As Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone, he was very proud and excited about all of its unique features, adding “and boy have we patented it!” Apple has been up to its neck in patent disputes in the past month, and now another one has been thrown into the ranks. A German court has dismissed the patents for the Slide to Unlock feature.
This was a move in response to a revision of patents law in Europe, where the laws are more stringent and specify that patents can only be technical solutions to technical problems. On top of that, a Swedish phone called the Neonode N1m, which was released in 2005, had the same technology as the iPhone, only months before. As patents are very subjective and can vary by interpretation from judge to judge, it is not surprising to see that at least one court has dismissed this claim by Apple.
Coincidentally, a Dutch court also came to the same conclusion using the same evidence. Apple naturally plans to appeal this decision, but the question remains whether this latest development spells the end or is only the beginning of more Apple patent disputes. Patents laws in the United States are fundamentally different than foreign jurisdiction, although recent discussions have begun in an attempt to make the U.S. system more like their foreign counterparts, which in turn could spell an end to companies trying to patent every whim they have.