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Some say that Apple is behaving like a patent troll.  (Source: Peter Jackson/New Line Cinema)
One patent just wasn't enough, Netherlands declares U.S. patent garbage

Apple, Inc. (AAPL) has an interesting knack for convincing the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to grant it patents on relatively obvious GUI actions/animations.  Two famous examples of that are the patented "scroll bounceback" animation that it's using to sue Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (SEO 005930) and the "swipe unlock" gesture/animation, which it is using to sue HTC Corp. (SEO:066570).

Now the kind folks at the USPTO have handed Apple another gift wrapped patent -- a second patent on swipe gesture unlocking.  U.S. Patent No. 8,046,721 redescribes what was already described in U.S. Patent No. 7,890,778, only this time with more words.

Apple delivers 11,700 words -- roughly 17 pages in size 10 Times New Roman font -- to describe what basically equates to "Drag your finger across the screen along the animated track, the touch API responds, recognizes the gesture, animates the slider, and unlocks when the drag is complete."

Apple unlocking patent
Apple is the master of unlocking, having received two patents on the simple gesture.
[Source: USPTO]

Again Apple has claimed ownership of all forms of swipe unlocking -- even the wide vertical drag down bar that HTC implements (which looks little like Apple's iOS tracked slider unlock).

Among those prominently listed on the patent is iOS chief Scott Forstall.  Viewed as a future CEO candidate, Mr. Forstall wears the same outfit to presentations and drives the same car as the late Steve Jobs.  Many describe the ruthless executive as a "mini Steve Jobs" and say he's now assumed Steve's former role of "Apple's chief A-hole."

You can witness late Apple CEO Steven P. Jobs bragging about the feature back in 2007 at the original iPhone's launch:

Mr. Jobs initiated a lawsuit crusade against Android handset makers, which Apple is continuing in his memory.  Mr. Jobs suggested that even if he wasted every bit of money Apple has ever made it would be worth it to destroy Android, commenting, "I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product."

In Mr. Jobs mind Android's "stealing" was wrong, but interestingly he often boasted of his own powers of idea theft.  Indeed he lifted the idea for his successful Mac operating system from Xerox Corp. (XRX)  He once bragged, "Picasso had a saying - 'Good artists copy, great artists steal.' And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas."  

You can watch this for yourself here:

However, the USPTO's idea of validity doesn't fly in all countries.  A Dutch judge ruling on Apple's use of U.S. Patent 7,657,849 (the original unlocking patent) to try to ban sales of Samsung smartphones ruled the Apple patent was "obvious" (in Dutch he said it was "lying close at hand" -- literally "for the hand lying") and likely invalid.  He points out that Neonode Inc.'s (NEON) N1m -- launched in 2005 -- had a virtually identical unlocking feature, albeit with a different graphic.  

Neonode n1m
Apple lifted the unlock feature from NeoNode. [Source: FOSS Patents]

He also acknowledged a similar on-off use in Guitar Rig:

Guitar Rig
Guitar Rig -- 2004 [Source: Wikimedia Commons] pointed out by Samsung's attorney's.  The guitar after-effects software was available back in 2004 -- three years before the first iPhone was released.  The judge complained that the Apple work was "not inventive" and suggested that the patent should be invalidated.

Samsung has removed one other minor GUI animation from its smartphones in the Netherlands, escaping a potential sales ban.  However, the threat of a ban in the U.S. where questionable patents hold greater power, still looms.

Source: USPTO

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RE: Patent This
By JasonMick on 10/26/2011 4:00:36 PM , Rating: 5
I have a finger gesture Apple can patent!!

This is seriously getting ridiculous. I don't necessarily blame Apple and other companies for filling these patents but come on. Its one thing to file something that is totally unique then sue over it. It's another to file a patent for something that is widely used and then stand up and say you magically invented it.

Two of my personal favorites was IBM's patents on:
1.) Ignoring Lotus Notes (let's admit it, we're almost all in violation of this "invention"...)
2.) More efficient outsourcing.

Then there was the infamous "hot toast" and "swinging on a swing patents"...

Or how Microsoft's CEO is now cofounder of the world's biggest patent troll...

Ah U.S. intellectual property system how I love you.

Don't get me wrong. I think novel, non-obvious intellectual property is absolutely worth patenting. However, these days most are just using the system for their own abusive anticompetitive ends by patenting the obvious and non-novel and the USPTO folks are too clueless to notice and/or paid off in attorney positions when they leave.

RE: Patent This
By JasonMick on 10/26/2011 4:02:40 PM , Rating: 2
"Microsoft's CEO"-> Microsoft former CTO... gah no edit

(Nathan Myhrvold, is this chap's name for those curious)

RE: Patent This
By Mitch101 on 10/26/2011 5:54:35 PM , Rating: 2

I dont expect to get an edit button but I have a few Suggestions:

Mark as Spam Button although you manage well
E-mail me when someone responds to my comments
Any way to widen the screen so deep threads can be seen correctly?

RE: Patent This
By jvillaro on 10/26/2011 10:39:57 PM , Rating: 2
If they do that they could be sued for copying those features!

RE: Patent This
By Jaybus on 10/27/2011 7:16:50 AM , Rating: 2
They could also be sued because these replies are indented and organized in a tree structure.

RE: Patent This
By JonB on 10/27/2011 9:26:50 AM , Rating: 3
Can't get an Edit button. Apple owns that patent, too.
Jobs could edit; nobody else.

RE: Patent This
By jvillaro on 10/27/2011 6:07:30 PM , Rating: 2
Jobs didn't edit, he used his magical powers to convince everybody that he was correct

RE: Patent This
By croc on 10/26/2011 5:47:23 PM , Rating: 2
I think, Jason, if you actually read IBM's patent application 'for more efficient outsourcing' you'd change your tune slightly on that patent...

The 'making toast' patent, to me, was a very humorous fellow (bored enough and with enough dosh) taking the mickey out of the USPTO. As such, that patent SHOULD have caused a long overdue overhaul of US patent regulations, or perhaps the office's processes.

RE: Patent This
By Theoz on 10/26/2011 6:04:57 PM , Rating: 2
Should have and did (along with various other patents). See the KSR v. Teleflex decision by the Surpreme Court. The crazy patents simply don't happen as often now.

RE: Patent This
By MartyLK on 10/26/2011 9:44:30 PM , Rating: 3
Long live Apple! May they prosper and continue to be successful!

Umm...ooops...wrong room. Where was the "I'm for Apple" room

RE: Patent This
By priusone on 10/27/2011 1:41:47 PM , Rating: 2
It's actually down the street a bit. Just look for a rectangular building with swipe to unlock keycard access, lots of pictures with Steve teaching Jesus and koolaid fountains.

RE: Patent This
By semo on 10/27/2011 12:45:39 PM , Rating: 2
Interesting read (have no sound at work so had to read the transcript).

I always used to wonder why electric cars have not taken off earlier. I used to believe the conspiracy theories that the oil companies would make the inventors "disappear". I'm now convinced that the reason why we still have to drive stinky vibrating vehicles is because the oil companies own all the relevant patents and refuse to license them!

“We do believe we have a moral responsibility to keep porn off the iPhone.” -- Steve Jobs

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