49. Anonymous Coward

    Prior Art

    Filed: June 2, 2009

    My Android phone had this before then, so clearly Apple patent holds no water at all.

    1. Ivan Headache

      And the iPod had it

      in 2007 - before the first android device had been launched.

  50. DaeDaLuS_015

    sigh, this is going to far...

    I suppose this also means that the ability to enter a password into a password field via a touchscreen display is also patentable because, afterall, if you had not seen a touchscreen then how would it be a natural thing to do?

    Apparently that's all that is required for the farse that is the patent system.

  51. Neil 38

    I hope Google patented facial recognition unlocking, because that really does rock.

  52. Jamie Kitson

    Unlock Code

    It doesn't quite seem to describe the Android unlock *grid*.

  53. HP Cynic

    More Apple Patent Trolling but I'm also getting sick of references to Jobs in every Apple article.

    He is dead, there is no afterlife, he's not looking on from above/below/beyond and laughing/screaming.

    1. Darryl

      He's dead, yeah, but this patent was filed years ago. Back when he was alive and it's now part of his legacy.

  54. TimNevins

    Prior Art - Predator

    As mentioned by a previous post wasnt this done in Predator (1987)?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Was that in a functioning article or was it created with special effects? If it was the latter (clue; it was) then no, it's not prior art.

  55. Cunningly Linguistic

    "the one’s we can immediately call to mind"

    Sod Apple and its patents, it's the blasé use of the greengrocer's apostrophe I have a problem with!

  56. Herby

    Ignoring patents considered harmful.

    You can ignore some things, but you really don't want to ignore patents. What you really want to do is prepare a defense of a patent before you decide to "ignore" (another word for infringe) a patent.

    Case in point: Kodak "ignoring" the instant camera patents of Polaroid. They had to buy back all of the cameras and give out certificates for new ones. Not good.

    Moral of the story: Find that prior art!

  57. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If you are lucky Apple may offer you a trade-in on your Androids - form an orderly Q.

  58. pctechxp

    @Lars and craigb

    Sounds like you were describing the dance routine from that dreadful DJ Casper track.

  59. Steve Farr

    Does joining up dots on Android count as a gesture?

    If i make a mark across a blank canvas, thats a gesture right?

    But if i'm forced to join up a series of dots in a predefined order (like in those kiddy colouring books), how is that a gesture?

    The workaround is simple i'm guessing. Just give the dots numbers and get the user to specify the numbers for the pin-lock instead of gesturing them in the first place.

    The real shame though, is how Steve Job's legacy will be seen in years to come:

    Will he be the great innovator who gave the world lots of new things?

    Or in 30 years time, will he be just the guy who founded a company of patent trolls?

    Personally i think he'll be remembered as the guy who was right about a lot of things, a hero in our time, but unfortunately he'll also be remembered for one thing he was very wrong about. But isn't that always the way of things?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Actual talking about the gesture to open the phone before the actual unlocking bit

      So this is patently just annoying. Maybe add "annoying" to his legacy (sorry Steve Jobs, so long and thanks for all the "i"s).

  60. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "I hope Google patented facial recognition unlocking, because that really does rock."

    Until you find out they store and index the images and you find them on Google image search along with your name and geo-location data ;)

    1. jax00aus

      I read today that Apple already holds the patent on facial recognition for security.

      The whole situation with software patenting is getting stupid, I've been a dev for almost 20 years. How the patent office can be stupid enough to even entertain some of these ideas is just plain mind boggling.

      As for Apple, I won't be buying another apple product. I've bought a Galaxy SII, and a grey import Tab 8.9 due to the injunction in Aus. Many of my friends looking at phone purchases are steering towards Android devices too.

  61. g e

    Seriously. WTF?

    This passed the 'is not utterly fucking obvious' test???

    The sooner USPTO causes the US Economy to collapse under its own stupidity the better.

  62. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Well, I think the USPTO are being remarkably public spirited. Even the most uniformed can now feel smugly superior in recognising the stupidity of these patents.

    1. BorkedAgain

      What, boy scouts? Policemen? Nurses?

      Sorry, couldn't resist. The one that looks like all the other ones, please...

  63. Martin 63

    Like my psion 5 then? But obviously different as its patentable. Next thing will be people calling things netbooks, which my netbook obviously is not.


