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Micron Lands Broad "Slide To Unlock" Patent 211

Posted by timothy
from the is-it-malice-blindness-or-incompetence dept.
Zordak writes "Micron has recently landed U.S. Patent 8,352,745, which claims priority back to a February 2000 application---well before Apple's 2004 slide-to-unlock application. While claim construction is a highly technical art, the claims here are (for once) almost as broad as they sound, and may cover the bulk of touch screen smart phones on the market today. Dennis Crouch's Patently-O has a discussion."
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Micron Lands Broad "Slide To Unlock" Patent

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  • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @12:05PM (#42752069) Homepage

    The USPTO is holding roundtables with software developers to ask for suggestions. If anyone can add to what's there already, I've some suggestions on this wiki:

    http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Suggestions_for_the_USPTO_in_2013 [swpat.org]

    (But remember, the patent office has only a small role in patent policy. Most substantial changes will have to come from Congress or the Supreme Court.)

  • by logjon (1411219) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @12:15PM (#42752221)
    Alternatively, since they have to follow court rulings, we could try: OBVIOUSNESS TEST FOR SOFTWARE PATENTS SHOULD BE DONE BY SOMEONE WHOSE EXPERTISE IN THE FIELD INVOLVES MORE THAN SENDING E-MAIL IN OUTLOOK. Seriously, where do they find these people? If it's software to do X, it should be examined by someone with expertise in the field of software AND the field of X.
  • by pv2b (231846) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @12:15PM (#42752231)

    I'm not a patent expert, although I did once watch a very informative video about how patents work. This makes me eminently qualified on the subject by slashdot standards.

    Looking at the independent claims, it looks like at least the lock screen as implemented by Samsung (starting at the unlock button, drag a certain distance in any direction to unlock) and possibly other Android phones out there is safe from this patent.

    1. A system comprising:

    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.

    Since the system on Samsung phones works no matter which direction you drag, it looks like the "slide to unlock" implementation in Samsung phones is clear.

    However, I think this patent may very well be applicable to the "pattern lock" of android phones.

  • by fahrbot-bot (874524) on Thursday January 31, 2013 @01:15PM (#42753043)

    Actually yes, it does. You can patent the *specific* hardware implementation of a task. Someone else could then do the exact same task with a different implementation and bypass your patent.

    For example, Setuid [wikipedia.org] was patented by Dennis Ritchie in 1972/1979 (applied/granted) based on the hardware implementation, as shown in the patent abstract. [espacenet.com]

  • by MCRocker (461060) * on Thursday January 31, 2013 @01:57PM (#42753477) Homepage

    First to invent vs. file conflicts could be used to raise the bar on obviousness.

    Obviousness is surprisingly difficult to determine because some of the best and most brilliant ideas are also very simple ideas that seem obvious only in retrospect. So the patent office is deliberately reluctant to interpret the obviousness constraint too rigorously.

    Recently, the US has switched from awarding priority of similar patents to the first one to be filed instead of the first to be invented. Since there is often a very long delay from filing to patent award, during which filers must not publicly disclose their idea, priority becomes an issue more frequently than one might expect.

    It seems obvious to me that instead of struggling with who has priority, the patent office should simply look at two similar patents being filed at about the same time as a failure of the obviousness test because, clearly, two different practitioners of the art came up with similar solutions to a problem. So both patents and any similar future filings should be rejected as obvious.

    This doctrine would have disallowed a lot of patents in the past including the light bulb and telephone, which, while revolutionary were being investigated by several inventors who came up with similar solutions and even filed within hours of each other!

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