Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
GUI Patents Apple

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).

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

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

Comments Filter:
  • by SuperKendall (25149) on Monday April 07, 2014 @10:13PM (#46690249)

    In the case of that video, the sliding was really because you were "dragging" a representation of a physical object on-screen - and it wasn't unlocking anything, it was just toggling a state in a switch.

    The iOS slide to unlock is not a physical counterpart for anything, it's a gesture. There is other prior art that uses wholly virtual gestures to unlock something, which seems much more relevant than anything in this video.

    • What's the other prior art for the unlocking gesture?

      • This Windows Phone video [androidcentral.com] is a lot closer to what the iPhone does, though the issue that one has as prior art is that it seems to be on a narrow touch-pad area (like a palm pilot) and not on the touch screen.

      • by CauseBy (3029989) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @01:02AM (#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 gnupun (752725)

          Can anyone explain why dead bolts [ebaystatic.com] are not sufficient prior art?

          This should be considered as prior art as it performs exactly the same function, looks similar and most importantly has the same unlock mechanism as the iphone's slide-to-unlock. That is, both user interfaces open a door. The dead bolt is a real world representation (used in millions of homes around the world) of the idea whereas the apple's patent seems to have copied that idea into the computer software domain. So it fails th

    • by whois (27479) on Monday April 07, 2014 @10:26PM (#46690323) Homepage

      That seems like grasping at straws. The fact of the matter is we've all used sliders in real life. Air conditioner controls on old cars being a good example. Apple took a concept everyone understood and made a modern look to it, but it could still be a virtual representation of a physical slider.

      What needs to be asked is if this patent brought anything to the table or is it superfluous? My question isn't if sliders are innovative since they obviously are not, but is the concept of "slide to unlock your phone" innovative?

      I could say no but I'd be lying if I didn't think they might have a case there. From what I remember the iphone was the first slide-to-unlock phone, and now all the smartphones seem to have it.

      • by msobkow (48369) on Monday April 07, 2014 @10:31PM (#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 would normally agree, but if "on the Internet" is considered innovative, then I am guessing that "on a computer" is innovative as well.

          http://arstechnica.com/tech-po... [arstechnica.com]

    • by vux984 (928602) on Monday April 07, 2014 @10:32PM (#46690367)

      The iOS slide to unlock is not a physical counterpart for anything, it's a gesture.

      Did you watch the video. She literally says...

      The motion fits well with the finger gesture. [...] I think to use a sliding gesture makes the toggle slightly more difficult to use but greatly reduces the chances of error [...]"

      And those on-off sliders work **exactly** like Apple's slide to unlock, especially as it was originally implemented ... I'm thinking back to my iphone 3GS here.

    • by MightyYar (622222)

      I have to disagree. The only difference between the Apple slide and the MS slide is 20 years of updated graphics. The Apple slide even has a little 3D graphic of a sliding button, just like the MS video.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The girl in the video looks like a romulan.

      • by TrueSpeed (576528)

        The girl in the video looks like a romulan.

        This explains where our alien technology came from.

    • by exomondo (1725132)

      In the case of that video, the sliding was really because you were "dragging" a representation of a physical object on-screen - and it wasn't unlocking anything, it was just toggling a state in a switch.

      It is dragging a slider from one point to another to invoke an action. Making that action "unlock" and having the representation be a generic block [ridble.com] onscreen as opposed to something that looks like a switch is not innovative.

  • 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.

    • ... which i'd suggest counts as both obvious *and* prior art.

      Respectfully, and without necessarily disagreeing with your fundamental point, those terms don't mean what you think they do, legally.

      "Prior art" is "anything in the relevant art, that's prior." The Wright Brother's plane is prior art for the Space Shuttle. The Model T is prior art for the Tesla Model S. That doesn't mean they're anticipatory prior art, which is art that teaches everything in a patent claim. So, for example, even though the Model T is prior art for the Model S, it wouldn't invalidate a patent on the battery pack, for example. Similarly, sliding deadbolts are prior art for the virtual slide-to-unlock, but they alone don't show everything in the patent.

