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Apple: Dumb As a Patent Trolling Fox On iPhone Prior Art? 408

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the catching-up-with-the-80s dept.
theodp (442580) writes "GeekWire reports that a Microsoft researcher's 1991 video could torpedo Apple's key 'slide to unlock' patent, one of 5 patents that the iPhone maker cited in its demand for $40 per Samsung phone. Confronted with what appears to be damning video evidence of prior art that pre-dates its 'invention' by more than a decade, Apple has reportedly argued that the sliding on/off switch demoed by Catherine Plaisant is materially different than the slide to unlock switch that its 7 inventors came up with. Apple's patent has already been deemed invalid in Europe because of similar functionality present in the Swedish Neonode N1M." The toggle widgets demoed in the video (attached below) support sliding across the toggle to make it more difficult to swap state (preventing accidental toggling). The video itself is worth a watch — it's interesting to see modern UIs adopting some of the idioms that testing in the early 90s showed were awful (e.g. Gtk+ 3's state toggles).

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Apple: Dumb As a Patent Trolling Fox On iPhone Prior Art?

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  • by ComputerPhreak (1057874) on Monday April 07, 2014 @09:12PM (#46690241)
    This same crap keeps coming up on slashdot, where someone takes some 'evil patent' that's 'so obvious', hunts down an example of something vaguely similar, and shouts 'look, prior art, prior art! it's invalid!'. This isn't how prior art (or patents) work. These are the same kind of idiots that seriously think apple patented a rounded rectangle, or call microsoft a patent troll, or whatever... if you don't like (software) patents, that's great, but take the time to understand them before flinging fud.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 07, 2014 @09:24PM (#46690317)

    The only thing worse than granting ridiculously obvious, simple, overly broad, or just plain stupid patents (and the companies trying to enforce them) is the absurd state of copyright protection in the USA.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Monday April 07, 2014 @09:31PM (#46690361) Homepage Journal

    I'd say "no" primarily because of the bolt/barrel latches that have been holding doors closed for millenia. The idea of "slide to unlock" is obvious from such devices. "On a computer" is not innovation.

  • I'm not entirely sure how it merited a patent in the first place.

    It's an intuitive action for unlocking because it mimics the motion of using a sliding deadbolt... which i'd suggest counts as both obvious *and* prior art.

  • by vux984 (928602) on Monday April 07, 2014 @09:35PM (#46690389)

    Apple's patent claim is for a portable device that uses a single image.

    Android's slide to unlock works from both left to right and right to left; so its completely different too right?

    And if I implement Apple's slide to unlock EXACTLY, but put it on a screen built into a fridge, they can't touch me?

    Yeah. Right.

  • Yes, yes it is. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thesupraman (179040) on Monday April 07, 2014 @09:45PM (#46690441)

    Actually, they are right.

    A Patent is technically REQUIRED to not be obvious to a person 'skilled in the art' when given information of the prior art.
    So, a phone UI developer would have to still not find the apple slide to unlock patent obvious given knowledge that a
    UI idea to unlock the phone was needed, and knowledge of is video.

    All of this of course should make the whole 'on a capacitive multitouch screen' approach, etc laughable - but again the
    rules are being VERY selectively enforced.

    Of course Apple, and several others, have managed to blatantly hijack the patent system, and basic patent law is not being
    applied in their cases - could it PERHAPS have something to do with the huge number of patents they (and several notable others)
    fine with them, and therefore the percentage of the patent offices total revenue they generate?

    How do I know the requirements above? I have at times spent years arguing with the patent office trying to get patents accepted
    which were ENORMOUSLY less obvious that what passes for acceptable from certain major cooperated. With little to no success.

    The rules are simply being blatantly flouted by a certain select group.

