Analyst: Apple May Buy “Swipe to Unlock” Company

Apple could buy Neonode, says analystApple may decide to buy Neonode, the company that claims to hold a patent on the iPhone’s swipe to unlock feature, as a move to strengthen its own patent infringement-related lawsuits. Buying the company would kill Neonode’s claims against Apple, and could potentially shore up its lawsuit battle against Samsung at the same time.

Writing for Seeking Alpha, James Altucher said that part of Samsung’s defense against Apple in the United States includes citing Neonode’s patents and claiming that invalidates Apple’s own claims that it owns the swipe to unlock patent.

Neonode filed its patent describing touch-based “sweep gesture interfaces” in December 2002, and was finally granted the patent in January, 2012. The company then sought out Apple in hopes of stringing a licensing deal.

The company said it already had deals in place with companies such as Barnes & Noble, Sony, and L&I. The company has been hoping to land what it calls “friendly licensing deals.”

Apple is looking to collect 2.5 percent of its mobile device profits, and Mr. Altucher thinks that could ultimately end up in Neonodes hands if the Mac and iPhone maker doesn’t snatch up the company.

“I don’t know if Neonode is going to sue, but clearly at some point a license has to be worked out, plus a probable settlement for past use. You can’t flaunt the law forever,” he said. “On this alone I think Apple could buy Neonode for up to 500 percent of it’s current price — $30.”

Apple isn’t hurting for money, so it could potentially buy Neonode assuming the company felt it was a worthwhile investment. Whether or not Neonode’s executives would be interested in a buyout, however, isn’t known.

Since Neonode is already actively licensing its patents to several companies, its leaders might want to hold on to the business instead of selling out. Of course, Apple could simply choose to fight Neonode in court over the patent despite CEO Tim Cook’s aversion to legal battles.

Apple and Neonode aren’t saying what the state of their current negotiations might be — or if they are even talking.