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Print 71 comment(s) - last by Cheesew1z69.. on Feb 20 at 8:22 AM

Apple looks to score a second ban on Samsung's Android smartphones, shortly

[Note: Invalidity proceeding is carried out in German court, so this ruling may be struck down.] 

Well, we guess it was bound to happen sooner or later -- a court has actually bought Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) claim to have "invented" the swipe unlock -- and in fact banned a competitor's product based on it.

Not surprisingly, that court happened to be in Germany, which is basically the only European Union country that has bothered to humor Apple or its Android adversaries legal war.

Apple holds a couple of patents internationally on the swipe unlock:

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

You can even see late Apple co-founder and CEO Steven P. Jobs bragging about the feature back in 2007:



But there's only one wee problem with Apple's patent and it's efforts to go "thermonuclear" on Android and "destroy it".  Apple lifted the feature from a competitor.  It did not invent swipe unlock.  It was not even the first to sell a product with swipe unlock.

Neonode Inc. (NEON) in 2005 launched a phone called the N1m, which had a virtually identical unlocking feature, albeit with a different graphic.  You dragged the lock and your phone unlocked.

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

Unfortunately for Motorola -- the victim of Apple's successful swipe unlocking suit -- Judge Dr. Peter Guntz was apparently clueless of Apple's legal trolling and the fact that swipe unlock was introduced two years before Apple ever filed for its patent (EP1964022).  

[UPDATE]
So a point of clarification.  As pointed out by Theoz, the judge was not obligated, nor allowed to look at Neonode's prior art, given that Apple did not list it on the patent.

That said, a December FossPatents blog asserts that the Judge indeed knew about the Dutch judge's decision to strike down the infringement claim, on grounds of prior art.

In the Netherlands, invalidity can be ruled during an infringement trial.  In Germany this proceeds via a separate track [source; PDF].

However, FossPatents reports that German judges can narrow or widen the scope of the patent, and further states that Judge Dr. Peter Guntz chose a broader interpretation for Apple, versus a colleague in a nearly-indentical claim against Samsung:

Mannheim is reluctant to stay patent lawsuits on the grounds of suspected obviousness of a patent over prior art, which would be useful to Apple in this case, but last week, at a hearing on an Apple lawsuit against Samsung, Mannheim-based Judge Andreas Voß appeared inclined to interpret the patent more narrowly than his Munich-based colleague today. Motorola and Samsung have different slide-to-unlock implementations (in fact, each company has at least three implementations all by itself), so the infringement analysis isn't directly comparable, but I heard both courts' views on how to interpret the patent claims and Munich's take is more inclusive.

Further, as the FossPatents blog points out, Judge Dr. Guntz could have ordered a stay on the patent trial, until the invalidity trial concluded.  While German courts are typically wary of doing this, given the Netherlands ruling and the clear-cut case for prior art, it would seem that this would be fair -- albeit unusual -- path to take.

But Judge Dr. Guntz did not do this.

Again, it's important to get the story precisely right, but in this case the accurate picture is actually worse for Judge Dr. Guntz than our initial impression that he simply did not know about the prior art.

The Judge knew about the prior art, yet purposefully chose not to apply either of the methods at his disposal -- either narrowing Apple's claim (not based on the prior art, mind you, but on the interpretation of the patent itself, as his colleague did) or staying the trial until the invalidity proceedings wrapped up.

In purposefully ruling against Motorola on a violation he knew to be likely invalid, it seems far more unproper and unjust than if his decision had been based on simple innocent ignorance.

[/UPDATE]

And apparently he also didn't realize how silly it was to claim ownership of a gesture control that would take minutes for an experienced programmer to make.  NeoNode never bothered to patents its invention or sue anybody -- after all, it seemed so obvious. 

[UPDATE 3]

Neonode actually does own a patent on swipe-to-unlock, it just hasn't sued anybody -- yet.  I missed this during my initial search of Google Patents and the USPTO website, but a kind reader sent it my way.

[/UPDATE 3]


For now two Motorola handsets are permanently banned in Germany.  And Apple is also suing Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KS:005930), hoping to ban their phones for the same feature.

[UPDATE 2]

It appears a fix may prevent an injunction from taking hold.  According to CIO Today, Motorola has a fix ready to roll out, which will replace the infringing feature. 

This should buy it the time it needs to invalidate/narrowed Apple's slide to unlock work, which will almost certainly be invalidated or narrowed, assuming the German court gives Motorola and the defendant in the other unlocking lawsuit, Samsung, a fair trial.

[/UPDATE 2]

Motorola -- whose acquisition by Google Inc. (GOOG) was made official this week by the European Union -- is likely to appeal the Munich Regional Court's decision to the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court.  If it loses -- and if Samsung looses -- Apple could be granted a local monopoly on smartphones, or at least force Android to drop a ubiquitous key feature most customers take for granted today.

