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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40 Comments

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The concept of slide-to-unlock has been around since even before the Egyptians. However, the only recorded data, shows the Egyptians were the first to have such a mechanism.

How is Apple's concept any different from a sliding bolt and a zipper as another poster said?

Its not. It simply LOOKS different, it doesn't work any different.

I had a phone that you had to slide the lid to unlock to access the screen and keyboard. Integrating the screen and keyboard into one interface and simulating the previous "slide to unlock" is an obvious improvement over that 90's tech.

UK patent law is a ****ing joke. Apple innovated that technology, now the UK is letting freeloaders and thieves such as Google and Samsung steal from them. ****ing pathetic. Hope those UK regulators go die in a fire. There is a special place in hell waiting for them.

vladmihaelescu said,
UK patent law is a ****ing joke. Apple innovated that technology, now the UK is letting freeloaders and thieves such as Google and Samsung steal from them. ****ing pathetic. Hope those UK regulators go die in a fire. There is a special place in hell waiting for them.

http://i.qkme.me/1t0m.jpg

vladmihaelescu said,
UK patent law is a ****ing joke. Apple innovated that technology, now the UK is letting freeloaders and thieves such as Google and Samsung steal from them. ****ing pathetic. Hope those UK regulators go die in a fire. There is a special place in hell waiting for them.

Have you seen this video?
http://youtu.be/Tj-KS2kfIr0

This was many years before Apple came out with it.
Skip to about 4:15

"Slide from left to right to unlock"

The other patents -- I might agree with Apple on, but this one there is obvious patents prior by others.

vladmihaelescu said,
UK patent law is a ****ing joke. Apple innovated that technology, now the UK is letting freeloaders and thieves such as Google and Samsung steal from them. ****ing pathetic. Hope those UK regulators go die in a fire. There is a special place in hell waiting for them.

Wee you diagnosed by a doctor to be legallycrazy, or areyou just acting as such.

Fact 1 - the Neonode 1 uses a swipe to unlock gesture that simply wasnt repreneted bya graphic. It was however represented by text and latter an arrow to show the swiping direction. The swip then unlock the screen to allow acess to a phone.

Question, patents require the odea be NOVEL...NEW and NON-OBVIOUS. If the concept exists on another device, how is Apple's version of it, novel? How is it non-obvious?

Tell you what, why dont you go and steal $500 and then let me steal it from you, then you call the copsand tell them you stole the money and i stole it from you and see what they do you and me if they catch me.

It doesnt matter if the manufacturer of Neonode didn't patent the features, copyright and hence patents require you to show evidence that you were the inventor. Thumbs up to the judge

I think this is all a joke. Patent system needs to be reworked everywhere. It is just silly and costs too much money.

What kind of a patent is "slide to unlock" anyway. Patents are way to vague. And why did it take HTC 4 years to figure this out? The iPhone has been out for what almost 4 years now and HTC is just now complaining?

nytiger73 said,
What kind of a patent is "slide to unlock" anyway. Patents are way to vague. And why did it take HTC 4 years to figure this out? The iPhone has been out for what almost 4 years now and HTC is just now complaining?

Apple sued HTC for the slide to unlock feature in their phones...like they are doing with Samsung. UK ruled the patents invalid so HTC has won.

So HTC is not complaining, Apple is.

"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."

Umm, isnt that exactly what Apple did to the N1. Stole their slide to unlock feature, slapped a graphic on it , and called it original? Seriously? Then by all means they are saying that Android didnt copy really. Because Android made it different as well...much more different than Apple did.

Apple is filled with a bunch of hypocrites. They want everything to be original and new, but they can buy out companies, steal ideas, and label them as new and innovative.

I think that Apple should be sin binned from court until the patent system is sorted out.

Why do Apple sue for such stupid nonsense. Sure, sue if somebody copied the design, but slide to unlock... nobody buys a mobile over another because it has "slide to unlock". Whoever granted this patent should be shot.