  64. Graham 6

    "Inventive step"

    As a person who has applied for 6 patents (in the UK, not the US) I now that a patent has to be novel, original, and have an inventive step.

    This business of the "inventive step" is extremely ambiguous, but basically means that it cannot progress logically from something else already existing.

    A person needs to create something which to the skilled person is not obvious.

    The term "to the skilled person" is key here.

    I write software also (though I do not attempt to patent it because it's stupid) but swiping an icon across a screen to unlock is rather obvious to a software developer given the wealth of touch-screen stuff around in 2005.

    This is a stupid patent and makes the USPTO look like idiots.


  65. John70


    Software Patents should be banned.

    All it is software interpretating the movements on the touchscreen to decide whether or not to unlock.

    And patenting movement should definately be banned.

  66. Phil W

    Windows Mobile 5 anyone?

    I'm not certain as it's a while since I owned them, but I'm fairly sure that the several WM5 phones I had swipe to unlock? WM5 came out prior to this patent being filed.

  67. Anonymous Coward


    Sales terminals.

  68. Armando 123

    As stupid as this is

    would people waste time, money, and effort on this if the legal climate were different? I think we're railing against the symptom, not the disease.

  69. Anonymous Coward

    Also pre-existing

    Windows computers with touch screens fitted.

    This Apple patent has more holes than swis cheese.

    Can we have an icon for "Double Fail" please?

    1. Anonymous Coward


      Talking about the Windows machines on touch screens, does the "three fingered salute" count as a gesture?

      If so, perhaps it can be used, with one less finger, to give an appropriate salute to Apple?

  70. Julian 3

    Windows Phone 7 Unlocks the same way

    Windows Phone 7 can be unlocked the same way as an Android phone. Funnily enough Apple aren't going after Microsoft as Steve had only declared a Fatwa on Android.

    1. aThingOrTwo

      Apple and Microsoft have a rich history of cross licensing patents.

      I find it so amusing how so many Android enthusiasts so completely and throughly refuse to open their mind for one second to see the other side.

      Apple, Oracle, Microsoft etc. don't hate Android of religious reasons. They don't like it because it rips off their IP.

      1. jax00aus

        Apple claims that the galaxy tab 10.1 is a blatent copy of of the ipad based on what I've read.

        The problem is that any flat, eyboardless 'computer' adorned with a power on button is basically a tablet pc. Some manufacturers have slightly different dimensions but so what? These devices will continue to evolve.

        All I see is the rapid evolution of the tablet pc. Apple didnt invent the tablet pc and the notion of such a device existed in Star Trek since forever.

        Switch on the devices and the differences become obvious in a very short time. Currently I have an Android tablet and its flexibility runs rings around the iPad. Apple, i suspect simply doesnt like that.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Unproven claim. Thus invalid.

        Some Android phone manufacturers have agreed to settle before going to court.

        No case has come to court, therefore no IP infringement has taken place.

  71. BoxedSet

    Apple doth suck the bag royally

    Oh FFS, another prime example of Apple being a bunch of tw@ts. This sort of corporate stupidity knows now bounds within their offices and is another prime example of why lots of people hate the company attitude and detest their products so much.

    To reuse an often quoted text - "The world was a better place when Apple and BlackBerry were just fruits!". Also a lot fewer riots.... ahem.

    How can you seriously patent a UI gesture is patently ridiculous! ;-)

  72. BoxedSet

    I have a gesture for Apple (as yet unpatented) which involves extending the two fingers next to your thumb in a swift upward motion... perhaps a f*ck off screen?

  73. BoxedSet

    We need a patent alert icon for this sort of crap........

  74. pstones578

    This will be their next patent

    An interactive means by way of the user manipulating the power state of a device. Apple will refer to this as the iON and iOFF switch. No other device will be able to transition their power state using a switching technology similar to iON and iOFF.

  75. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I've just patented 'Picking a Nose'

    The hand gesture required includes inserting a finger into the nasal orifice and extracting surface detritus for closer inspection prior to disposal or ingestion.

    Now - the world owes me BILLIONS I tell you, BILLIONS... Mwuhahaha!

    Fucking lawyers.

  76. tonylemesmer

    what does locked mean?

    The patent hinges on the definition of "locked" and "unlocked". I haven't read the patent but if Android can argue what "unlocking" means then it would be a way to get around it.