The only good news for Motorola is that it's already scored a ban on the iCloud, and a ban on the iPad/iPhone that is set to resume soon too, after a brief stay.  The German court system banned Apple's products after Apple refused to pay Motorola for its 3G patents, claiming they were invalid.

What do you think?  Do you think the German justice made the right call?

Source: Foss Patents



Comments     Threshold


This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: Simple design, really...
By macdevdude on 2/16/2012 9:41:31 PM , Rating: -1
quote:
http://thumbs.dreamstime.com/thumblarge_417/124730...
Nice try @ trolling Crapdroid fanboy!
quote:
German Judge Bans Androids for Swipe-Unlocking, Clueless of Prior Art

Looks like you and Mick are the ones that are clueless. You didn't read the patent even. Apple doesn't claim to invent unlocking all things. It claims to have invented a touch unlock of a SMARTPHONE. That's one thing.

The neonode toy isn't even a smartphone. Apple invented the swipe unlock on the smartphone. Grid unlokc? It's just another Crapdroid ripoff trying to cleverly disguise itself by altering the image.

http://www.prior-ip.com/patent/72559986/

Motorola got banned?

Good. I hope they're banned everywhere. Then even you Crapdroid trolls will have to buy an iPhone.

Don't worry, you won't notice the difference, seeing at all Crapdroid tablets and phones are just iPhone/iPad knockoffs.

P.S.

Why so mad Crapdroid owners?

You sore losers or something? You always are gloating about Apple losing cases. How does it feel for you all now?


RE: Simple design, really...
By 2bdetermine on 2/16/2012 10:08:24 PM , Rating: 2
Calm down dude! Go swipe ya behind with your iCrap devices.


RE: Simple design, really...
By RicheemxX on 2/16/2012 10:19:51 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
Apple invented the swipe unlock on the smartphone


No what Apple did was write a well written patent for a previous design, replaced the words computer, mobile device (whatever) with smartphone and was granted a patent based on someone else's prior work. Almost all these patents Apple is suing under are based on one thing and one thing alone. Platform!

Google knew this was coming. They've already told devs not to rely on the swipe unlock much the same they are ditching anything else that could be misconstrued as apple "innovations"


RE: Simple design, really...
By techyguy on 2/16/2012 10:49:06 PM , Rating: 5
I'm sorry you can't be banned. There is prior art that shows that banning users on websites existed before Dailytech.


RE: Simple design, really...
By DoctorBeer on 2/16/2012 11:03:46 PM , Rating: 3
rofl, I love kids when they attempt to act smart. Keep it up little one.


RE: Simple design, really...
By FITCamaro on 2/17/2012 8:34:23 AM , Rating: 1
Yes because swipe unlock on something other than a smartphone is so different than on a smartphone. Under your logic, I guess the guy who put a lock on a car door invented something totally new compared to the guy who invented the door lock for your home.

You idiots amaze me in your "genius".


RE: Simple design, really...
By retrospooty on 2/17/2012 9:35:26 AM , Rating: 2
"Apple doesn't claim to invent unlocking all things. It claims to have invented a touch unlock of a SMARTPHONE."

So basically, copying others is OK when Apple does it. If others copy Apple its illegal. Ya, your not a little one sided there at all.


RE: Simple design, really...
By The Raven on 2/17/2012 11:34:38 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
It claims to have invented a touch unlock of a SMARTPHONE. That's one thing.
Umm...did you even read the patent link you posted? Click it, ctrl+f "smart" and you get nothing.

So no it is not "one thing".

The other funny thing is that it took 7 geniuses at Apple to "invent" this thing that didn't even need inventing.


RE: Simple design, really...
By Cheesew1z69 on 2/17/2012 1:26:01 PM , Rating: 1
God, you really are retarded....


RE: Simple design, really...
By Wolfpup on 2/18/2012 2:35:19 PM , Rating: 1
LOL...oh my gosh, so you think "sliding to unlock" is different if it's on one type of device than if it's on a device with a different name?

Good grief...this is hard to believe it's a real post.

Not to mention, even if this wasn't prior art, which quite obviously it is, and I think there's a serious argument to be made that even just duplicating a feature from the real world makes it prior art...

But even if that wasn't the case, who is it benefiting if companies can't copy from and refine things from each other? They do so all the time, and it makes our products BETTER.

Ironically, I don't even LIKE slide to unlock. I want to start using my device immediately like I could on my Palms, not have to hit a button (which only works at best 50% of the time on the first button press), then slide, THEN have it load.


RE: Simple design, really...
By piroroadkill on 2/20/2012 5:02:50 AM , Rating: 1
I, uh, have an Android phone. I feel nothing. I don't care.

You know why? Because it's a phone. I have more important things to worry about.


"Spreading the rumors, it's very easy because the people who write about Apple want that story, and you can claim its credible because you spoke to someone at Apple." -- Investment guru Jim Cramer














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