back to article Apple lands slide-to-unlock patent blow on Motorola

Motorola's Android handsets are infringing Apple's slide-to-unlock patent, in Germany at least, though an appeal may be lodged. Apple hasn't said it will enforce the Munich ruling - a permanent injunction - as it would need to post a bond against failure at appeal, but the judge is clear that Motorola needs to find a different …


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  1. Gregg Stuart


    Do these patent judges not know anything about tech or even bother to look for prior art. My Windows 6.0 phone pre-dates the iPhone and that has an icon to unlock the screen. This is getting ridiculous.

    1. jai

      Re: Jeez

      it has an icon? is that it? do you have to swipe your finger across the screen to drag the icon and so unlock the screen?

      because, if you had _read_the_article_ it says that "Motorola's Xoom tablet, as that uses a drag-finger-outside-circle unlocking which is sufficiently different from Apple's approach"

      So having an icon to unlock the screen is also not the same thing as the iPhone's "drag to unlock" finger swipe motion.

      1. Piro Silver badge

        Re: Re: Jeez

        Yeah, this is no big deal. My sense device has a ring you drag up to unlock, and my touchpad has a similar thing, you drag a lock out of a circle.

        Not as iconic as swipe to unlock, but easy to do once you know it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re: Jeez

        Actually yes, my old Windows phone used to be slide to unlock.

      3. Gregg Stuart

        Re: Re: Jeez

        Of course I've read the article, otherwise I wouldn't have seen the icon at the bottom of the screen that I need to press in order to comment. Hang on - Apple might have a patent for that too, El reg watch out, you'll be banned in Germany. Oh and in case you didn't know, yes, Windows Phone does have an icon you need to drag across the screen to unlock, but there's can go left as well as right.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Re: Jeez

        It seems that patents should be given for technological discoveries rather than chicken shit issues such as swipping a screen.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Jeez

      It's not the responsibility of a judge to look for evidence of prior art. It is the responsibility of the lawyers to present that evidence for the judge to consider in his verdict.

  2. Andy Farley

    So next time I undo the bolt on my door

    I need to pay Apple?

    I assume Google will be patenting look to unlock which is a much better system long term.

    Ridiculous system.

    1. The BigYin

      Re: So next time I undo the bolt on my door

      This, in spades.

      The concept of a bolt being thrown/retracted to lock/open something is very old news. Just because a graphical idiom is used to perform the action electornically should not be patentable in any sane work.

      Copyright the graphics used? Yes, up to a point (one slidey button thing is going to look pretty similar to other slidey button things)

      Trademark it? Hrmm...maybe but doubtful.

      Patent? No - sod off.

      I have an idea...I am going to patent a "tumbler" graphic that one rotates left/right to enter a code that unlocks the device. No one has ever done that before. There is no prior art. The patent is all mine. ALL MINE!!!!!!!!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Thumb Up

        Re: Re: So next time I undo the bolt on my door

        I do like that tumbler concept, like a safe dial. Race you to the patent office - no wait I have scruples, silly me. Good luck to you Sir.

        But yeah, common sence is something that frankly should not be patentable and is one area that just seems to get worse. I blame the history of XORing to get a mouse on the screen.

        1. The BigYin

          Re: Re: Re: So next time I undo the bolt on my door

          "a safe dial"? NAY! This is electronic and thus totally patentable. Hush, you!

          In fact....I'll patent an arbitrarily sided polygon.

          The sad thing is...some lawyered arsewipe will probably patent my "original" idea and make bazillions, despite the fact it is utterly without merit.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prior art...

    1. FartingHippo

      Re: Prior art...

      Motorola's lawyers would have wheeled that one out with bells on. They still lost, so it can't be that simple.

      IANAL (ANAY) (and neither are you) :)

  4. SuperTim


    have four buttons in a row, each which must be punched sequentially. You MAY drag a finger over them to unlock, but you can also hit one at a time, something which CANNOT be done using apple's method, therefore different.

    I'll give you that one Motorola!

