Dutch judge says Apple's 'slide-to-unlock' patent is likely invalid

Just one day after ordering a preliminary injunction blocking the sale of multiple Samsung smartphones, a Dutch judge has said that at least one patent Apple is suing the South Korean company over is probably invalid. The judge ruled on Wednesday that Samsung’s GALAXY S II, GALAXY S and GALAXY Ace smartphones infringe on Apple patents. Regarding one of the patents Apple claims Samsung is infringing, however, FOSS Patents reveals that the judge is not sold on its validity, calling the patent — which covers the “slide-to-unlock” feature on Apple’s iPhone, iPad and iPod touch — “obvious.” What’s more, Swedish phone manufacturer Neonode released a Windows CE phone in Europe that featured a slide-to-unlock mechanism before Apple even filed its patent in late December 2005. The only difference between Apple’s implementation and Neonode’s is that Apple added a sliding graphic to the screen that follows the user’s finger while sliding. Neonode’s unlock mechanism did not include such a graphic, though the judge feels its addition is inconsequential in this case. “The Dutch judge concluded that the Neonode N1m already implemented the entirety of Apple’s claimed invention with only one difference remaining: Apple’s slide-to-unlock patent also claims an unlock image that moves along with the finger as the sliding gesture is performed,” Florian Mueller wrote on FOSS Patents. “But that difference didn’t convince the judge that Apple was entitled to a patent. He said that the use of an unlock image was ‘obvious’ (in Dutch he said it was ‘lying on the hand’ in terms of ‘not far to seek’).”

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