Germany’s highest appeals court has ruled that Apple’s famous slide-to-unlock patents are invalid, VentureBeat reported Tuesday.
The ruling basically reaffirmed a 2013 decision in which the lower Federal Patent Court rejected Apple’s claims on the grounds of ‘prior art’. The German courts discovered that Apple’s slide-to-patent involves a similar technique as that featured on a smartphone released before the iPhone by a Swedish company called Neonode.
“The ruling by the Federal Court of Appeals in Karlsruhe covers one of the Apple iPhone’s most popular defining features, of which makers of rival Android-based phones have developed their own versions,” notes VentureBeat.
Neonode’s patent number 8,095,879 was originally filed back in 2002 and has since been licensed by Sony and other vendors. After selling phones in the tens of thousands, Neonode declared bankruptcy in 2008—about a year after the original iPhone debuted.
It should be mentioned that even though the patent court had found that the iPhone’s slide-to-unlock implementation was not patentable, it only invalidated Apple’s patents in Germany.
Here’s Steve Jobs showing off slide-to-unlock at the January 2007 iPhone unveiling.
“We wanted something you couldn’t do by accident in your pocket,” he said.
The slide-to-unlock patent mentions Apple’s fired iOS platform chief Scott Forstall as its inventor, among several other Apple engineers.
Apple had submitted the invention to The United States Patent & Trademark Office back in December of 2005, a little over a year before the iPhone was revealed, and was awarded a patent for it in October of 2011.
The U.S. Patent No. D675,639 for “Ornamental design for a display screen or portion thereof with a graphical user interface” includes illustrations of the familiar feature with its then horizontal bars with rounded corners.
In the past, Apple has successfully leveraged the slide-to-unlock patent against Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus phone and against Motorola in Germany.
Motorola fired back with a lawsuit of its own before a Munich. Although Apple won the case, the federal patent court later overturned the ruling.