Apple Wins 'Slide to Unlock' Patent

As of now, no company can use the function without infringing on Apple’s invention

The United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) has awarded Apple the patent for ‘Slide to Unlock’, the gesture-based input method to unlock the screen of an iOS device.

Originally implemented in Apple’s mobile operating system when it was called iPhone OS (now iOS), the Slide-to-unlock function was demoed on stage by the late Steve Jobs when the CEO was launching his company’s first iPhone (in 2007).

“To unlock the phone, I just take my finger and slide it across,” Jobs said. “Wanna see that again? We wanted something you couldn’t do by accident in your pocket. Just slide it across – Boom!”

The function had been, in fact, originally introduced with a different operating system on a different phone.

It wasn’t identical, but it spoke pretty much the same language, in terms of user-friendliness. However, Apple got to secure the invention by filing the patent for it in December of 2005. The summary reads:

“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.”

(I’m sure many of you already know this, but just to be clear on one aspect) starting now, no other phone, tablet, or computing device can use this feature without infringing on Apple’s patent.

The patent filing enumerates several key names within Apple as the inventors of the Slide-to-unlock feature, including iOS chief Scott Forstall, as well as engineers Imran Chaudhri, Bas Ording, Freddy Allen Anzures, Marcel Van Os, Stephen O. Lemay and Greg Christie.

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