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"Obvious" patents should never have been granted, given prior art

Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) international quest to kill Android, not by competition, but by lawsuits hit a roadblock in the United Kingdom when a Judge ruled Apple's patents to swipe-to-unlock patents to be invalid due to obviousness and prior art.

I. Neonode Invented Swipe to Unlock, Not Apple

The judge wrote in his decision that HTC Corp.'s (TPE:2498) four targeted Android handsets were not in infringement of Apple's patents on swipe-to-unlock as those patents never should have been granted in the first place.

The ruling comes in a London lawsuit brought by Apple against HTC.  The ruling is a dangerous for Apple as it threatens to invalidate previous wins over Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.'s (KSC:005930) and others in Germany and the Netherlands, which forced the Android device-makers to modify their products.

His decision echoes my own analysis remarkably closely, citing technology from Neonode Inc. (NEON), who included slide to unlock on an icon in its patented July 2004 n1m smartphone:


Similar prior art referenced by HTC convinced the judge that Apple had habitually trolled the patent waters, patenting technology that other companies had already brought to market at the time of its filings.  Two other key software patents were also found to be invalid due to obviousness and/or prior art.

The results are important, but not terribly surprising.

After all late Apple CEO and co-founder Steven P. Jobs famously brazenly bragged of his company's lust for stealing others' work, "Picasso had a saying - 'Good artists copy, great artists steal.' And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas."
 

 

II. Bye, Bye Apple Patents, Bye, Bye Lawsuits 

The decision decimates in the EU much of the patent stable Apple has tried to leverage to bully Android smartphone makers in the U.S. and EU alike.  In total the judge invalidated three EU Apple patents:
  • EP1964022  (A1) "UNLOCKING A DEVICE BY PERFORMING GESTURES ON AN UNLOCK IMAGE" (swipe to unlock)
  • EP1168859 (B1) "Portable radio communication apparatus using different alphabets" (a multilingual keyboard patent)
  • EP2059868 (A2) "PORTABLE ELECTRONIC DEVICE FOR PHOTO MANAGEMENT" (a gesture patent)
The judge was particularly taken by the abundant evidence of invalidity of the slide to unlock patent.  The Neonode n1m in 2004 displayed a padlock icon with the words  "right sweep to unlock".  Yet astonishingly an Apple patent filed over a year later was granted.  Apple lawyers would later argue that the inclusion of a capacitive touch screen (the n1m used resistive touch) to detect the swipe more accurately and a different icon were sufficient to seize broad ownership of all swipe to unlock on touch devices.

Unlocking the iPhoneUnlock n1m
[Image Source: YouTube]

The British judge blasted that line of thinking calling the inclusion of a slider "obvious" and saying that the advances in touch detection did not call for a repatenting of the same technology.

Apple issued a statement to the BBC, "We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

But according to the British judge, it was Apple who stole others' work, not the other way around.  Apple refused comment on whether it considered it an acceptable practice to steal others' work, a practice it has repeatedly condemned others for supposedly doing.

HTC was ecstatic, commenting, "HTC is pleased with the ruling, which provides further confirmation that Apple's claims against HTC are without merit. We remain disappointed that Apple continues to favour competition in the courtroom over competition in the marketplace."

A single Apple patent -- EP2059868  (A2) -- the "bounce animation" patent survived, but the British judge narrowed its scope saying that that a somewhat similar animation on some of HTC's smartphones was sufficiently different that it was not in violation.

Android Gingerbread Gallery App
Browser App Gingerbread
Bounce animations on an HTC EVO running Android 2.3 "Gingerbread"

While the ruling is devastating to Apple's EU lawsuit campaign, it can at least seek solace in the fact that it has banned Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet and Galaxy Nexus smartphone in the U.S.

