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

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.