    1. Neill Mitchell

      Hey Super Tim

      You should patent that idea quick :D

      1. SuperTim

        Re: Hey Super Tim

        I would, but i have no intention of seeking protection from other uses while I create and sell the product I have patented, as I have no intention of making it.

        You know, what the patent system was invented for!

        If I chose to patent it, then I would be no better than the myriad companies now just patenting anyoldshite (C) and then waiting to find somebody to sue!

  5. DragonLord

    The ruling dose not cover

    should be "does"

  6. Kyoraki


    This is just getting silly. Motorola / Apple / Samsung / etc need to stop these pointless patent disputes and just agree that some things are just an industry standard. Goodness knows where we'd be now if some bored patent lawyer in the 80's decided to patent drop down menus or shortcut icons.

  7. spegru

    But I thought

    there were NO software patents in Europe!

    Anyone care to explain the legalities of this?

    1. stupormundi

      Re: But I thought

      I second that. Also very keen to hear the answer to this question, having seen none so far.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Google also patents their screen lock mechanisms:

    As does Nokia:

    And many other companies... Seems easy to resolve though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Just reading Florian Muller's blurb he suggests that "If MMI wants to play it safe in Germany, it implements embodiment #3 (the slide-to-unlock circle) across its entire product range. That one was cleared by the regional court and is safe at least until the end of the appeals proceeding."

      So it seems there's already a solution.

      1. Clive Galway

        Simply replace it with an apple that you drag to a bin ;)

    2. Chet Mannly

      "Google also patents their screen lock mechanisms"

      Perhaps its out of necessity, given Apple seem more interested in putting money into their legal team than their development team at the moment, otherwise Apple will just patent every possible lock screen type to block Google from having a lock screen at all...

  9. Tegne

    Shouldn't Apple be suing Google?

    Motorola are only providing a hardware platform that happens to have Google's O/S on it afterall.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Shouldn't Apple be suing Google?

      You may have not read the latest news but Motorola sued Apple (and actually did it first).

      Patent holders can sue anyone using their patent without a license, even down to end users.

  10. Mage Silver badge

    This wasn't the intention of Patents

    These are not "inventions" or innovative. But all obvious if you have touch screen, camera etc...

  11. g e

    Prior art

    The bolt on my back gate.

    I hope google's face unlock patent (assuming they have one) prevents Apple ever doing it cos you know they wish they'd 'invented' that one.

    Slide to unlock is also bloody obvious on a touchscreen if you ask me, hardly an 'innovation'. They may as well claim to have patented drag-and-drop

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Prior art

      And the catch on my briefcase.

      The fact that when Apple brought it out, noone said "what a curious way to unlock the screen"

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. stuff and nonesense

        Re: Re: Prior art

        "And the catch on my briefcase.

        The fact that when Apple brought it out, noone said "what a curious way to unlock the screen""

        Nope they said "that's neat!"

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Prior art

      What do you mean WISH they had invented it? No doubt they will claim that they invented the spirit of it and thus demand that other patents be declared invalid.

    3. Rores

      Re: Prior art

      If you look at the details of Apple's attempt to block the Galaxy Nexus in the US, they are already claiming that the phone infringes their face unlock patent.

    4. stuff and nonesense

      Re: Prior art

      Patents refer to something new, novel and non-obvious.

      For a patent to be worth a grain of salt there must be a market for the device/component described within the patent.

      The most marketable devices are those which people "wonder how did I survive without that?"

      An example might be.. digital cameras - they revolutionised the way we take photographs. No need to spend a fortune at the developers (that put my cousin out of business), you can take as many pictures as you want (thousands on a 16gig card), see the results on a computer and print your own selected images.

      That process seems obvious NOW, but at the time the hardware/software was developed it was revolutionary.

      When people say an invention is obvious it always makes me ask... "Why didn't you do it first then?"

      1. Frumious Bandersnatch

        Re: Re: Prior art

        Speaking of digital cameras, quite a few of them have a "swipe to activate" feature too. I'm talking about sliding lens covers that double up as a power switch. Oh, it's also finger-operated. Make of that what you will.

  12. Dave's Jubblies

    I'm just amazed....

