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Apple gets a slide-to-unlock patent for smartphones and tablets

Trouble ahead for Samsung and HTC
Wed Oct 26 2011, 15:01

TOYMAKER FOR THE WELL HEELED Apple has been granted a patent that describes using gestures to unlock a device.

Apple's slide-to-unlock on IOS is one of the first things users see and was a considerable improvement over clunky unlock mechanisms used in previous phones. Not surprisingly Apple filed a patent application with the US Patent and Trademark Office titled, "Unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image" back in June 2009.

Over two years later, Apple was finally granted its slide-to-unlock patent, possibly giving the fruit themed firm another weapon in its arsenal against Google and its partners. Just about every smartphone operating system, including Google's Android, Microsoft's Windows Phone and HP's now defunct WebOS uses gestures to unlock a device.

Apple's patent application is pretty self-explanatory but it's not surprising that the firm went into considerable detail trying to seal off any loop-holes that competitors might use to avoid paying royalties if Apple acts on its patent. The first point in the patent application's description provides a glimpse into the detail Apple went into to describe dragging a few pixels across a screen.

"A method of unlocking a hand-held electronic device, the device including a touch-sensitive display, the method comprising: detecting a contact with the touch-sensitive display at a first predefined location corresponding to an unlock image; continuously moving the unlock image on the touch-sensitive display in accordance with movement of the contact while continuous contact with the touch screen is maintained, wherein the unlock image is a graphical, interactive user-interface object with which a user interacts in order to unlock the device; and unlocking the hand-held electronic device if the moving the unlock image on the touch-sensitive display results in movement of the unlock image from the first predefined location to a predefined unlock region on the touch-sensitive display."

Google and its device partners, in particular Samsung, will have their teams of patent lawyers looking over Patent 8,046,721 to find any weak points before Apple hauls them into court. µ


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