III. Editorial: U.S. Invalidation is Coming Soon to a Courtroom Near You

Andrew Alton, a lawyer at UK firm Urquhart-Dykes and Lord -- a firm which used to work for Apple -- comments, "National patent laws thematically are very similar, but can be applied very differently.  Not only are the tests different but also the evidence that can be introduced in different courts varies. If the Neonode wasn't released in the US it might not be able to be cited there.  So the fact that Apple has lost this particular patent battle in the UK shouldn't mean it should be seen to have lost the global war."

Indeed, while the EU court justly found that Apple has received an invalid patent on a technology which its competitors were selling years before, U.S. patent law may be structured in such a way in which courts allow it to ban would-be competitors on the grounds of technology that had been released years before overseas, assuming those competitors did not release devices to the U.S. market or file for a U.S. patent.

Of course, I would disagree with Apple's lawyer's assessment, at least on the issue of the swipe to unlock, given that Neonode did patent its technology in the U.S.  Simply take a gander at Fig. 11 and Fig. 12 (pg. 5) in U.S. Patent No. 8,095,879 -- a "User interface for mobile handheld computer unit":
Neonode patent
There's swipe-to-unlock, the same technology Apple reworded and repatented, effectively "stealing" (as Apple would say) Neonode's novel idea and claiming it for its own.

I correctly predicted the EU invalidation, and I would expect the U.S. court system, despite the Android OEMs less-than-stellar legal representation and Apple's great level of influence in the Californian court system, will eventually come around to reason and invalidate this patent.

After all, the U.S. court system has to maintain some semblance of competence and non-biased behavior.

Then again, I don't expect Apple to give up without a fight.  After all, Apple has been badly beaten by Android in market share.  Apple attorney Josh Krevitt sums up his company's plight, remarking, "Samsung is always one step ahead, launching another product and another product."

Apple isn't launching product as fast as it used to.  Since the departure of founder and visionary Steven P. Jobs, it saw its iPhone 4S launch slip to October 2011.  Now hopes that Apple would "catch up" with a July launch are all but lost.  To make matters worse, Apple'shomely iOS 6 was left "playing RIM" to a the slick, stylish Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, unveiled at last week's Google I/O developers event.  Word has it that Jelly Bean's built in search even beats Siri in accuracy -- and Google supports many features absent in iOS, such as offline dictation.  And that's not to mention Windows Phone 8 who also makes iOS 6 look like a 2007-era dead-end.

Apple left behind
iOS, left behind: iOS 1.0 (top left), iOS 6.0 (top right);
Android 1.0 (bottom left, Android 4.1 (bottom right); Windows Phone 8 (far right)

As HTC said in its comment, Apple, despite virtually standing still interface-wise hopes to compensate by courtroom thuggery.  Unfortunately for it, much of its technology appears to be invalid and borrowed (or "stolen" to use Apple's own terminology).

Source: BBC



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RE: Schizophrenic
By Tony Swash on 7/5/2012 7:22:44 PM , Rating: -1
"Good artists create. Great artists steal."

This is a famous quote attributed to Picasso but borrowed, sort of, from T.S. Elliot and paraphrased and used eventually by Steve Jobs.

The original T.S. Elliot quote is actually this:

One of the surest tests [of the superiority or inferiority of a poet] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion.

When Picasso made reference to this remark of Eliot's he hardly meant that great artists steal popular designs whose original source is known to everyone. What Picasso did mean was that great artists rummage through the great junk heap of lost, bypassed, and forgotten ideas to find the rare jewels, and then incorporate such languishing gems into their own personal artistic legacy. it means the difference between aping and assimilating; between copying and internalizing; between being unoriginal and innovative.

What great artists do not do is copy.

The fetishisation of the Jobs quote always strikes me as an expression of the insecurity of those who use it, they need it as a sort of shield because they know inside who really copied who and, along with the sad failures of the Android model, it hurts.

Picasso also said:

"Some painters transform the sun into a yellow spot, others transform a yellow spot into the sun."