Majesticmerc said,
Higgs Boson, ACTA, This. Best 4th of July ever... Unless you're from the USA

I am having a great day and am from the US. Patent wars and leaps in science do not determine what kind of day I am having. Just something to pass the day

Majesticmerc said,
Higgs Boson, ACTA, This. Best 4th of July ever... Unless you're from the USA

Are you trying to be offensive?

sexypepperoni said,
I hope they appeal. The UK law system is a joke. HTC are a bunch of copycats.

Somebody call the waaaambulance!

sexypepperoni said,
I hope they appeal. The UK law system is a joke. HTC are a bunch of copycats.

But Apple copying the Neonode N1 is acceptable...?

Fezmid said,

But Apple copying the Neonode N1 is acceptable...?
Don't confuse him with the facts, his minds already made up. lol

sexypepperoni said,
I hope they appeal. The UK law system is a joke. HTC are a bunch of copycats.

Yes, the UK law system is a joke. But so is US patent law. This "slide to unlock" is an example of the latter.

Anyway, happy trololol day to you sir.

sexypepperoni said,
I hope they appeal. The UK law system is a joke. HTC are a bunch of copycats.

Ahh, the local Apple fan has spoken....so we all shall listen....

UK law system obviously has some sense where the US law system lacks. And you can copy something as long as it is changed enough to not infringe on the patents. Which is what Google did with the slide to unlock and Apple cannot seem to understand...or accept. Google's implementation of slide to unlock isnt even close to Apples.

And if you think Apple is innocent in all this, you are mistaken. They have been accused of copying and ripping off others ideas as well. Like all big companies. Just glad the courts are actually playing smart for once.

sexypepperoni said,
I hope they appeal. The UK law system is a joke. HTC are a bunch of copycats.

apple copied Neonode!! haha truth hurts

The legal system in my country is far from perfect but that fact that we have no software patents is a source of pride to me. The sooner other countries realise that they harm competition and consumers the better IMO.

Javik said,

Somebody call the waaaambulance!

I lol'd! Apple fans are going to get tears all over their turtle necks and faux prescription glasses over this one.

Rudie32 said,
Don't confuse him with the facts, his minds already made up. lol

Indeed LOL, how dare anyone present facts on this site! *wink*

sexypepperoni said,
I hope they appeal. The UK law system is a joke. HTC are a bunch of copycats.

You heard it here first, folks. HTC is responsible for Android.

ahinson said,
I lol'd! Apple fans are going to get tears all over their turtle necks and faux prescription glasses over this one.

I lol'd at faux prescription glasses.

of course they'll appeal, they can't lose one of their main patents for trolling. Let's hope more courts cuts through this BS with vague and broad patents.

They'll probably appeal, yes, but what they should really be worried about is the implications this has on their Slide to Unlock patent held in other jurisdictions e.g. US and rest of Europe.

The judgement can be found here http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Patents/2012/1789.html

Of particular interest is paragraphs 179 to 231, and personally I find paras 180 to 192 to be the most interesting. Here they say that the Slide to Unlock is not "Novel" over prior art by Hypponen. We've already seen how slide to unlock is arguably not "inventive" over Neonode N1, but lawyers can always argue inventiveness / obviousness, so different courts will come up with different outcomes depending on how good apple's lawyers are in that jursidiction

"Novelty", on the other hand, is very difficult to argue and there is very little room for subjectivity. So it's impressive that HTC have found this Hypponen document that shows that Slide to Unlock is not Novel. Now that HTC have found this document, all the other courts will refer to this document and try and invalidate the Slide to Unlock patent in all the other jurisdictions.

So yes, apple will probably appeal, but now the damage is done, as this Novelty-destroying document is now out there for everyone to see and all the other courts are going to look to it and Judge Floyd's decision on it.

Kind of a pity, cause I was actually impressed that apple managed to pull off getting that patent