Apple Beats Motorola in ‘Slide-to-Unlock’ Patent Infringement Dispute

By Joseph Mandour on February 21, 2012

Los Angeles Patents Los Angeles – Apple has recently won a ruling against Motorola Mobility in Munich in a patent infringement dispute over the ‘slide-to-unlock’ feature for smartphones. This judgment marks Apple’s first patent victory in history and could potentially see Motorola’s smartphones running Google’s Android operating system which are banned for sale in Germany.

As the same patent dispute heats up in other European courts, technology analysts believe that the judge’s ruling could potentially affect patent disputes involving Android device makers globally.

Apple first introduced the ‘slide-to-unlock’ system on the iPhone in 2007, which controls how to make the touch screen active. The court ruled that two devices manufactured by Motorola Mobility that use the Android software infringe Apple’s technology because they are both unlocked by sliding an icon (of a padlock) across the screen to activate it.

Regarding the judge’s decision, Motorola says that it plans to appeal the verdict and that it would have no impact on future sales. “Today’s ruling in the patent litigation brought by Apple in Munich, Germany, concerns a software feature related to phone unlocking in select Motorola devices sold in Germany. Motorola has implemented a new design for the feature. Therefore, we expect no impact on current supply or future sales,” stated a spokesperson for Motorola.

The court’s announcement is the latest in an ongoing patent infringement battle between Apple and a number of Android handset makers, including Samsung and HTC. In those disputes, Apple is claiming that its competitors are infringing patents it holds on functions embedded into the chip technology of the iPhone. Apple currently has a lawsuit in German courts asserting the same patent against Samsung, the biggest manufacturer of Android handsets.

The latest verdict will further heat things up between Apple and Google. Google has received almost all of the formal approvals it needs to complete its $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola Mobility, and most of its handsets operate from the search firm’s Android mobile operating system.

The patent at issue in this case, EP1964022, involves the process of unlocking a smartphone by simply swiping a finger from one end of the screen to another. A second patent ruling relating to a method for scrolling through pictures on a mobile device’s photo gallery, was postponed by the court.

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Posted in: Patent Infringement