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Apple patent latest: slide-to-unlock, solar charging iPhone granted

Apple beefed up its patent portfolio this week when it was granted patents for the slide-to-unlock feature, as well as a mechanism for charging a device by solar power.

As noted by Forbes, the solar power patent would allow for iPhone users to charge their phones more easily. Future iOS devices might include "integrated touch sensor and solar panel configurations," to allow for touch-based activities and charging at the same time.

Integrating the panels, meanwhile, would allow Apple to keep the slim profile of the iPhone 5, which it obtained by cominbing the display and touch sensors into a single component, or in-cell technology.

The slide-to-unlock patent is less innovative; Apple has been fighting rivals over the feature for years, but now it holds a design patent on the technology.

Specifically, the patent Apple obtained covers "the ornamental design for a display screen or portion thereof with a graphical user interface, as shown and described."

Back in 2011, Apple was awarded a slide-to-lock patent. That one, however, covered the gesture involved in sliding to unlock, whereas this week's focuses on the design.

Apple actually secured the rights to slide-to-unlock technology back in 2006 - one year before the original iPhone made its debut - but it was a utility model registration, which is a fast-track patent that's valid for 10 years. Last year, a German judge delayed a decision on a slide-to-unlock patent until the German Patent and Trademark Office has a chance to weigh in.

"If you assert a utility model, you bear the burden of proof," patent expert Florian Mueller said at the time.