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Apple wins patent on 'Slide to Unlock' iOS gesture

updated 04:05 pm EDT, Tue October 25, 2011

Filing dates back over a year before first iPhone

The US Patent and Trademark Office has awarded Apple a patent on the "Slide to Unlock" gesture used on iOS devices. Wording in the document refers to unlocking "if contact with the display corresponds to a predefined gesture for unlocking the device," using certain feedback cues as necessary. Specifically, though, diagrams depict a rough version of the slidebar seen on the iOS lock screen.

The patent is credited to Apple's senior VP for iOS, Scott Forstall, as well as engineers Imran Chaudhri, Bas Ording, Freddy Allen Anzures, Marcel Van Os, Stephen O. Lemay and Greg Christie. Of special interest though is that a patent application was first submitted in December 2005, well before the announcement of the first-generation iPhone in January 2007. This suggests that even some minor iPhone concepts had been cemented long before the the device would ship in mid-2007.

Other mobile device makers have taken to using alternative gestures for unlocking. Some Samsung phones, for instance, ask users to "wipe" a lock screen off, or insert a puzzle piece. HTC's Sense 3.0 and 3.5 interfaces require users to pull a ring.

by MacNN Staff



  1. malax

    Joined: Dec 1969



    I swear I remember reading a story here a few months ago about Apple failing to get a patent on exactly this "invention." What a crazy system we have when I'm sure it cost more time and effort to get this patented than it did to come up with the idea.

  1. Salty

    Joined: Dec 1969


    comment title

    Is it just me or does this cover more than just slide to unlock? It pretty well covers anything form a straight line to anything else that you habitually do to unlock a phone. IE what just about every Android device uses. This means pretty well every device on the market is infringing on this.

  1. Inkling

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Ford and Chevy

    Times have certainly changed. Step back a century ago and imagine Ford getting a patent on turning a key to the right to start a car, and Chevy getting one on turning the the left. Where would that have us and the other automakers?

    In the last couple of years, it appears that the innovators have left Silicon Valley, replaced by IP lawyers. Rather than create something new, Apple and the rest would rather sue over something old.

  1. bjojade

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Seems simple, right?

    Well, before this, how did you unlock the phone? Yeah, you pushed some convoluted series of buttons. Apple got it right by sliding to the side. HTC phones slide down, but if you slide the phone in your pocket, that often activates the phone. Duh.

    Now, others are attempting to copy apple, but be just different enough that it's not a copy. Simple idea, and maybe they should have to give apple a tenth of a penny per phone to use this gesture.

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