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Apple wins Motorola phones ban over Android slide-to-unlock

A German court has banned Motorola phones in a patent dispute with Apple over the slide-to-unlock feature.

Apple has won a major skirmish in its war with Android. A German court has ruled in the iPhone and iPad's favour over the ability to unlock your phone by swiping your finger on the screen.

Apple accused Motorola of infringing its slide-to-unlock patent, which covers "unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image". This week Apple won an injunction on Moto-made Android smart phones that slide to unlock, which could pave the way for further claims against other manufacturers of Android-powered phones and tablets such as deadly rival Samsung.

Patent experts FossPatents reports Munich Judge Peter Guntz ruled in Apple's favour in two out of three patent disputes -- the Motorola Xoom escaped the ban because its slide-to-unlock feature is slightly different.

Fortunately, Motorola can therefore modify its smart phones to use the same type of unlocking feature as the Xoom, and sidestep a ban. Apple is likely to have another crack at this type of unlocking when Motorola appeals this week's ruling, however.

It's a major blow for Android, as this is a pretty fundamental feature -- in fact, I'd argue it's one of the features you use the most, because whatever you do with your phone you have to unlock it first. Ice Cream Sandwich lets you unlock your phone with your face, but that's not entirely secure. For the folks at Google to have to reinvent the unlocking process would be pretty tough, although I would be fascinated to see what they came up with.

It hasn't come to that yet, happily: Motorola is appealing the decision, while in the Netherlands a court ruled Android's slide-to-unlock feature is safe because it's an obvious method of unlocking a phone, so Apple can't claim dibs.

Apple's proxy war on Android by targeting individual manufacturers in various countries continues. Before his death last year Apple boss Steve Jobs vowed "thermonuclear war" on Android.

Is this another example of Apple fighting dirty in the war of the smart phones? And what weird and wonderful alternative ways can you think of to unlock your phone? Unlock your weird and wonderful ideas in the comments or on the Facebook page