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Continuation of Apple's 'Slide-to-unlock' patent covers 'open-to-app' functionality

Source: USPTO

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday granted Apple a continuation of its hotly-contested "slide-to-unlock" patent, bringing further functionality to the invention that has already been used in the company's ongoing patent litigation.

At first blush, Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,286,103 for "Unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image" seems to be a rudimentary continuation of the '721 "Slide-to-unlock" property currently being leveraged against a number of Samsung handsets and tablets in a California court case. However, the newly-granted patent adds key language to the invention's claims regarding what is displayed on screen after the unlock gesture is performed.

For example, nowhere in the '721 patent's 15 claims is the word "application" mentioned, whereas Tuesday's continuation notes the term 8 times in 12 claims. Each time the '103 patent points out "application," it refers to the unlock gesture "transitioning the device to an application," such as the phone or mail apps.

Unlock Screen
Unlock gesture.

Much of the filing's text is not changed, meaning the "transition to an application" terminology is not comprehensively fleshed out, save for the following, which was also included in the original '721 patent:

In some embodiments, the lock/unlock feature may apply to specific applications that are executing on the device as opposed to the device as a whole. In some embodiments, an unlock gesture transitions from one application to another, for example, from a telephone application to a music player or vice versa. The lock/unlock feature may include a hold or pause feature. In some embodiments, as the user transitions from a first application and to a second application, a user interface for the second application may fade in (i.e., increase in intensity) and a user interface for the first application may fade out (i.e., decrease in intensity). The fade in and fade out may occur smoothly over a pre-determined time interval, such as 0.2 s, 1 s or 2 s. The pre-determined time interval may be in accordance with the unlock gesture, such as the time it takes the user to perform the gesture.
Multiple Unlock Images
Multiple unlock images.

The slight change may not appear substantial, but with Apple's ongoing patent struggle, the "transition to application" verbiage may be powerful against certain iterations of devices running Google's Android operating system.