In the patent fiasco which was part of the thermo-nuclear war launched by Steve Jobs on his former chum Samsung, much was made of the fact that Apple invented the slide-to-unlock feature to control smartphones.
Now the US Patent Office has decided that Apple did not really invent it after all and has awarded the invention to Micron.
Micron’s patent covering a “system and method for controlling user access to an electronic device” was given a US Patent 8,352,745 in January 2013 but it claims priority to an original application filed in February 2000 and lists Jim McKeeth as inventor.
According to Patently O’s blog, the patent covers a touch screen upon which a user is to enter, by drawing, a geometric pattern in a specified direction to gain access to the system; and a processing circuit coupled to the touch screen to compare the user entered geometric pattern to a predefined geometric pattern stored in a memory.
Apple’s patent only claims priority only to the 2004-2005 timeframe and, although they may be separately patentable, it can’t be used to invalidate Micron’s new patent.
If Micron shifts the patent to an enforcement company then there could be a lot of mobile phone outfits shaking in their shoes. However, Micron has links to almost every suppler that Apple does not. This means that suddenly a lot of those being sued by Apple might have some prior art they can fling at the court.