RE: Schizophrenic
By Boze on 7/5/2012 8:06:12 PM , Rating: 5
Well you wanted to see it Moto, you just saw it.


RE: Schizophrenic
By sprockkets on 7/5/2012 11:19:53 PM , Rating: 3
Denial. Which again, without it, no apple product would function.


RE: Schizophrenic
By testerguy on 7/6/12, Rating: -1
RE: Schizophrenic
By Motoman on 7/6/2012 12:56:42 PM , Rating: 4
If you've ever said anything like the "patent system is self regulating" you're a retard - as can be easily seen over the past few years, the patent system is horrifically broken and essentially completely ineffectual.

Also, if one has a "great idea" one is most certainly going to patent it. There's no credible way to start inserting anything else into Jobs' quote about "well he meant only great ideas that the inventor didn't patent."

That quote gets trotted out continuously because it's continuously applicable and valid, and continuously demonstrates the predatory intent and attitude that Apple has.


RE: Schizophrenic
By testerguy on 7/6/12, Rating: -1
RE: Schizophrenic
By croc on 7/6/2012 7:32:46 PM , Rating: 3
The next applemactard that uses the word 'blatant' is going to cause me to reject my long-held pacifist beliefs and obtain an instrument of destruction with malice aforethought.


RE: Schizophrenic
By themaster08 on 7/6/2012 2:17:56 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
The fetishisation of the Jobs quote always strikes me as an expression of the insecurity of those who use it, they need it as a sort of shield because they know inside who really copied who and, along with the sad failures of the Android model, it hurts.
And insecurity isn't being a shill and feeling like you have to justify Apple's every move, be it right or wrong?

Apple are losing their battle in the courts. You have said many a time that the courts would take the right decisions. It seems as though finally they're starting to.

Don't you ever look in the mirror and think "how did I ever become so brainwashed?"


RE: Schizophrenic
By Tony Swash on 7/6/12, Rating: -1
RE: Schizophrenic
By bupkus on 7/6/2012 7:23:55 AM , Rating: 2
To own HTC is to own Google is to own Apple is to own Neonode.


RE: Schizophrenic
By retrospooty on 7/6/2012 8:21:35 AM , Rating: 4
"What's hard to stomach however are those that, all evidence to the contrary, insist even though they know it's not true, that Google didn't copy Android when it reengineered it's OS following the success of the iPhone"

Yet it's perfectly OK for Apple to have reengineered it's OS following the success of the Treo and Blackberry. Apple stole so much from those products. They really only added a multitouch screen and UI. Yes it was well done, but a blatant ripoff. Why is one OK and not the other?


RE: Schizophrenic
By Tony Swash on 7/6/12, Rating: -1
RE: Schizophrenic
By retrospooty on 7/6/2012 11:45:53 AM , Rating: 3
"which followed the success of the Palm PDA which in turn was built on the back of the Apple Newton"

Which was a direct ripoff of the psion and you know it.

What is your point exactly? That it's OK for Apple to copy, but not OK for others?

My point is the opposite. All companies copy each other, they take aspects that are working and make products based on that. If it werent normal and accepted, and totally legal, then Ford would be the only car company, because all others copy the manufacturing process Ford invented in the early 20th century.

Apple copied psion, and improved it with newton. Palm/Handspring copied Apple and improved it with phone/internet capabilities to become the Treo. Apple copied Palm and added a slick multitouch UI. I would argue that adding phone/internet was FAR more functionally responsible for today's smartphones than the UI that Apple added. Apple didnt add anything that couldnt already be done in 2007, in fact the 1st iPhone had less capabilities than a Treo of the day. What Apple did was make it a fun device to use and make it appealing to the masses. That was awesome, and we all owe Apple a thanks you for that, but doesnt allow them free reign to act as if they envented the entire smartphone genre. They didnt, they just copied as they always have and all companies do. Only with an extreme bias could anyone see Apple copying as art, and others copying as infringement. Copying is copying and its not art, nor infringement its called "business"

If you could throw some ice water on your Apple hard on you would see that clearly.