      "Obvious" is a legal conclusion, like "guilty". It's different than just the "duh" gut feeling that we typically mean when we call something obvious. And just as you show someone is guilty by showing that they committed each and every element of a crime, you show that something is obvious by showing that one or more pieces of prior art exist that, alone or in combination, teach each and every element of the patent claim. So, again, sliding deadbolts show unlocking something... but they alone don't show all the other bits of the claim, like a handheld electronic device. That means you'd have to at least combine "deadbolts" plus "mid-90s Palm smartphone" to show that element.

      Using the right terms - anticipatory prior art when you mean that, or obvious when you have a combination of prior art references to invalidate a claim - will increase your credibility with people who are in power to make changes to the patent system.

      • 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.

        Yes, slide-to-unlock has plenty of prior art in every sense of the word, and the arguments people have been making here are relevant: (1) it's a simple simulation of a familiar physical paradigm, and (2) it has been implemented numerous times before Apple patented it.

        Furthermore, even in legal

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Theaetetus (590071)

          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.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by harlequinn (909271)

        Prior art is: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

        Please note the opening line: "Prior art constitutes all information that has been made available to the public in any form before a given date that might be relevant to a patent's claims of originality. If an invention has been described in the prior art, a patent on that invention is not valid."

        Obvious is the corollary of non-obvious, a requirement under US law: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/... [wikipedia.org]

        Note: there is no point in arguing with me on this - go argue wit

    • by rolfwind (528248)

      Corps throw their "IP" wads of shit against the USPTO dartboard and sees what sticks.

      Some shit ALWAYS sticks.

    • by arbiter1 (1204146)
      the patent office assumes when a patent is filed for that company did the work to see if it was done before. Which Apple has a clear history of stealing others work and claiming it as their own. Its left up to the court and someone to fight it to make it invalid. Problem is if its used against people that have no $ to spent on court cases they just pay even if the patent is bogus and invalid.
      • the patent office assumes when a patent is filed for that company did the work to see if it was done before.

        That's simply not true. Don't spread misinformation.

        • I've read interviews where patent clerks said precisely that. I'm not motivated enough to look for them, but it IS true.

          • I've read interviews where patent clerks said precisely that. I'm not motivated enough to look for them, but it IS true.

            No, it's not. And in fact, that post is the first hit on Google for that combination of words, making any such claim of a previous published interview suspect.

            Furthermore, here's the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure" [uspto.gov]. As noted in section 704.01:

            After reading the specification and claims, the examiner searches the prior art.

            No mention of "don't bother, because you can just assume that the company did the search." Sorry, you're simply incorrect, and your alleged interviews do not exist.

  • Here's Claim 1 of Apple's patent:

    1. A method of unlocking a hand-held electronic device, the device including a touch-sensitive display, the method comprising:
    detecting a contact with the touch-sensitive display at a first predefined location corresponding to an unlock image;
    continuously moving the unlock image on the touch-sensitive display in accordance with movement of the contact while continuous contact with the touch screen is maintained, wherein the unlock image is a graphical, interactive user-interface object with which a user interacts in order to unlock the device; and
    unlocking the hand-held electronic device if the moving the unlock image on the touch-sensitive display results in movement of the unlock image from the first predefined location to a predefined unlock region on the touch-sensitive display.

    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, doesn't really show "continuous" movement as opposed to switching between several icons, and it doesn't show unlocking a device. But that's just one of the requirements for validity - 35 USC 102. Incidentally, this type of prior art is called "anticipatory prior art," because it anticipates everything in the patent. It's what laymen usually mean when they say "there's prior art for X patent!" That statement doesn't mean anything, because there's always prior art for something - Neanderthal Ug's wheel is prior art for all-terrain run-flat tires. Just not anticipatory prior art.

    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.

    So, for example, if you can find other references that show a hand-held device, continuous movement of an image, and unlocking a device, those combined with this may be enough to show that the Claim is obvious. That should be pretty easy to find.

    One caveat there is that if a reference teaches away from the combination, it may not be available to use in the rejection. So, if the C+D reference says "never combine me with A+B, because bad things happen", then it may not be obvious to combine it with A+B (there may also be an unrecognized E element that makes it work with C+D). 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.