    That slinding your finger in a particular manner can be patented...

  13. DrXym

    Android 3 and beyond

    Note in 3.x+ that there is no slide lock mechanism. You have to pick up a ball and drop it onto an action. The ball moves up and down but it just so happens the action is to the right or left of the ball so it's effectively still a slide lock. I don't know if patent worries prompted how the screen unlocks but it is distinctly different. Doubtless Google patented this.


    The whole concept of a patent on a slide lock is repugnant. It is an obvious solution given the constraints of a device which works off taps and swipes.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Here we go again!

    These patents are ridiculous! Pateneting and method of unlocking the phone by sliding your fingure across a screen? Really! That was pateneted?

    W O W F ckwits! Humans really are F ckwits!

    1. FartingHippo

      It's ok

      Fuckwits. Fuckwittery. Fuck-diddly-do-dar-day.

      See? Much more cathartic.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Will get thrown out..

    As, correct me if I am wrong, prior art still applies...

    Apples patent was granted in December 2005, and there are several examples of prior art, include the Neonode N1m from 2001.

    All this shows, is Apple's desperation..

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Will get thrown out..

      If you knew how to read patents instead of just Android fansites you'd see Apple's patent includes a moving widget (the square sliding thing), the Neonode doesn't it just has some arrows pointing in the direction to slide the finger. Boom instant difference, patent averted.

      Your examples reek of desperation.

  16. Turgut Kalfaoglu

    ridiculous patents, dumb courts

    Totally ridiculous to patent something like swiping.

    I'm just glad that no baker so far patented "cutting bread with a knife" action :(

    In the mean time, I'll work on my new patent application entitled "fart to unlock."

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: ridiculous patents, dumb courts

      I'll work on my new patent application entitled "fart to unlock."

      That's great, but how can you generate a fart noise if your iPhone is locked?

      1. 404

        Re: Re: ridiculous patents, dumb courts

        By pulling your finger?


  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I slid my finger.....

    ........sideways in my Girlfriends privates and it unlocked a whole lot of passioante possibiltiiies ! I could surf all over her thereafter.

    Sue me for that.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why are we asking judges for uninformed opinions when we have the Internet?

    Sliding a button to unlock things is probably hundreds of years old. Why exactly is doing this with pictures in some way worthly of the protection of the law and therefore the armed forces? This is as brain dead as the Amazon one-click patent.

    I assume some folding stuff in an envelope was involved.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I suggest that everyone who says this is obvious starts writing their own patents, should be a really lucrative endeavour given your immense foresight and creativity.

    All the truly great ideas are obvious once you seen them, you then kick yourself for not having thought of them before.



      @AC No problem, it's a skeuomorph. There are numerous others we could think of from the 'real' world.

      Turning a key

      Closing a pad-lock

      Spinning a dial

      etc etc etc

      Just google 'lock mechansims' then do a quick sketch showing the 'virtual' representation, patent please :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: skeuomorphic

        > Just google 'lock mechansims' then do a quick sketch showing the 'virtual' representation, patent please :-)

        You have the wrong idea about what a utility (not design) patent is. Try reading one some day.

        Bit more complicated than that.

        > Only large organisations can afford it.

        Not really, it costs about £10K. Put your savings into it. Hey if it's truly a genius idea you'll make millions. Boom, instant retirement.

        Good luck my fellow geniuses, seize that Eureka moment.

    2. Leigh Brown

      Re: Truly great ideas

      I was under the impression you can't patent an idea, only a novel way of implementing it. Since the implementation of said idea is (in my opinion, of course) both obvious and trivial to someone having ordinary skill in the art, it would seem to me that the patent should not have been granted.

      Let's face it, most people can come up with great ideas, it's only if the actual implementation of them requires an inventive step that patents should come in to play. I'm generally against software patents due to ongoing farce around them, however I would probably concede (if pushed), that certain very limited software patents could be reasonable. One example would be font hinting and anti-aliasing. It's all very well saying "I've had this idea of making fonts look good on a screen", but actually it took some effort to invent an algorithm to do the job.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Only if you have deeeeeep pockets

      The other main problem with the patent process - it costs a lot to take one out and a fortune to defend it.