  • Re:Five points (Score:4, Insightful)

    by arbiter1 (1204146) on Monday April 07, 2014 @09:46PM (#46690445)
    Apple is a straight up troll, they haven't innovated a damn thing on on their devices in 4 years pretty much. Samsung has better phones and more reasonable prices with sizes people want not Apples take what we give you crap. One of said patents was for a rounded rectangle as well. Having a court case in a court house full of Apple people is complete joke.
  • During case about a year ago, there was a ton of Prior art given to the jury, But they decided to ignore it all cause as quoted "it would of taken to long".

    Respectfully, I believe you're misquoting the jury there. They said that at the beginning of their deliberations they got bogged down on the bounce-back and pinch-to-zoom patents. To speed things up, they skipped past that patent and dealt with some of the other easier ones before returning. It's like if you've got 10 tasks and one is really difficult, it's frequently more efficient to get the 9 easy ones done first. It's certainly less depressing.

    Apple being able to use home town jury that clearly will never rule against the home town company is a joke, then now Apple does have Obama on the take protecting from sales ban which should be in place on some apple products for stealing Samsung patents and refusing to pay for them.

    ... and here you just went off into full loony.

  • by vux984 (928602) on Monday April 07, 2014 @10:09PM (#46690557)

    To show a patent claim is not new, you have to show that a single piece of prior art shows everything in the patent claim. This piece of prior art wouldn't do that, since it doesn't show a hand-held electronic device,

    I bet I could lift her computer. :)

    doesn't really show "continuous" movement as opposed to switching between several icons, and it doesn't show unlocking a device.

    Actually the slider demoed at 2:58 in the video shows a static background image On ------- Off, with the 'slider' box moving continuously back and forth along with the gesture motion.

    " Here, the usability study at the end of the video seems to argue away from using sliders as touch-screen switches. But that may not be a strong enough disparagement of their use, nor does it necessarily argue away from its combination with an unlocking system."

    Indeed; she even says (paraphrasing) "the a sliding gesture is more difficult, but reduces errors".

    Another requirement is non-obviousness - 35 USC 103. Under this requirement, you can show that a patent claim is obvious by showing that a combination of prior art references together teach each and every element in the claim and that they could be reasonably combined. So, if the Claim is A+B+C+D and one reference shows A+B and another shows C+D and they could be combined, that shows that the Claim is obvious.

    The offensive thing here is that arrival of a portable touchscreen makes a lot of things about it obvious. We already had done the prior research on touch screen controls -- right up to and including the finding that the slide gesture in particular was just awkward enough that it was good for preventing accidental activation of the touch screen control.

    Then a decade or so later, we have portal touchscreen device and they are looking for a touch screen control to access it that would be suitable -- the key characteristic being that it prevents accidental activation.

    It doesn't take a super genius to connect those dots. Slide-to-unlock was GOING to happen.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 07, 2014 @10:15PM (#46690581)

    The issue is with the inherent bias of either the article submitter or the editor. Just look at the choice of words in the title -- "Dumb" "Patent Trolling" -- none of these words show up in the linked article, yet the submitter chose such words to slant.

  • Re:Yes, yes it is. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Monday April 07, 2014 @11:57PM (#46691123) Journal

    "Apple, and several others, have managed to blatantly hijack the patent system"

    Not defending their current practice (slide to unlock and pinch zoom clearly have prior art), but it comes from their past experience.

    One obvious example is the keyboard/trackpad layout of all modern laptops. It was Apple on their PowerBooks who pushed the keyboard toward the screen, making room for palmrests and pointing devices below. Prior to that, everyone was putting keyboards tight against the lower edge. They didn't patent it, and the rest of the industry quickly followed.

    I never knew that. I hate them just a little more now than I did 5 minutes ago. These trackpads-under-the-palms are fucking terrible.

    Not just "I miss the clit-mouse on my old Thinkpad" terrible...

    "I need to disable this because I'm constantly moving the cursor with my palms while I try to type and now I need to go buy a USB mouse for this poorly designed piece of shit." terrible.

