The United States Patent & Trademark Office this morning issued a patent grant to Apple pertaining to the familiar Slide to Unlock gesture. Remember, the now ubiquitous sliding move debuted on the original iPhone as a fun way to keep your device secured while in your pocket. “To unlock the phone, I just take my finger and slide it across. Wanna see that again? We wanted something you couldn’t do by accident in your pocket. Just slide it across – BOOM.”, Steve Jobs said entertaining the invitees at the phone’s unveiling in January of 2007.

The iOS chief Scott Forstall is credited as one of the inventors, in addition to Apple engineers Imran Chaudhri, Bas Ording, Freddy Allen Anzures, Marcel Van Os, Stephen O. Lemay and Greg Christie. Apple actually filed a patent application in December of 2005, a little over a year ahead of the iPhone introduction at the Macworld Expo. Of course, the work on the iPhone had begun a few years earlier.

It’s a bit silly, really, but blame it on the patent system. Be that as it may, nobody now gets to use the popular ‘Slide to Unlock’ without infringing on Apple’s patent unless a court rules it is invalid or prior art. Here’s a video of the 2004-5 Neonode N1m, showing a similar Slide to Unlock that existed before the iPhone (4 minutes in):

Interestingly, a Dutch court ruled that the slide to unlock patent was invalid because of this very device.

The company explains in the granted patent document:

A device with a touch-sensitive display may be unlocked via gestures performed on the touch-sensitive display. The device is unlocked if contact with the display corresponds to a predefined gesture for unlocking the device. The device displays one or more unlock images with respect to which the predefined gesture is to be performed in order to unlock the device. The performance of the predefined gesture with respect to the unlock image may include moving the unlock image to a predefined location and/or moving the unlock image along a predefined path. The device may also display visual cues of the predefined gesture on the touch screen to remind a user of the gesture. In addition, there is a need for sensory feedback to the user regarding progress towards satisfaction of a user input condition that is required for the transition to occur.

To learn more about this patent, just go to the USPTO search engine, click the Number Search below the Patents section and type in the patent number 8,046,721. To see Jobs introduce the Slide to Unlock gesture to the world for the first time, fast forward to mark 15:30 in the clip embedded below.


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