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Apple uses slide-to-unlock patent to get ban on Motorola smartphones in Germany

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The Munich Regional Court ruled today that Motorola smartphones infringe Apple's European patent on the slide-to-unlock feature


The worldwide patent dispute between Apple and Motorola has been burning through the courts lately, and it just got a little more intense: the Munich Regional Court ruled today that Motorola smartphones infringe Apple's European slide-to-unlock patent. Unlike some of previous European rulings, the decision imposes a permanent injunction against Motorola devices, when or if Apple choses to enforce it after posting a substantial bond. We don't have all of the details of the ruling — it was handed down verbally in court — but a report from FOSS Patents indicates devices like the Xoom which use Motorola's swipe-in-a-circle unlock gesture were found not to infringe.

Apple's patent in the case is European Patent No. 1964022, which claims priority back to 2005 and was granted in 2010. The broadest claims cover detecting contact from a user on a touch screen while the device is locked, and then unlocking the device if a predefined image movement is detected. Devices like the Xoom were likely found not to infringe because the gesture and image movement isn't technically predefined, which is required to infringe Apple's patent.

As far as blocking sales of Motorola devices in Germany, the ball is now in Apple's court. You'll recall that Motorola got its own injunction against Apple earlier this month, requiring Apple to temporarily remove the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 and 3G iPads from its online store in Germany. Those products are now back online while Apple appeals the decision. We'll just have to see how eager Apple is to enforce this particular injunction, or if both sides will use these back-and-forth victories to finally reach a comprehensive settlement.