Apple's "slide to unlock" patent ruled invalid in UK

Raise your hand if you're getting sick of Apple's constant courtroom battles over technology that's fairly ubiquitous. Although Apple has been winning a fair amount of cases lately, they've been handed their fair share of defeats as well. Chalk another one up to the "loss" column as the BBC reports that a judge in the UK has ruled three of the four Apple patents in the case invalid and thus ruled in favor of HTC.

At odds were four patents: Slide to unlock, multilingual keyboards, determining where the screen is being touched and by how many fingers, and dragging an image around the screen. The judge ruled that the first three were invalid, while the image dragging patent did not apply to HTC's devices.

Interestingly, Apple may have been caught copying another company in the "slide to unlock" fiasco. The judge said that HTC would've been violating Apple's patent if not for the fact that a previous phone, the Neonode N1, released in 2004, had a similar feature only without a graphical representation. The ruling stated that adding visual feedback would be an "obvious" improvement and thus the patent could not stand. It's unclear whether Neonode actually patented the "slide to unlock" in their phone.

Apple did not comment on the ruling but came back to their standard statement, one that is humorous given the judge's note regarding the company copying the Neonode N1: "We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

While this ruling hurts Apple in the short term, many people do not believe that the rulings will have worldwide reaching results. Lawyer Andrew Alton in the UK stated, "Not only are the tests different but also the evidence that can be introduced in different courts varies. If the Neonode wasn't released in the US it might not be able to be cited there."

One thing is almost certainly true: Apple will appeal the decision as courtroom battles on software and hardware patents continue.

Source: BBC

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