Apple and Samsung are currently in the throes of a patent dispute that spans 4 continents. At the heart of Apple’s complaint is the allegation that the Android OS Samsung uses on its line of smartphones infringe upon a number of Apple-owned patents. In Apple’s original lawsuit, filed in April of this year, Apple said rather bluntly that Samsung has slavishly copied the look and feel of iOS.
In light of that, Apple last week won an iOS patent that may or may not be used to bolster its case against Samsung and other Android manufacturers. Originally filed in 2009, Apple a few days ago was granted a patent that covers a variety of unlock methods as they pertain to smartphones, including Apple’s ‘swipe to open’ implementation it uses on the iPhone, iPod Touch, and the iPad.
The patent in question, US patent number 7657549, states:
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.
This of course is quite broad and perhaps falls into the category of a patented idea rather than an implementation. Note, also, that various Android handsets have implemented a number of unique unlock methods that utilize swiping gestures but aren’t exactly too similar to Apple’s own iOS implementation.
At this point, it’s too early to tell what effect this patent will have on Android handset manufacturers though Apple has asserted this patent against HTC already. Also, it’s perhaps possible that Apple’s patent might be found to be invalid in light of a Dutch court that recently ruled as such in light of a similar function that was found on the 2004 Neonode N1m. Samsung is currently using the Neonode N1m as evidence of prior art.
The pertinent portion of the Neonode N1m implementation begins at about 4 minutes in. Note though, that their solution arguably isn’t covered by Apple’s patent in that it doesn’t involve an unlock image that is moved along a predefined path. Rather, their solution simply involves a blind swipe from left to right.
In any event, the lead inventor on the patent in question is designer Imran Chaudhri whose occupation on LinkedIn simply states, “Makes things at Apple”