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German court rules against Apple 'swipe-to-unlock' patent protection

By Roger Fingas

Judges in a top German court ruled against Apple's European "swipe-to-unlock" patent on Tuesday, stating that it didn't meet high enough standards to secure patent protection.

The decision reinforces findings by an earlier patent tribunal in favor of Lenovo's Motorola Mobility unit, according to Bloomberg. The Motorola lawsuit originally had Samsung as another plaintiff, but the latter company ultimately withdrew.

"This user-friendly display was already suggested by the state of the art," the court said today. "The contested patent thus isn't based on an invention."

Apple managed to secure a German court injunction against Motorola in 2012, claiming that the company's implementation of Android violated its unlocking concept. The associated lawsuit is still pending on appeal, but should soon be able to move forward thanks to today's ruling.

Both American and European "slide-to-unlock" patents were once instrumental in Apple's legal campaign against Android device makers, borne out by former CEO Steve Jobs' accusations that the OS stole ideas from the iPhone. In May 2014 Samsung was found guilty of infringing the U.S. version of the patent, but earlier this year an appeals court panel voiced skepticism that Apple had encountered "irreparable harm" from the patent's misuse -- particularly since Samsung has long since stopped selling products that allegedly violate it, and Apple has licensed the technology to other parties.

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