In October 2011, Apple won a patent detailing the method of sliding an onscreen mark to unlock the iOS operating system on a mobile device. Now, just four months later, Samsung's Galaxy Nexus is coming under fire for violating that patent.
As Samsung and Apple have been going head-to-head in court lately, this should come as little surprise. The latest battlefield was in Germany where Samsung was hoping to stop Apple from selling the iPhone, a fight that Samsung ultimately lost. In response, Apple broke out one of its biggest patent wins of 2011, the "slide to unlock" method.
Apple debuted the "slide to unlock" feature on the original iPhone back in 2007, but according to AppleInsider (via FOSS Patents) Apple has had a utility model registration for "slide to unlock" in Germany since 2006.
Unfortunately for Apple, a utility model registration does not require the same examination process as a traditional patent application and often does not hold up in a courtroom as valid proof of a concept. It is likely that the German courts will issue a stay, a ruling, or a decision on March 16, 2012, according to FOSS Patents.
Many noted in the comments of my article back in October that when Apple was first issued the patent, the Neonode N1m, which featured a "slide to unlock" feature, had already been released in Sweden (before the original iPhone). FOSS Patents notes that the standard of availability is an important factor in utility model cases compared to patent suits.
It will certainly be interesting to see how the outcome of this case goes. Certainly Apple wants a decision as quickly as possible, but I would imagine a win for Apple here would help to solidify the patent and possibly serve to put some competitors, especially Samsung, on notice should they attempt to copy Apple's "look and feel" too closely.
Now that the gloves have come off (in Germany at least), do you think Apple should continue pursuing its current legal course? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!