How many of you use a "swipe to unlock" mechanism to gain access to your smartphones? Quite a few I would guess. The finger-dragging-across-the-touch-screen method of unlocking phones is probably most known for being a feature on the iPhone, but tons of other devices use a similar mechanism.
Today, Apple owns that mechanism, as they were just granted a patent by the United States Patent & Trademark Office. The patent, number 8,046,721, was filed back in December of 2005. Here's how it is described:
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.
Sounds a lot like how many smartphones operate these days, doesn't it?
I guess we can add this to the growing list of slightly absurd entries into the patent system. Although most would agree that patenting a motion on a touch screen is a little silly, it doesn't change the fact that that's how the patent system currently works. Don't hate the player, hate the game I guess.
And it's kind of funny, but all of those Android devices that users "slide to unlock" are now infringing on patents.[Hat tip to 9to5Mac]