Apple secures patent on iPhone's slide-to-unlock feature

Apple secures patent on iPhone's slide-to-unlock feature

Summary: Apple has been awarded a design patent for the slide-to-unlock feature used in iOS since 2007, which has been the subject of several legal battles.


The US Patent and Trade Mark Office (USPTO) has awarded Apple a design patent for the hotly contested 'slide-to-unlock' feature that first appeared on the iPhone's graphical user interface in 2007.

The USPTO granted Apple's application for Patent No. D675,639 on Tuesday. The patent describes the "ornamental design for a display screen or portion thereof with a graphical user interface".

Slide patent
The image accompanying Apple's design patent application. Credit: Apple.

The application includes illustrations of the familiar slide bar that remains a feature at the bottom of all iOS screens.

Apple has challenged both Samsung's and Motorola's use of the slide-to-unlock features through a number of separate complaints over patents covering the design and functionality.

Last February, a German court granted Apple a permanent injunction that banned Motorola from using the design feature on its smartphones, but not its tablets. Motorola responded by updating its devices with a new non-infringing design feature.

Apple also pursued Samsung over the function in its Galaxy Nexus in January, although that case concerned a patent covering how gestures on a touch-sensitive display could be used to unlock a device. Apple also discovered Google had filed a patent application in 2010 that described slightly different capabilities enabled by the gesture.

The USPTO also granted Apple the design patent No. D675,612  for "the ornamental design of an electronic" device, which describes the rounded corners on the iPhone. The patent is among several that were subject to a US International Trade Commission ruling against Samsung last October that is up for review next month.

Topics: iPhone, Apple, Mobility, Patents

Liam Tung

About Liam Tung

Liam Tung is an Australian business technology journalist living a few too many Swedish miles north of Stockholm for his liking. He gained a bachelors degree in economics and arts (cultural studies) at Sydney's Macquarie University, but hacked (without Norse or malicious code for that matter) his way into a career as an enterprise tech, security and telecommunications journalist with ZDNet Australia. These days Liam is a full time freelance technology journalist who writes for several publications.

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  • rotten Apple

    rotten Apple stole it and patented
    • Standard Apple Hate with not thought put into the post.

      On the Neonode N1m, it did not have:

      1) Text to indicate gesture.
      2) Icon feedback.

      These are critical claims on Apple's patents that do not have the unlabeled, feed-backless Neonode design lacked. Neonode has a gesture with no visual indication of what to do to make it work.

      You might want to watch the video and actually read the patents and claims before spouting standard hate.
      • easy to influence you

        its ease to influence do you think its ok to have this stupid patent and sue other compaines?
        so this is the same principle:
        should all we pay for that? ;)
        • But that's not the same

          That's not a "display screen or portion thereof" nor does it employ a "graphical user interface".

          Thus, it's completely different. And obviously it greatly pre-dates Apple's slide-to-unlock feature.

          Comparing the two is simply argumentative. Obviously, Apple's slide-to-unlock is somewhat analogous to the mechanical slide-lock for a gate -- but that's the point of a GUI: to make a complex computer action more similar to something everyone is familiar with.

          But the devil is always in the details when it comes to patents, and Apple's patent application was for something far more specific and thus different (from a legal standpoint) than the Neonode element.

          I get it that folks don't like Apple being granted a patent for something that seems to be obvious and non-unique, but the USPTO makes the rules, not Apple ... nor Google ... nor Microsoft ... nor Samsung. Apple's just playing by the rules that the USPTO established, and the USPTO -- not Apple -- decided that the patent was warranted.
  • Is the US patent office corrupt or just stupid ?

    This getting out of hand.
    Alan Smithie
    • Need you really ask?

      The answer is option 3: BOTH
  • unbelievable...

    Are they sponsering the patent office or something ? I own a iphone 4s and I am ashamed I let peer pressure buy me the device... Im not sure what my next device will be, all I'm sure is, it won't be an Apple device. I read enough about Apple lying in court, child labour, depositing billions if off-shore tax havens and patents like this..
    • Have fun choosing your next phone.

      "I read enough about Apple lying in court, child labour, depositing billions if off-shore tax havens, and patents like this."

      So let me get this straight, you won't be buying your phone from a US company as they all, if they are looking after their shareholders properly, have cash deposited in overseas accounts to maximise profits. Also, you won't be buying from an Asian company as they have been implicated in child labour and price fixing. Nokia is out, unless you use Symbian, as MS is a US company (see earlier point). As for patents, Samsung filed nearly 5000 in 2011. I doubt they were all completely obvious.

      So, not sure who you are going to get your next phone from.

      Happy hunting.
      A Grain of Salt
      • I am more annoyed

        That Apple has decided to cease innovating, and is trying to stay ahead of the game by enforcing obnoxious patents and sueing everyone else over minor design issues.

        Yes iPhone was innovative 5 years ago, but now, they have been eclipsed.

        I think this new direction doesn't bode well for Apple's future.
  • What a joke

    More evidence that software patents need to be completely done away with.
    • Um yeah perhaps you missed that neither of these are software patents

      They have nothing to do with software. Just design.
      Johnny Vegas
  • Patent office reform

    I didn't realize the concept of a latch was something new. I thought they had existed for a few centuries. Apparently, taking a common piece of hardware and applying it metaphorically to an electronic device was somehow a revelation.

    The patent office needs two things dragged through it:
    1. an idiot magnet
    2. an IRS auditor, someone has to be on the take
  • Congratulations America

    Your USPTO is now the laughing stock of the world.

    This could be disastrous for LG, what with their Prada, with the round cornered rectangle design, being on the market before the iphone. They will owe apple billions now it's established who came up with the design first. Sorry, that should have read, who received a bogus patent for it first.
    Little Old Man
  • Typical responses

    Nobody had done it before, but because its obvious after the fact, no one gets to protect the idea. And every one of you would be singing a different tune if it was your idea.
    • And if you bother to read

      The patent, you'll find that, like all patents of this nature, it's not about what you are doing, but HOW you do it.
      • What, The ornamental design for a display screen or portion thereof....

        really, it's how you do it is it?
        Little Old Man
        • I'm with baggins_z

          As mentioned several times already, iOS has been out with the slide-to-unlock feature since 2007. Everyone has a right to protect their IP but when you wait 6 years before doing so, it just screams Apple trying to get more ammo to sue other company for patent infringement. Again, it's not the WHAT, it's the HOW.
    • Bogus statement

      "Nobody had done it before" is complete BS. The KE850 from LG was announced in 06 and was on the market before the iphone. So close it would suggest parallel development of a common design.
      So apple get to register the design even though it wasn't unique?
      As for slide-to-unlock, Neonode applied for a patent in 02, granted in 10, with virtually the same functionality.

      So yeah, you keep telling yourself apple is the first to invent everything and comes up with revolutionary designs. The rest us, outside the RDF, see them for what they are.
      Little Old Man
  • I wish companies were still making phones that had physical unlock buttons

    Instead everyone decided they needed to copy what Apple did with the iPhone, soft unlock. When the iPhone first came out, one of my first criticism was the slide to unlock. I didn't see much advantage over having a physical unlock button like they had with their iPods.
  • I Remember A Hockey Puck

    that had an accelerometer in it back 20 - 30 years ago or so. This was likely the 'first' electronic device with rounded corners. Damn, I knew when they came out with the iPhone that I had seen it before!