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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: heh
By Mathos on 10/26/2011 8:28:01 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, english is the hardest language on the planet to learn. It's grammar is backwards compared to almost all of the romantic, or germanic languages. And there are so many words that sound the same but are spelled different, or are spelled similar but sound different. Would, and Wood for example. I actually understand dutch, and german grammar easier than I do english.

"Lying on the hand" to me would mean as obvious as the object in my hand. And that's even before you clarified it.

RE: heh
By sprockkets on 10/26/2011 10:21:19 PM , Rating: 2
Ever tried Russian or Chinese?

RE: heh
By AnnihilatorX on 10/27/2011 7:04:34 AM , Rating: 2
The traditional Chinese (complex stroked characters) + dialects such as Catonese is amongst the hardest language to learn. Chinese is a tonal language where it's not just the basic vowel that matters, but also the tone. A pronounciation can correlate to a dozen of different characters, and a small variation in the tone correlates to some other different characters. It is only clear when characters are doubled up to form simple words (so less chance of collision), and meaning derived in context then you are sure what is being said correlate to which characters.

Cantonese has its pronounciation roots more closely resembling middle Chinese than Mandarin. The former is hard to transliterate into English without grossly distorting the tone. Mandarin has simplified intonation that is kind of easier for foreigners to pronounce. But even so the Simplified Chinese and Mandarin are hard enough already.

An interesting fact is there were a study performed on Chinese people and found there are a higher proportion of people with absolute pitch aka perfect pitch. just because the mother tongue is tonal.

RE: heh
By TSS on 10/27/2011 7:02:38 AM , Rating: 2
"Lying on the hand" to me would mean as obvious as the object in my hand. And that's even before you clarified it.

But it's not the object in your hand. It's the object lying infront of your hand.

The problem is here you're not only trying to translate dutch words and grammer, but also a saying. "voor the hand liggend" translates to "obvious", but it is to obvious what "piece of cake" is to "easy".

English is the easyest language on the planet, nobody said doing it backwards was the harder thing to do. The point why it's the easyest is because it's largely remembering words. While in dutch it's remembering rules. One of the most difficult things in english is deciding between there, their or they're. And that's made easy by remembering what the 're stats for: are. There means a place, Their means ownership of something and they're means they are, state of multiple persons.

When discussing grammer to any dutchman, mention the Kofschip. They will all laugh. It's the rule that detemines wether a dutch word in past term is written with a T or a D. Fixing and "has fixed" become Maken and Maakte, scratching and "has scratched" become Krabben and Krabde.

Another funny thing is the way we say vowels. In Maken the A sounds the same way it does as the double A in Maakte (that sound doesn't exist in english. closest would be "crate" but saying the A twice). But if we type makken, the A sounds different, much closer to how you english say "aha".

Lets just say by the 2nd year of highschool every single word in an sentance has already been defined and has a reason for being there, even the words you grow up with thinking are simply filler because it sounds better this way. And then we still have 4 years of grammar to go!

RE: heh
By ClownPuncher on 10/27/2011 12:46:48 PM , Rating: 2
Apparently so!

"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer

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