      Only large organisations can afford it.

    4. AdamWill

      we choose not to

      we choose not to take out patents on every little idea we come up with every day because _we're not a bunch of fucking jackasses_.

  20. Purlieu

    Square corners

    Looking at the actual patent the device has square corners, so how exactly does this fit in with Apple's other iPhone etc patents ?

  21. James 36


    this shit just makes me angry !

    the US patent system is clearly broken ,

    UK one probably is too

    though it is amusing you can buy a patent and retrospectively sue for damages (IANAL so sue may not be the right term)

  22. peter 45

    Voice pattern recognition?


    'Did you say 'Uncle"?

    'No! Unlock'

    'Did you say 'No-one Clock"?

    'NO. Unlock!!!!'

    'Not recognized' Please say word again'


    'Shutting down now.' Biddly Beep.

  23. Wang N Staines

    Germany is the Texas of the EU.

    The software patent trolling by all sides are enjoying the playing field there.

  24. Purlieu

    Actually Motorola would only need two "buttons" close together

    Open the pod bay doors, iPhone

    I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that

  25. dotdavid
    Thumb Up

    Apple: Motorola Update Department

    So now Motorola will need to update their handsets to no longer use slide-to-unlock, eh?

    On the one hand, it's a silly patent that has plenty of prior art. On the other hand it's unlikely Motorola will release any updates without it...

  26. Shagbag

    Apple are doing themselves no favours with their unrelenting patent trolling.

  27. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

    Even more prior art

    I see your garden gates/sheds/briefcases and raise you a public toilet.

    Slide to lock/unlock and a graphical representation of the status (engaged/vacant)

    (especially those you used to put an actual penny, 1d, in for those oldsters who remember)

    As others have commented, why is a virtual representation of well known, and old technology patentable? The "method" is well known and understood.

    Maybe I can patent a mousetrap painted sky blue pink? I'm sure no one has made one of those before.

  28. stupormundi

    Sirius Cybernetics Corporation

    Darn, I should've patented moving the arm in a circular fashion until the flat of the hand loudly contacts the signal-recipient's cheek to indicate that they're WAY out of line. Seems bit late now.

    I stand by my opionion that people who attempt to patent gestures will be the first up against the wall when the revolution comes.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Rethink the slider

    Personally I find the slider a pain to use especially when driving. All I needed to do with my old non-smartphone was to press a button when it rang and the call came through the hands-free. These days I have to either fumble to slide my finger across the screen or turn on the not-so-reliable voice recognition facility that drains the battery at an alarming rate or just break the law and drive dangerously.

    Let Apple have their slider and bring back the good old button for everyone else.

    1. Snot Rot
      Thumb Up

      Re: Rethink the slider

      I hate the slider on my iPod. Of course, you shouldn't be using it while driving, but that aside.

      Its annoying.

      I've installed 'No Lock' on my SGS2, the button on the side is more than good enough for me thank you.

    2. Gregg Stuart

      Re: Rethink the slider

      Do you not have a phone that automatically answers whilst on Hands-Free? Or have Apple had that disabled on your phone in a patent dispute?

  30. Bonce

    Class Action Lawsuit

    Against all these companies for being such arses with their bloody patents.

    Who's with me?

  31. HFoster

    All About Android

    I saw something about this on All About Android (a TWiT Network weekly video podcast), and it sounded a lot more like Apple were out to patent the use of a sliding GUI element to transition from one state to another, not merely unlocking. Is this the case, or were they only granted an injunction based on slide to unlock?

    I still believe there are far too many lawyers involved in the tech industry, making it an utter abomination for engineers everywhere.

  32. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

    Software patents are now at the point where they are nothing more than legalised extortion.

    Patents are a good idea in principle, since they in theory protect and reward the people who invest in the R&D and genuinely invent something new, but these stupid obvious patents only exist for one reason, to restrict competition in the marketplace. Relying on patents like this to keep your place in the market is the last gasp of companies who are been out-innovated by their competitors.