  77. Iain Leadley

    I can understand a patent for a touch screen but how can you patent data entry on it? Surely this is no different to patenting the entry of a password on a QWERTY keyboard. Don't tell me they have that one already.

    I think I am going to look at patenting the use of toilet paper for uses outside of the obvious.Mind you perhaps I should patent the use of USPTO patents as toilet paper, I think that may prove more lucrative at the moment.

  78. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The problem without patents Apple (or someone else) would do something a bit new / different and everyone else would clone it. The iPhone and iPad are hugely successful so Samsung / Android want to jump on the band waggon and rather than innovating feel content with copying.

    The problem is there is a lot of anti-Apple hate on here - but ask yourself if YOU invented something how would you feel if weeks / months later your design / work / ideas were ripped off by other people.

    This is the world we live in - Apple are not the only ones filing patents you know and remember Google bought Motorola to buy more patents - perhaps to protect themselves / perhaps to threaten others - time will tell but don't imagine Google / Samsung are saints.

    1. Craigness


      Apple copied the notification centre from Android and added some extra functionality to it.

      Android had this innovative unlock mechanism when it first came out, and still does:

      And Apple users wanted a copy of it

      HTC Sense on my phone has a bar which you drag down to answer the phone, dismiss alarms and access the unlock mechanism. That's less of a copy than the iphone notification centre is.

      In Sense 3, HTC introduced a lock screen where you could access apps without fully unlocking the phone. Cyanogen has the same, and probably others too. Apple now has now copied this innovation into the iphone.

      What you call "anti-Apple hate" is more like people who think it should be ok for Android to recreate things which the iphone has and, presumably, for the iphone to do the same in the other direction. But mainly, they want Apple not be to competition-stifling hypocrites. If you want to know what the inventors of the notification centre and app-access on the lock screen think about being "ripped off" then just wait for the lawsuits.

      Until google uses those patents to attack, rather than counterattack or defend, then there's no reason to imagine they're not saints in the respect.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Google, HTC and Samsung have little to no moral high ground at all in all of this. Not really a good example.

    2. Cunningly Linguistic
      Thumb Down

      Ah but, they didn't invent it. They merely patented it.

  79. Gio Ciampa

    Question is...

    ...who will be the first to get sued for breaching this?

    I'll wager it won't be Google...

  80. Tom Kelsall
    Thumb Down

    I've said it before and I'll say it again...

    Human Computer Interaction is a well understood, well documented Science within the Psychology discipline. Studying it, you find that given a particular interface to a device, and a human "user", you can only make a small number of interactions viable - the human mind persists in working exactly the way it always worked, and a touch display activated by a finger can only be manipulated in so many ways. Patenting stuff like this (and enforcing those patents in Courts) is a calculated move designed to bring in licensing revenue, NOTHING MORE OR LESS. It also pushes up the cost of devices, because of the cost of patent enforcing litigation.

    SOMETHING must be done to make this sort of patenting practice unlawful; unfortunately I have no idea as to what.

  81. dormant

    My Nokia N900 came with an unlock screen graphic and a gesture that are patently identical to the Apple claim.

    1. Ivan Headache
      Thumb Down


      It's 2 years behind the iPod Touch

  82. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh so Simple...

    I have just applied for a patent to use gestures to enable a disabled phone. (my wording is very careful not to use the term Lock) anyone infringing on my enabling patent will get a letter from my lawyer.

    Fuck you patent Troll! enjoy.

  83. h 2

    Nose picking patent

    I think I can be quite creative and the manner that I can pick my nose. I'm sure this is something that I could patent

  84. CuriousChicken

    Where did they get this idea?

    I was wondering after I unbolted the bathroom door.

  85. Zique


    on my android phone I just have to slide the locking image away, i.e. *not* to any predefined position/region and not along any predefined path.

    So if I can claim that moving the image anywhere is not the same as moving it to a predefined region then it should be ok. No?

  86. whaleboy7

    Can I patent the idea of using a 'hand', a 'head', an 'ear' and a 'mouth' to make a phone call?

    Why not its not so far from this patent?

    Presumably someon holds a higher patent that says activate at touch screen by touching it and they can crap on Apple's patent?

  87. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    prior art for gestures at least as early as 1984

    When I started work in 1984 we used a PCB design pacakaged called scicards which was controlled primarily by single gestures to perform almost all operations. It used a stylus on a digitising pad rather than a touchscreen but I am sure gesture based controls have been in continuous use since then.

