One of the most popular features of iPhone which has been used (or copied according to Apple) by major smartphone OEMs and OS is the “slide to unlock” feature. Apple, understandably, had applied for its patent. However, as per the latest ruling by the Federal Court of Appeals in Karlsruhe, the feature did not need any patent as it does not meet high enough standards.
According to the official statement by court,
This user-friendly display was already suggested by the state of the art. The contested patent thus isn’t based on an invention.
The ruling thus upheld the decision made by the lower German court in 2013 which cancelled the Apple German patent as the technique was quite similar to a phone by Swedish company called Neonode Inc which was released a year before the iPhone’s 2007 launch. Neonode Inc called itself an intellectual property firm licensing patented optical technology for use in phones, tablets, readers and other touchscreen devices. Although the said company went bankrupt in 2008, but it sold several thousands of phones before that.
Now, this decision could pave way for another similar decision in a case against Motorola Mobility which is pending before a Munich court and was awaiting this decision. Motorola, at that time, under Google Inc had filed the case along with Samsung against Apple. Samsung withdrew from the case which Apple won later. However the decision was overturned by the federal patent court and is pending for the appeal.
Apple already has patents for the slide and unlock feature in the US and Europe and has used it in many legal battles of copyright and patent infringement. It sued Samsung in 2014 for causing “irreparable harm” to Apple by using its technology but in the latest hearing held in March 2015, the court judges had voiced skepticism over this claim as Apple had already licensed its technology to many firms.