  • by CauseBy (3029989) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @12:02AM (#46691147)

    Slide-to-unlock has been used for literally, not figuratively, thousands of years. To think this could be patentable is preposterous. Can anyone explain why dead bolts [ebaystatic.com] are not sufficient prior art? How about the sliding locks on drill bit cases [images-amazon.com]?

    The problem with patents is the failure of courts to uphold the obviousness standard. If you asked a retarded seamonkey in what way could a touch-screen device prevent unwanted input during periods of non-use, the retarded seamonkey would say "uh, hmmm, well, how about by putting the device into a locked-down state that can only be dismissed by sliding your finger around in a predeterminded pattern unlikely to match random input?" That would cover this stupid slide-to-unlock idea, the idea of entering a predefined secret code, and other similar gestures.

    For goodness sake, can't device companies come up with any clever ideas that are not obvious [youtube.com]? The fraction of patents that I hear about that I think are truly clever is something like two percent. I blame the courts for this problem. Congress gave the courts perfectly reasonable standards, and the courts have steadfastly refused to make reasonable judgements.

  • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @12:03AM (#46691155) Journal

    I'd say "no" primarily because of the bolt/barrel latches that have been holding doors closed for millenia. The idea of "slide to unlock" is obvious from such devices. "On a computer" is not innovation.

    If you actually take the time to watch the video, you might understand the results of UI research are not as obvious as you presume.

    For those of you arguing against patents for UI elements in general, this is just HILARIOUS, because this video makes an excellent case for SOMEONE having the patent! =D

    Most of the time, I think you guys are just trolling or have a vested interest in the exploitation going on. But for brief moments, one of you manages to convince me that you really are genuinely that stupid, and that I have far fewer peers on this hunk of rock than I thought I did, and it's deeply depressing.

  • by vux984 (928602) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @12:46AM (#46691311)

    She also said in the tests that it was one of the least preferred ways to use a switch

    And she was right. Can you imagine having to move long slider switches like that in any sort of regular GUI.

    It -only- is useful for a switch you don't want to make too easy to use, which is exactly what you want for an unlock function on a phone that you don't want activating itself in your pocket etc.

  • Re:cut the crap (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Theaetetus (590071) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .todhsals.suteteaeht.> on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @01:15AM (#46691421) Homepage Journal

    The patent system is intended to help engineers and inventors. It is their understanding of "obvious" and "prior art" that is relevant, not the understanding of (imitation) lawyers with a stick up their ass, like you.

    Well, I'm sure that refusing to understand the language you're arguing about will be really convincing when you're trying to convince legislators to enact patent reforms. Using your own definitions for words can't possibly cause them to ignore you. Good luck with that.

  • by globaljustin (574257) <justinglobal@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @01:39AM (#46691491) Homepage Journal

    slide to unlock and pinch zoom clearly have prior art

    no one should have ever had to show prior art...the patents for UI elements like "pinch and zoom" are absolutely ludicrous & are a product of ignorance and manipulation

    I think this goes to the core of your understanding of this issue...this you describe here, this should not be at all patentable:

    One obvious example is the keyboard/trackpad layout of all modern laptops. It was Apple on their PowerBooks who pushed the keyboard toward the screen, making room for palmrests and pointing devices below. Prior to that, everyone was putting keyboards tight against the lower edge. They didn't patent it, and the rest of the industry quickly followed.

    if this is "what is patentable" then its so broad nothing matters...it's a complete waste of time to think about these issues

    what should be patentable? I don't have the answers, but that doesn't mean we can't conclude that the status quo is waaaaay too broad to be consistent from one patent to the next

  • by MrMickS (568778) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:01AM (#46691555) Homepage Journal

    Did you seriously see anything there that wasn't painfully obvious? All the video demonstrated to me is that Microsoft throws their money away. It struck me as a bureaucratic butt covering move that they hired her to go through these motions in the first place.

