Friday, February 17, 2012

Google files for patent to combat Apple’s Slide to Unlock


Google files for patent to combat Apple’s Slide to Unlock:


In an attempt to circumvent Apple’s hotly-debated Slide To Unlock patent [see below], which has resulted in a few lawsuits with many more likely on the way, Google has filed a patent of their own for a lockscreen that looks fairly similar to the one found in HTC’s Sense UI.
This does not mean that we’ll ever see Google’s lockscreen see the light of day, and the patent office could reject it as being too similar to Apple’s previously granted patent on slide to unlock. I’m no lawyer, but I reckon the likelihood of Google being denied the patent is slim, and this may very well be the lockscreen featured in Android 5.0 (or 4.1), which may or may not debut as early as next quarter.

I am a lawyer and I can't help thinking that this whole smartphone patent war is getting out of control. 

Prediction: all of these patents become absurdly irrelevant as more and more independent, open source developers (think App Store or Android Market programmers) take UI design into their own hands. For instance, I have an HTC Android phone (recently, happily jumped off the Apple bandwagon), and I can download custom lock screens for free from the Android Market. Many of these are free and were designed by independent programmers, presumably working out of a basement with one hand on the keyboard and the other in a bag of Cheetos.  Some of these lock screens blatantly mimic the iPhone, ICS, HTC Sense, etc.  Let's say Apple wins the fight over the slide-to-unlock patent. Are they going to sue just Google? Just Google and the OEMs? Are they gonna sue the guy/gal in the basement too?

Now, before someone reacts to this by saying that I'm being too hard on Apple and letting Google off the hook, please see this. Google is on the "right side of history" here, embracing open source and acquiring patents to defend its Android OS from Apple's proprietary iOS, which has become the "Microsoft" of the new millennium.  

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