Slide to Unlock


Shouldn’t Intellectual Property need to include something intellectual?

Yesterday, The United States Patents and Trademarks Office (USPTO) set some kind of new record for granting stupid patents. Apple is the proud new owner of not one, but two patents on “Slide to Unlock”. The Slide To Unlock patent numbers are 7,657,849 and 8,046,721, and now Apple, at least in the United States, is the only company allowed to sell touch-screen devices that unlock by touching that screen and moving your finger.

I’m not kidding.

7,657,849 and 8,046,721, (I’m not sure why there are two patent numbers assigned to this unbelievably obvious “no one invented anything” idea) are just the latest examples of the people who administer patents in this country not understanding what a patent is for. In short:

  • You can’t patent an idea—only things and systems can be patented
  • You can’t patent something obvious or non-unique
  • You can’t patent something that has been done before (“prior art”)

What’s described in 7,657,849 and 8,046,721 fly in the face of all three of those “can’t patent” tenets. By the rules that USPTO is supposed to follow, Slide to Unlock is even less patentable than Facebook’s Newsfeed Patent 7669123 or Amazon’s Patent 7739139 on Computer Networks.

Here’s a rundown on Patent 7657849 and 8046721. See this video of the Neonode N1M, which predates anything Apple is claiming to have invented and the patent application that eventually became 7,657,849 and 8,046,721 ? Slide To Unlock had prior art. Done deal. The obvious/non-unique thing? Let’s just go with “because I said so”.

And while I could accept that a patent to perform a particular act within a computer that was itself unique and could only or best be accomplished by performing a specific gesture might qualify as being a system, patents 7,657,849 and 8,046,721 represent an idea. Not allowed. The “act” of Slide to Unlock isn’t unique.

Read the US Patent Office’s on-line representations of 7,657,849 and 8,046,721 yourself. And then scream at the USPTO.

At least Slide To Unlock isn’t another patent on “a special way to block sexting“.

If you want to discuss our Intellectual Property Consulting Services, you can contact me here.

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