    Hindsight is always 20:20. In fact the best ideas, those that become second nature, are often considered obvious after the event. The real question though is, if they were so obvious, why didn't someone else do it before?

  • by the_womble (580291) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:09AM (#46691819) Homepage Journal

    Wrong, its not anti-capitalist, it is anti-free markets.

    It fits in perfectly with coporate welfare, crony capitalism or mercantilism.

  • by harlequinn (909271) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @03:43AM (#46691935)

    Ahh, the call to captain hindsight. That we can use hindsight now doesn't make it non-obvious at a previous point in time.

    "why didn't someone else do it before"

    Firstly because there always has to be a first person.

    Secondly because no-one else was asked to provide a solution, so they were not given a chance to give a solution to a problem they were not thinking about (i.e. in 1990, only a small group of people were thinking about this).

    Thirdly because touch screens weren't a dime a dozen commodity. They were an expensive specialised piece of equipment, restricting their use and research to a select few (e.g. a multi-billion dollar corporation).

    She and her cohorts were presented with a problem and came up with close to a dozen ways of solving it. These particular ways mimicked real life objects. If these particular solutions are not obvious to you, it doesn't mean they aren't obvious to the rest of us.

  • Re:Yes, yes it is. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BitZtream (692029) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @06:44AM (#46692491)

    These trackpads-under-the-palms are fucking terrible.

    "I need to disable this because I'm constantly moving the cursor with my palms while I try to type and now I need to go buy a USB mouse for this poorly designed piece of shit." terrible.

    Stop using such a shitty OS that it can't tell the difference between a palm resting on it and some one using it for a pointer.

    THIS is why Apple gets the patents. MacBook trackpads have no problems with your palm sliding all over the LARGE trackpad and not causing input errors.

    You act like Apple is evil and you're platform is far superior ... but you only think that because you're not actually aware of how the real deal works, only your half assed knock off.

    This entire post has had both my palms laying slightly on the trackpad and moving. Mouse cursor never even showing up.

    You like crap because you don't know any better but thats not the bad part, the bad part is you think you know everything.

  • by CauseBy (3029989) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @11:49AM (#46695413)

    You ask a good question based on a bad premise. As I stated, slide-to-unlock was "commercially implemented" thousands of years ago when the first deadbolts were exchanged in commerce, so nobody was copying Apple so much as they joined Apple in copying a longstanding use of fingers.

    Imagine a future technology allowing the manipulation of space around a person. Given that technology, which itself would be patentable, would it further be patentable to use that technology to keep you dry in the rain by making a pitched-shape roof over your head? No! We've had roofs for thousands of years, and using such a technology to keep rain off of your head is obvious. How about keeping rain off your head in the shape of an umbrella? No! Umbrellas are prior art for that.

    Imagine a future technology allowing the arbitrary control of small bodies of water. Given that technology, which itself would be patentable, would it further be patentable to cause the water to stream up in a gentle arc for the purpose of drinking? No! We already have drinking fountains.

    Imagine a technology, available for about a hundred years now, allowing voices to be communicated across a long distance. Given telephones, which were patentable, would it further be patentable to use a phone to say good morning to your mom? No! Saying good morning to your mom is obvious.

    Now, imagine a technology, available since 2007 (before, really), where a little box accepts finger input. Given the iPhone, which itself is patentable in a few ways, is it further patentable to use your finger to make a little swipe motion in order to toggle states on the little box? No! It is both obvious and something that fingers have been doing for a long time.

    You are right that there is a well-developed body of law on the obviousness standard -- and that body of law is fucking retarded! We have long since lost any connection between that body of law and any meaning of "obvious" which is understood by normal people including the people who passed that law in the first place. I can't blame lawyers for advocating for their clients; I can only blame judges for siding with those lawyers. You can say "hindsight" if you want to, but there must have been a first guy who said good morning to his mom on his telephone, and the fact that "others flocked to copy him" is totally irrelevant to the fact that it is an obvious use of telephones.

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