When Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone back in 2007, he had a blast showing off the company’s first handset. One feature he particularly enjoyed demonstrating was the phone’s unlocking mechanism — the now famous Slide to Unlock component.

He loved that users could unlock the phone so easily, and it wasn’t something that could be triggered by accident in a pants or coat pocket. He loved it so much, that he didn’t want anyone else to have it. So naturally Apple filed a patent application…

Patently Apple reveals that among several patents granted to the Cupertino company today by the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office) was a patent regarding the iOS Slide to Unlock feature.

Scott Forstall, Senior VP of iOS, is credited with its invention among several other Apple engineers. Perhaps even more interesting is the fact that the patent application was submitted in December of 2005, a little over a year before the handset was revealed.

Of course, the bottom line is that Apple now owns the patent, and could theoretically go after anyone else that tries to use it. And given the company’s history in IP (Intellectual Property) litigation, I don’t think there is any question that it will.