Apple awarded unlock screen gesture patent

Earlier this week the United States Patent & Trademark office awarded a patent to Apple. That’s not unusual, as the company, like its competitors, is issued patents on a fairly regular basis. What makes this patent special, however, is that it covers the use of the now ubiquitous “slide to unlock” feature seen on most smartphone platforms. Apple applied for the patent in December 2005 and gives it the following description:

“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.”

That’s fairly open description of the iOS unlock widget and would seem to cover any sort of gesture based unlocking we’ve seen on Google’s Android platform, and might even cover the “lift the curtain” gesture used on Microsoft’s Windows Phone platform.

It will be interesting to see if Apple attempts to exact royalties from other smartphone manufacturers and, if it attempts to do so, whether the patent, which some might interpret as being fairly broad, will stand up in court.

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