Apple has won the patents for the slide-to-unlock user interface and the design for the initial iPhone, according to a report by CNET. The US Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) okayed Apple's bid to secure a patent for “ornamental design for a display screen or portion thereof with a graphical user interface,” which comes with “illustrations of the familiar horizontal bars with rounded corners found at the bottom of locked iOS screens since the original iPhone's debut in 2007.”

This isn't the first time the slide-to-unlock functionality and Apple have been in the news. Early last year, a European patent saved the day for Apple, fetching them partial victory in Germany against Motorola Mobility. Apple won an injunction at the Munich Regional Court against “all Motorola Mobility mobile phones that use methods for unlocking touch screens.”

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Apple also picked the slide-to-unlock functionality bone with longstanding rival Samsung last year. Apple had alleged that Samsung infringed on its patented slide-to unlock feature by using it on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Apple had won itself this patent in October 2011. 

At the time, a post on Foss Patents clarified that a utility model registration works differently in practice from a usual patent registration. The post stated, “Since utility models are registered without an examination process comparable to the examination of patent applications, there is no presumption of validity. It's a prerequisite for an infringement ruling that the court concludes that the claimed invention was novel and non-obvious at the time of registration. In this case, the court believes a potential decision on validity or invalidity is too close to call, at least before today's oral argument took place.” 

Slide-to-unlock is a very popular feature for unlocking a mobile device. However, there is more to this case than meets the eye. Although Apple first used slide-to-unlock on the iPhone in 2007, reports state that Apple had gone in for a utility model registration for “slide-to-unlock” back in 2006.

Design patents have been very important in Apple's lawsuits against Samsung. The USPTO also granted Apple the design patent covering the rounded corners typical of the iPhone. Those following our coverage of the Apple vs Samsung lawsuit would recollect that Apple had accused Samsung of copying its product designs. 

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