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Apple loses 'unlocking' patent

Apr 05 2013 19:34 AP

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Munich - Apple has lost its patent protection in Germany for "slide to unlock," one of the most familiar features of its iPhones and iPads, with a court ruling that it was not a solution to something that had previously been a technical problem.

The decision, which was first reported on Friday, was handed down the previous day by the Federal Patent Court in Munich. It invalidated all of Apple's claims for the method of unlocking the screensaver by pushing a slider-button across the screen to the right, which has been part of the iPhone since it first arrived on the market in 2007.

Judges ruled that "unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image" was unpatentable as granted, and that none of the 14 amendments proposed by Apple could salvage the patent.

Apple has been at war with other companies over the web of worldwide patents that make it difficult for each maker of smart-phones and tablet computers to copy one another's interfaces.

Samsung and Motorola challenged the Apple's European patent 1964022 and the court declared it invalid, ruling that it was not a technical innovation entitled to protection. Apple is entitled to appeal.

Patent law requires that technical innovations solve technical problems. Other manufacturers have devised their own ways to unlock screens and have skirted their way around the Apple-style slide to unlock.

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