Apple has scored a potentially key victory in the Great Patent Race of 2011. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has granted Apple a patent on the “Slide to Unlock” functionality that was made popular with the introduction of the iPhone and is now found in many Android devices. The details on the patent are as follows (you can also find an image in the gallery):
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.Apple Slide to Unlock Patentvia USPTO
The language in the patent is vague enough that it could apply to all Android phones on the market today, and even potentially the lockscreen in the unreleased Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. The patent appears to cover all pre-defined gestures that serve to unlock your device, as well as the use of unlock imagery as a means of helping a user unlock their device. It appears, for now, that every Android manufacturer out is potentially infringing on Apple’s patent.
It’s still unclear at this time exactly what this news will mean for Android devices. We will likely learn more over the next few weeks and months as manufacturers develop courses of action. One thing’s for sure though; Apple’s legal department is certainly grinning from ear to ear, plotting their next series of patent infringement lawsuits against Android manufacturers. Could this be what Steve meant when he said that he wanted to destroy Android?
What do you guys think? Are you worried about Apple’s shiny new patent? Does Google need to significantly change their lockscreen concept to become compliant with the new patent and avoid costly lawsuits? Sound off below.