Germany’s highest appeals court rejects Apple’s ‘slide to unlock’ patent appeal

“Apple Inc patents covering the ‘slide to unlock’ feature on smartphones are invalid, Germany’s highest appeals court ruled on Tuesday, reaffirming a 2013 decision rejecting the U.S. company’s claims by a lower court,” Eric Auchard and Peter Maushagen report for Reuters.

“In a statement, the appeals court said it confirmed a ruling by the lower Federal Patent Court that canceled Apple’s German patent, based on the technique’s similarity to a phone released by Swedish company Neonode Inc a year before the iPhone’s 2007 launch,” Auchard and Maushagen report. “The Neonode N1 had substantially similar technical features, the patent court had found. It ruled Apple’s easier-to-use interface was not in itself patentable.”

“Neonode sold tens of thousands of phones before declaring bankruptcy in 2008,” Auchard and Maushagen report. “Motorola Mobility, at the time a unit of Google Inc but now owned by China’s Lenovo Group Ltd, filed the original suit in a Munich court against the Apple user interface patent. Apple won that case but the ruling was later overturned by the federal patent court.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: So you can judge for yourself, here’s a video of the Neonode N1m, which launched in Q1 2005, unlocking (starts at 4:14):

Apple’s ‘Slide to Unlock’ patent stirs up a hornet’s nest in Taiwan – October 28, 2011
Apple’s ‘Slide to Unlock’ patent worries Taiwanese government, forces investigation – October 27, 2011
Like Google’s Android, Microsoft’s Windows 8 looks like it violates Apple’s new ‘Slide to unlock’ patent – October 26, 2011
Dutch judge considers Apple’s slide-to-unlock patent trivial and likely invalid – August 24, 2011


  1. So basically the patent is invalid because the unlock motion is identical sans the “Slide to Unlock” image indicating the location to perform the gesture?

  2. Somewhat irrelevant court conclusion. Apple has handily won in other more important realms beyond the illogical/capricious court systems. iPhone 6 & 6 have left Samsung sputtering for air in their mobile phones division; others are either gone or soon to be dust. Game, Set, Match.

  3. Okay, the gesture is the same, but the underlying technology is different, and so is the visual representation of a sliding switch. But I will give kudos to that little phone for getting a primative version up and running first. Still don’t understand why the different methodology and implementation Apple employed didn’t deserve the patent. But who really cares anymore? I’m pretty sure that Apple doesn’t.

  4. All they have in common is the swiping gesture.
    Apple uses capacitive touch with the gesture on the screen, and a visual indicator that a swipe is needed.
    The Neonode uses infrared diode sensors, the slide to unlock is performed on the bezel and there is no visual cue that a swipe is needed to unlock the phone.
    There are significant differences in the method used and huge differences in the technology used.
    How the slide to unlock patent got invalidated by that POS is beyond me.
    Just a superficial resemblance, should not have been grounds for the invalidation.
    I think half the problem is that these judges and juries are hearing these patent cases years after the iPhone was revealed, due to the glacial pace of the justice system. Every patent then looks minor and obvious.
    At every case, Apple layers should be showing the 2007 iPhone keynote, where the audience were stunned by the slide to unlock, scrolling and pinch to zoom on such a small mobile device. Everyone in the court should be asked to think back to that time.
    Thankfully, these patents aren’t as important as they used to be, as others have pointed out, but Samsung is using this ruling in Germany to try and weasel out of paying Apple in the USA.
    The slow justice system has protected Samsung, allowed them to find workarounds, loopholes in the law, find dubious prior art, appeal, appeal, appeal and generally get away with blatant copying and IP theft. They have made billions of dollars and have somehow convinced the courts that Apple was not harmed.
    What’s more, Samsung is now calling these features that were major talking points in 2007, minor and obvious.
    Samsungs latest appeal is now about the large fine is not warranted for a few minor patents. But, it was judge Koh who limited the case to a few patents in the first place.

    I can see why Apple feels it was necessary to appeal the case.
    But the justice system is stacked against them. Samsung is a long time copier and has developed tactics for exploiting every flaw in the justice system. It is in the Samsung DNA, wilfully rip off everything you can, make your money and fight it in the courts later.

    I don’t want to see Samsung get away with this, but it comes to a point where you have to wonder if the money spent on lawyers was worth it.
    Perhaps, it did achieve one thing. It made people aware of what a scumbag company that they are.
    I will never buy another Samsung product and I actively try to dissuade others too.

    1. If Apple’s patent for “Slide to Unlock” was defined broad enough (no fault of Neonode) to include the use of the gesture by Neonode tech then that is probably sufficient grounds for the patent becoming invalid.

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