    Disclaimer: I am a patent attorney, but I am not your patent attorney. The above is not legal advice and is merely for (my own) amusement purposes. I have not spent any serious time looking into this patent, the specification, or any of the dependent Claims.

    • by vux984 (928602) on Monday April 07, 2014 @11:09PM (#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.

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

        Years of experience tells me no. It would have been a button. If by going to happen you mean "a decade later", sure, I could see the Dells and Compaqs of the world eventually getting there. They all had portable touch screens for a decade prior, and no slide to unlock had yet to appear. I owned a 90s era PocketPC, and hey, no slide to unlock. So for something so obvious for people not to have come up with over a span of 10 years? Eh.

        Patents also don't care if a competitor would have eventually come up with

        • by vux984 (928602)

          So for something so obvious for people not to have come up with over a span of 10 years?

          IMO the patentable part should be in the technique of the invention. Slide to unlock may have taken a while to apply... but actually implementing it the moment it was requested was within the capability of every programmer on the planet... all the way back to 1991, without notes, without assistance... just the requirement itself is enough to implement it.

    • by Kaenneth (82978)

      " since it doesn't show a hand-held electronic device,"

      that's just a narrowing down, it's still just a type of touch screen.

      • " since it doesn't show a hand-held electronic device,"

        that's just a narrowing down, it's still just a type of touch screen.

        Yes, but the patent claims something specific. If that specific thing is not shown in the prior art reference, then you need to find another reference that shows that element. This shouldn't be too hard: I'm sure you can find a hand-held device in the field of computers before 2004.

        The point is that you can't simply ignore an element in the claim because you're lazy, just like you can't convict someone of murder without anyone being dead because they totally look like a murderer. You have to actually find

        • Yes, but the patent claims something specific.

          But isn't that just more of the "this function, that fumigation ON THE INTERNET" sort of thing?

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Theaetetus (590071)

            Yes, but the patent claims something specific.

            But isn't that just more of the "this function, that fumigation ON THE INTERNET" sort of thing?

            Yeah, that sort of thing doesn't actually exist. Let's say you had a patent that claimed "this function, that fumigation" (we'll call that A), "ON THE INTERNET" (which we'll call B), then it claims A+B, right? Well, if you can find a reference that shows A, and you can find, say, the Internet, for B, then you can show the patent is invalid over those two references. And that should be pretty easy, yeah?

            Thing is, there aren't actually any patents that have claims that say "[known function] ON THE INTERNET!"

    • by exomondo (1725132)

      This piece of prior art wouldn't do that, since it doesn't show a hand-held electronic device, doesn't really show "continuous" movement as opposed to switching between several icons, and it doesn't show unlocking a device.

      If you actually watch the video it does show continuous movement of a slider (2:55-2:59) and while it doesn't show "unlocking a device" that is just the succeeding action and I doubt that Android's version of "unlock" is the same as iOS's so that part would be different anyway between iOS and Android, all they would have to do is called it something other than "unlock". The only other element is "a hand-held electronic device" and if in the US that qualifies as "innovative" then there are a shitload of thin

      • This piece of prior art wouldn't do that, since it doesn't show a hand-held electronic device, doesn't really show "continuous" movement as opposed to switching between several icons, and it doesn't show unlocking a device.

        If you actually watch the video it does show continuous movement of a slider (2:55-2:59)...

        Honestly if you watch the video from 2:55 to 2:59 then look at a video of unlocking an iPhone3G are you actually going to tell me you think the iPhone version is innovation?

        As mentioned in a different reply, I see non-continuous movement: slider at the left side; slider in the middle; slider at the right side. Three images, replaced in succession, as I said.