RE: Schizophrenic
By Tony Swash on 7/6/12, Rating: -1
RE: Schizophrenic
By themaster08 on 7/6/2012 1:06:02 PM , Rating: 5
Nice way to cherry pick to suit your argument. You do realise that Psion made many more devices than just the Psion Organiser, right?

quote:
Go immediately to an optician and get some specs - you need them.
Rich coming from the selective eyesight of yourself.


RE: Schizophrenic
By retrospooty on 7/6/2012 1:49:35 PM , Rating: 2
"A Psion. Tiny screen, no touch interface on screen, hardware keyboard"

Like I said " Apple copied psion, and improved it with newton . Palm/Handspring copied Apple and improved it with phone/internet capabilities to become the Treo. Apple copied Palm and added a slick multitouch UI."

You havent added anything to the debate, nor have you answered the obvious question as to why its OK for Apple to copy and not for others. Still waiting.


RE: Schizophrenic
By Skelum on 7/6/2012 10:56:29 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
What's hard to stomach however are those that, all evidence to the contrary, insist even though they know it's not true...


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_project...

Dude... Come on... I've you red the article... It exposes facts as well you are just twisting them to your advantage.

I'm sure your next statement will be a meta-denial!


RE: Schizophrenic
By Cheesew1z69 on 7/6/2012 12:28:41 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
you are just twisting them to your advantage.
That is his whole MO. Every post.


RE: Schizophrenic
By Motoman on 7/6/2012 12:57:20 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Don't you ever look in the mirror and think "how did I ever become so brainwashed?"


Retards don't know that they're retards.


RE: Schizophrenic
By retrospooty on 7/6/2012 1:51:44 PM , Rating: 1
"Retards don't know that they're retards."

I've known a few retards, and they do know they are retards. The reality of Tony's situation is closer to - nutjobs don't know that they're nutjobs.


RE: Schizophrenic
By topkill on 7/6/2012 3:01:40 PM , Rating: 2
Sadly, I'm afraid you're correct. Most people of limited mental capacity can tell they are limited. People like Tony are more along the lines of a nut-job who can't see they live in a different reality than everyone else.


RE: Schizophrenic
By Tony Swash on 7/6/12, Rating: -1
RE: Schizophrenic
By retrospooty on 7/6/2012 3:34:23 PM , Rating: 2
"Stunning example of the Dunning–Kruger effect"

OK, giving you the benefit of the doubt here, I have a serious question for you Tony. If not a mental issue, how can you explain a man who spends so much of his time on the internet at a tech website defending a company and the products they make, and the political moves they make. I cant see any reason other than of of the two scenarios... Either you are being paid or otherwise compensated to do what you do, or you are just that overly zealous about Apple that you just have to do this all day. If its the latter, I stand by my assertion that you have mental issues... But, please enlighten us all as to your motive. We are waiting.


RE: Schizophrenic
By Tony Swash on 7/7/12, Rating: -1
RE: Schizophrenic
By themaster08 on 7/8/2012 3:47:18 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
That may upset some people but there are plenty of people around here who want Android to crush Apple so what's the difference?
Then there are those that are not complete brainwashed idiots and realise that competition is good for everyone.


RE: Schizophrenic
By themaster08 on 7/8/2012 3:47:18 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
That may upset some people but there are plenty of people around here who want Android to crush Apple so what's the difference?
Then there are those that are not complete brainwashed idiots and realise that competition is good for everyone.


RE: Schizophrenic
By retrospooty on 7/8/2012 9:35:33 AM , Rating: 2
" tell me how that is different to those on this forums who spend so much time attacking said company?"

Because most of us here are here for tech news and we are involved in commenting on all stories on all sorts of products, not just Apple related. You on the other hand are here solely to defend Apples honor, as if it is some wispy southern belle that cant take care of it self and needs "a mayan to defeyund huh"

"What's so telling is how fragile some people's mental state and world view is when all it takes to make them hopping mad is a different opinion."

