A small but feisty Swedish company, Neonode figured out how to integrate a slide to unlock feature in its phones, long before Apple even considering making an iPhone. Jason Mick from DailyTech researched in the patents archives and managed to give us a comprehensive report about his intriguing findings suggesting that “Apple’s “slide to unlock” patents should be invalidated or narrowed both in Europe and in the U.S.”
Apparently, in July 2004, Neonode introduced to the market a small phone called N1 that had the unlock feature. Neonode already had patented a slide to unlock feature, without the associated graphics and obtained the patent in December 2002 (the US patent number: 8095879). Here, under the Claim 12 the feature is clearly described. “The computer readable medium of claim 1, wherein the user interface is characterized in, that an active application, function, service or setting is advanced one step by gliding the object along the touch sensitive area from left to right, and that the active application, function, service or setting is closed or backed one step by gliding the object along the touch sensitive area from right to left.” In order not to be confused with a drag-and-drop feature, Neonode emphasized the importance of the feature with a secondary claim.
Three years later, in 2005 Apple filed for two patents describing similar swipe to unlock gesture with a left to right motion. At the time, the Cupertino based company applied for two patents U.S. Patent No. 7,657,849 and U.S. Patent No. 8,046,721, which Apple is now fighting hard to protect. Under the circumstances, analysts conclusion is that Apple’s patent should be declared invalid. And a bitter reminder of what the late Steve Jobs used to say puts things into perspective: “Picasso had a saying – ‘Good artists copy, great artists steal.’ And we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”