    There is probably prior art to specifically unlock but given the only possible novel featur eis the specifc function - unlock or specific gesture used I find it very difficult to see how this can be considered to be anything other than crashingly obvious.

  88. Anonymous Coward

    In other news......

    Apple patents the use of electricity to power consumer electronics, necessitating the redesign of Android phones as briefcase-sized steam-powered 10 KG doorstops :)

  89. Watashi


    Is it illegal to take a sh*t without Apple's permission yet?

  90. Martin Usher

    Prior Art -- Again

    May I draw people's attention to the "Motion" tablet computer?

  91. raving angry loony

    Prior art: Neonode N1M, running Windows mobile. 1Q 2005 (so about a year before Apple ever FILED for said patent).

    Fuck off Apple. You're about to cost everyone another few million by abusing the USPTO. Again. Asshats.

  92. Arclight

    So this means......

    ......I can invent something, put it out on the market for a few years, knowingly watch every other manufacturer reproduce it in a similar enough form, wait for the number of units sold to rack up to a decent level, then belatedly patent it and pull in the patent trolling net and watch the little fishes flap around on the deck.

    /goes off to patent the wheel

    1. Richard 126

      You can't patent the wheel it was patented in Australia in 2001

  93. MadChemist

    you might want to add to the article...

    ...the filing date of the patent for those who have difficulties following links or reading patents...

    (some people don´t seem to grasp that "granting date" is not in fact the date the patent was applied for)

    Filed: June 2, 2009

  94. Leona A

    patent for gestures - for the love of god, how rediculous! While they're at it, they might as well file a patent for putting an electronic communications device next to your ear to converse with! FFS!

  95. Infernoz Bronze badge

    Mega Prior Art for this abusive IP BS

    An in-your-face example of Prior Art is the film Minority Report, where loads of sliding gestures were used, doesn't matter that it was not on a portable device! Opera also provided Gesture interaction. I'm pretty sure that Apple did not invent this method of interaction and are really just another bunch of psychopathic corporate plagiarists; worse still the method of interaction called gestures is a natural human communication format and used overtly by deaf signers, so it is nonsense to allow such an obvious communications format to be patented.

  96. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    That looks like a tampon application procedure.

  97. Kay Burley ate my hamster

    I will never buy another Apple product

    Even with jobs 6ft under the evil doesn't stop.

  98. Zap

    Those of us who have been around for more than a while will remember the early "look and feel" suits that Apple and Lotus tried to use as a beating stick in the early 80's. Apple with its trash can trying to prevent Windows having a Recyling bin.

    In the end their greed got the better of them and they lost, of course that fact that they "borrowed" the concept from Xerox may have been a factor but there are similarities.

    Google has deep pockets and can afford to hire the best lawyers, they will press on as Microsoft did and they will win.

    What next, will Apple try to patent the way I wipe my arse!

  99. P. Lee

    Not just google going for the lawyers

    Anyone seen an HP WebOS Touchpad unlock screen?

  100. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ooo USA, forever proving the rest of the world would be better off if you did an Atlantis and sank below the waves never to be seen again. They are something of an Elephant sat in the corner of the room when it comes to pretty much anything.

  101. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prior Art

    Filed: June 2, 2009

    My Android phone had this before then, so clearly Apple patent holds no water at all.

  102. Stefing

    Apple's patenting is beyond ridiculous, you should not be allowed to "own" something that is so obvious and fundamental!

  103. Rabbit80

    Analogue prior art?

    Funny thing is - my ancient laptop (Win98, 64Mb RAM etc) has an analogue version of this - I have to slide a catch in order to open the lid! Surely this counts as prior art?

  104. henrydddd


    While they are at it, Apple should get a patent on their 5 seconds to bypass the password method on Ipad 2

  105. Grease Monkey Silver badge


    The shark has been well and truly jumped. No, not by Apple, but by the patent office.

    How the fuck can a gesture be patented? There is nothing in the concept of patenting that allows for a gesture to be patented. This is yet another patent that will surely be found to be invalid should it ever go anywhere near a court. Worse, however, we have reached a point now where the patent office themselves are bringing the whole system into disrepute. Sooner or later they will grant so many of these frivolous patents that nobody will have any regard for the system at all.

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