I get your point, some people are like that, but most of us here arent pissed at your opinion, its your constantly biased postings that are irritating. I swear if Apple came out with a pro child porn stance, you would defend child porn. Not because you are pro child porn, but because Apple is.

"Stop being such pussies and grow a pair."

LOL... That is the first normal thing I think I've seen you post. +1


RE: Schizophrenic
By lexluthermiester on 7/8/2012 12:01:24 AM , Rating: 2
That was, singularly, one of the most pithy responses I have ever read. Not to mention pathetic. While your interpretation may have a degree of lucidity, it is also misconstrued. Mr. Jobs admitted openly, on many occasions, to having "borrowed" inspiration from many others' works. This IS NOT a new concept. EVERYONE does it! That is how we, as creatures of intelligence and reason, learn from one another. We see something and it inspires a different take on the same idea. And every once in a while, someone comes up with something new.

Prime example; The iPad. Do you think Apple came up with it? Not a chance in hell. The creators of Star Trek; The Next Generation did, in 1986 when they created props for the show. Manufacturers came up with similar ideas in the late 90's, but it wasn't until 2008 did we have technology of a type that was able to emulate such a grand idea envisioned by Gene Roddenberry and his master SciFi crew. Apple has made a very compelling copy of that idea. But it is only that, A COPY! Android is doing much the same. And each are getting better at it.

The point is; Why defend an undefendable perspective? It's pointless and solves nothing. Steve Jobs knew that he was a copier. But he took coping and modding to the point of an art form. And he was proud of his copied/inspired creations. What he and the rest of the crones at Apple need to be ashamed of is their unethical patent trolling, fear mongering and legal heavy-handedness. For that reason alone, I shall not purchase an Apple product until they pull their head from their butt-cracks...


RE: Schizophrenic
By lexluthermiester on 7/8/2012 12:31:50 AM , Rating: 2
I want to reiterate; I said "Prime example; The iPad. Do you think Apple came up with it? Not a chance in hell."

I wish to restate.

Prime example; The iPad. Do you think Apple came up with it? Not a snowballs' chance on the surface of a type O star.


RE: Schizophrenic
By themaster08 on 7/8/2012 4:20:26 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Prime example; The iPad. Do you think Apple came up with it? Not a chance in hell. The creators of Star Trek; The Next Generation did, in 1986 when they created props for the show. Manufacturers came up with similar ideas in the late 90's, but it wasn't until 2008 did we have technology of a type that was able to emulate such a grand idea envisioned by Gene Roddenberry and his master SciFi crew. Apple has made a very compelling copy of that idea. But it is only that, A COPY! Android is doing much the same. And each are getting better at it.
What I don't understand is that Tony laughs at the suggestion that a modern interpretation of a tablet can be found in Star Trek, but he doesn't find it funny that Apple is allowed to patent an idea of a tablet that they wouldn't manufacture for years to come. What's the difference? They're both an idea, an interpretation. Because one is a television series and the other is a consumer electronics company? That doesn't necessarily mean that Apple's patent would come to manufacturing fruition, and just because it did, that doesn't discredit the idea was thought up before Apple.

Hell, the scetches in Apple's tablet patent don't even look like the iPad, it looks like the Compaq TC1000. Just look at it. It could be anything. It's 2 rectangles, one within another. It's that generic, even the iPad doesn't completely follow it. It has no physical button on the front. The designs don't show the left and right sides. It shows nothing on the bottom, where the iPad has a speaker and the 30-pin connector. It shows a circle on the top, which could be an on/off button, or it could be an LED. the iPad's on/off button is not circular. What kind of research and development did Apple have to spend to come up with such a unique design? Who granted this?!

Well, who am I kidding, of course Tony laughs at it, because it doesn't suit his bias.


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