    Section 101 of the U.S. Patent Act sets forth the general requirements for a patent; for an invention to be patentable it must be:

    statutory, new, useful, and non-obvious.

    Another part on the US patent law is that all prior art should be disclosed (sorry, I’ve lost the link to that), so Google this: Neonode N1m Windows CE based phone from 2004/2005, Jobs only demonstrated the unlock gesture in Jan 2007

    In reality crApple are just using the system that is in place at the USPTO, so the real question is why is the US patent process so broken? Because the software industry took over the USPTO in 1994 when Clinton appointed Bruce Lehman to the USPTO. Lehman is not a patent lawyer, he is an IP lobbyist.

    Digging through and you can see that Lehman has worked for a string of lobbying firms that have major software companies as clients. It was under Lehman’s leadership as Asst Sec & Commissioner of the USPTO, that the USPTO interpreted the courts as requiring the USPTO to grant software patents in a broad variety of circumstances despite the fact that the U.S. Congress has never legislated specifically that software is patentable. Some of the lobbying firms that Lehman worked for are also make political donations, just look at the amounts Swidler, Berlin et al donate as “Campaign Finance”.

    Lehman is also chief author of the DMCA.

    Does anyone still wonder why the US patent system is so broken?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Software patents are now at the point where they are nothing more than legalised extortion.

      Comments like yours make me think if APPL is really a good investment.

      Seems the money will be on Reynolds Wrap, as people like you will be stocking up a lot of tinfoil.

      ps - The Neonode N1m has a slide gesture to unlock but the implementation is very different. Nice try. Such biases just tell me you're as morally corrupt as you accuse others to be.

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

        Re: Re: Software patents are now at the point where they are nothing more than legalised extortion.

        Accused of bias by a fanboi.......... ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

        1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

          Re: Re: Re: Software patents are now at the point where they are nothing more than legalised extort

          Sorry I was laughing do much at AC that I forgot to add this

, the unlock is at about 4:00

  33. DF118

    I made the mistake of reading about this on Engadget this morning. Or - more to the point - I made the mistake of reading the comments to the Engadget story. That place has a signal to noise ratio somewhere in the shoe-size range.

    1. Toastan Buttar
      Thumb Up

      Shoe size range?

      What does your post even mean?

      UK shoe sizes start at Child's 4. Goes up to adult 13. SNR = 4:13

      US shoe sizes start at Child's 5. Goes up to adult 13. SNR = 5:13

      Euro shoe sizes start at 22. Goes up to around 49. SNR = 22:49

      Sounds like pretty good content on an internet forum.

      1. DF118

        Re: Shoe size range?

        Slow clap for that tortuously pointless interpretation of my comment there. Haven't I read some of your stuff on Engadget?

  34. Gregg Stuart

    In the words of Al iG

    Is it because "I" is Apple?

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    There's only one guesture I'm interested in when it comes to apple

    It involves the middle finger of the right hand.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hang your heads in shame

    Here is a company making billions of dollars a year from selling MP3 players, mobile phones and computers, none of which they invented.

    The worlds greatest company at selling other peoples hard work, invention and inspiration.

    And their contribution to the advancement of technology?

    Rounded corners and sliding fingers across a screen.

    Pathetic... they should be ashamed of themselves.

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    have wallpaper appear as a door with a bolt

    If the wallpaper appeared as a door with a bolt on it, that would make the patent look more silly, wouldnt it?

  38. yosemite

    Well done

    Apple have succeeded in one thing only. Being the biggest c**ts in the world

  39. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    Alternate unlock...

    CM7 has an option (and I've also seen this on my firend's phone with whatever firmware the maker shipped it with) where there's a 3x3 grid of circles, you drag your finger across the circles in some pattern (to "set" the password) then the unlock is to drag your fingers in the same pattern later. Of course, if your "pattern" is a left-to-right swipe... well, that's just some coincidence isn't it?

  40. JeffUK

    This is a software patent...

    I didn't think they were legitimate in Europe... what's going on there then?

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