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

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 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.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 07, 2014 @10:49PM (#46690457)

    In recent years it seems like there has been a fairly obvious effort by early posters on a story to direct the discussion in a certain way. For example, an anti-Microsoft story pops up and within minutes at least 2 or more not very subtle pro-MS posts are submitted, usually by accounts with relatively low UIDs for maximum impact. The same is true here with Apple. I have to wonder if various companies actually have bots (or interns) scraping all the popular sites for any possible negative mention of their brand and alerting the next-level of folks whose job it is to try to get in early with comments in support of the company. Very early ones tend to be quick statements criticizing the posting while later ones take a little more time to compose and are slightly better reasoned. Of course, on sites like Slashdot these often get buried pretty quick, but on some other sites they really do seem to influence the whole tone of the discussion throughout.

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

    by msauve ( 701917 ) on Monday April 07, 2014 @11:01PM (#46690519)
    "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.
  • by reg ( 5428 ) <> on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @02:38AM (#46691487) Homepage

    Actually, the more logical explanation, given what was said by the jury foreman, was that they got bogged down on the first day, but he then had an ah-ha moment the next morning, and helped them get past their confusion with his insight. He reasoned that it was really hard for him to get a patent, because the patent office kept telling him about prior art and obviousness, etc., and that stuff can be really confusing. By extension, it must have been hard for Apple. The insight was that if the Patent Office had granted the patents then they must be valid, and all of Samsung's defense was just smoke and mirrors: the Patent Office must have seen all that and still granted the patents... He explained this to the other members of the jury, who had no clue about patents, and they agreed it seemed like a good insight - avoid all those messy deliberations that had bogged them down, assume the patents were valid (in direct contraction to the jury instructions), go with Apple's general flavor that they were the innovators and Samsung just copy, and get down to the business of deciding which phones violated which patents. As for Samsung's claims, those were just them tit-for-tat, they weren't real...

    This is not to say that Samsung didn't copy, or didn't violate the patents, or that the patents are valid. Just that their case hinged on showing the patents were invalid, and the jury didn't answer that question. From what was said, there is no indication that they ever came back to the hard questions (and given the time frame, they couldn't have).

    Unsurprisingly, Apple are going with the same defense in this trial - spinning a story about the years of work and effort that went into the iPhone, and avoiding talking about the specifics of the actual patents in question.


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

    by MachineShedFred ( 621896 ) on Tuesday April 08, 2014 @08:54AM (#46692845) Journal

    You're mostly right here. The thing with Apple being about integration and design, is that they are really good at it. A lot of people like to crack on them as not "innovating" or whatever, but when it really comes down to it, the people crying about innovation are much worse at what Apple does, and like to wait until Apple figured out how to make it and market it, and then repeat it without spending all the R&D cash. The PC industry has been doing it for decades.

    If it's so easy to integrate and design a product, then why is history so replete with absolutely fucking terrible devices, and implementations of "obvious" technology? If Apple doesn't bring any innovation to the table, then why aren't these supposedly innovative companies eating Apple's lunch?

    Sure, Apple has a failure here and there; but they're success rate is FAR higher than just about anyone else.

"I'm not afraid of dying, I just don't want to be there when it happens." -- Woody Allen