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German court invalidates Apple slide-to-unlock patent

The function, familiar to all smartphone users, lacks the technical innovation to be granted a patent, the court rules.

In a legal victory for Google and Samsung, a German court has reportedly invalidated all patent claims related to Apple's "slide to unlock" user interface.

Today's ruling by Bundespatentgericht, Germany's federal patent court, is a setback for Apple, which has pressed the patent against Google's Motorola and Samsung in courts across Europe in attempts to secure injunctions preventing the companies' devices from being sold. However, the decision is appealable, according to Foss Patents blogger Florian Mueller, a paid consultant for several tech companies who was first to report on today's ruling.

The ruling, which Foss said was not unexpected by the companies involved, came at the end of a daylong session in which Apple proposed 14 amendments to salvage the patent. The court ruled that the invention described in the patent for "unlocking a device by performing gestures on an unlock image" lacked the technical innovation to be granted a patent.

Slide-to-unlock functionality has become a major sticking point across Europe. Apple has charged both Motorola and Samsung with violating patents related to the functionality, which is familiar to all smartphone users.

In February 2012, Munich Regional Court Judge Andreas Voss awarded Apple a permanent injunction against several Motorola mobile products, after ruling that they violated the iPhone maker's slide-to-unlock patents. A few weeks later, Voss threw out an earlier claim Apple brought against Samsung over slide-to-unlock functionality.

A month later, the court stayed proceedings in the case while the German Patent and Trademark Office heard Apple's case before it continued.

CNET has contacted Apple, Motorola, and Samsung for comment and will update this report when we learn more.