        Additionally, as I said, that simply means that this reference alone does not show everything in the patent claim. However, I'm sure you can find another piece of prior art that shows continuous movement of an image. If so, you can then combine those two pieces of prior art to help show the claim is invalid.
        You actually n

        • by exomondo (1725132)
          You misunderstand, I'm not saying the patent is invalid by the current rules of the patent system, I'm sure you are correct on that. I'm saying the differences are so trivial that only an idiot would look at the Microsoft one, then at the Apple one and conclude that the Apple one is innovative and with that in mind the US patent system's bar for innovation is unbelievably low.
          • You misunderstand, I'm not saying the patent is invalid by the current rules of the patent system, I'm sure you are correct on that. I'm saying the differences are so trivial that only an idiot would look at the Microsoft one, then at the Apple one and conclude that the Apple one is innovative and with that in mind the US patent system's bar for innovation is unbelievably low.

            Well, the current system (which is actually the same in every country that's a member of the Paris Convention, which includes 175 countries currently) was built to avoid hindsight, because everything can be considered obvious in hindsight. It's essentially a due process requirement - just as we make the state show that a defendant committed every element of a crime before we throw them in jail as guilty, we make the patent office show that every element of a patent claim existed in the prior art before we t

    • by stenvar (2789879)

      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.

      It is, of course, easiest to invalidate a patent if each of claim has prior art for each of its components. But that is not necessary. For example, just because nobody has published prior art specifically for a wheel painted in red polka dots doesn't mean that a patent on such a thing would be valid. The red polka dots have nothing to do with the actual technical contribution of the pate

  • by TrollstonButterbeans (2914995) on Monday April 07, 2014 @11:10PM (#46690563)
    Sue me for this example but here goes ...

    Even since I was 3 or 4, almost every time I had to go #1 I used an apparatus that I called a "zipper" and used its "slide to unlock" feature.
  • Here's the argument for non-obviousness from the patent [google.com]:

    One problem associated with using touch screens on portable devices is the unintentional activation or deactivation of functions due to unintentional contact with the touch screen. Thus, portable devices, touch screens on such devices, and/or applications running on such devices may be locked upon satisfaction of predefined lock conditions, such as upon entering an active call, after a predetermined time of idleness has elapsed, or upon manual locking by a user.

    Devices with touch screens and/or applications running on such devices may be unlocked by any of several well-known unlocking procedures, such as pressing a predefined set of buttons (simultaneously or sequentially) or entering a code or password. These unlock procedures, however, have drawbacks. The button combinations may be hard to perform. Creating, memorizing, and recalling passwords, codes, and the like can be quite burdensome. These drawbacks may reduce the ease of use of the unlocking process and, as a consequence, the ease of use of the device in general. Accordingly, there is a need for more efficient, user-friendly procedures for unlocking such devices, touch screens, and/or applications.

    Apple was trying to come up with a way to prevent butt-dialing and other unwanted device actions. The point of using a sliding motion is that it's unlikely to happen via random touches, but is reasonably intutive.

    Microsoft's video doesn't really show a slider. It shows touch buttons that look visually like sliders. But you can trip them just by touching in the active area for the desired state. This is shown in the video where the demonstrator runs their finger down a column of switches and they all switch. Apple requires an explicit "click and drag" operation to unlock.

    It may seem trivial, but if nobody did it before the patent, and everybody wanted to do it after the patent, it's a valid invention. "Obvious" does not mean "obvious in hindsight".


    • Apple was trying to come up with a way to prevent butt-dialing and other unwanted device actions... Microsoft's video doesn't really show a slider. It shows touch buttons that look visually like sliders. But you can trip them just by touching in the active area for the desired state. This is shown in the video where the demonstrator runs their finger down a column of switches and they all switch. Apple requires an explicit "click and drag" operation to unlock.

      Could you watch the video at 2:52 and expl
    • Microsoft's video doesn't really show a slider. It shows touch buttons that look visually like sliders. But you can trip them just by touching in the active area for the desired state. This is shown in the video where the demonstrator runs their finger down a column of switches and they all switch. Apple requires an explicit "click and drag" operation to unlock.

      Check out 4:12 in the video, showing a drag gesture on the lever icons. She also explains at 4:35-4:50 how, unlike a click at either active end, a drag gesture reduces the possibility of accidental triggering.

  • by twistedcubic (577194) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @12:18AM (#46690967)
    This is very cool. Seriously, if only she had discovered this 20 years later, she would be a millionaire!

Stupidity, like virtue, is its own reward.

Working...