Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Neonode provided key prior art against Apple's slide-to-unlock patent and is now suing Apple in Texas over swipe-to-open and QuickPath swipe typing features in latest iPhones

The Neonode N1m smartphone didn't get much traction in the marketplace (with only a tiny number of units being sold in Sweden at the time), but it predated Apple's slide-to-unlock patent application, which is why it served as a key prior art reference in various disputes between Apple and Android device makers Samsung and Motorola Mobility. In a nutshell, the problem plaguing Apple's slide-to-unlock patent was that Apple itself had not invented slide to unlock per se, but merely the visual presentation ("slide-to-unlock image").

The Federal Court of Justice of Germany (the highest court to hear patent infringement and validity cases in that country) determined that the Neonode N1m rendered Apple's slide-to-unlock patent non-novel. Prior to the five judges on that panel, ten other European judges had reached more or less the same conclusion.

Neonode had filed for some patents of its own, and a U.S. legal entity brought a patent infringement complaint against Apple yesterday in the Western District of Texas (this post continues below the document):

20-06-08 Neonode v. Apple C... by Florian Mueller on Scribd

The patents-in-suit are

Neonode's complaint is pretty detailed. It summarizes the instances in Apple's previous U.S. litigations against Android device makers in which Neonode's prior art came up. It mentions that Apple declined to conclude a deal with Neonode involving the patents. And it details how the swipe-to-open and swipe typing (QuickPath) features in the latest iPhones (X and 11) and iPads allegedly infringe those patents.

Apple presumably had its reasons to reject Neonode's demands. Let's see how this infringement case unfolds. But after seeing the Neonode prior art mentioned in various Apple-Android disputes over the years, this is an ironic blast from the past.

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