Whatever your position is on patent infringement and the never-ending lawsuits in the mobile space, the fact is until the system is overhauled it is the law. I hate that design elements can be patented, instead of actual devices which makes more sense. Apple has been riding the patentability of design elements for a while, and has a number of Android device makers on the ropes as a result. A U. S. patent awarded today to Apple guarantees that every Android phone and tablet ever made infringes Apple's design.
Anyone who has touched an Android device has come face-to-face with the slide to unlock feature. The device is inaccessible until a slider or similar control is touched and slid to a boundary, unlocking the gadget. This simple control has now been patented by Apple, removing it from the available design pool to anyone else.
Apple has been picking and choosing its targets for patent infringement litigation carefully, using various patents it owns to go after infringers. This new patent over the simple slide to unlock feature means the company can go after any Android device maker it wants, and likely have success in the courts.
Heck, the control on Windows Phone devices, sliding the lock screen up to access the phone functions, may very well infringe on this patent too. That could extend to the upcoming Windows 8 as early preview versions use this same control to unlock devices.
Apple filed for the slide to unlock patent before the original iPhone was released, and just received confirmation of the patent. That puts every Android device ever made firmly in the infringing category, should Apple choose to get nasty.