Germany's highest level court that hears patent cases, the Federal Court of Justice, has invalidated the German part of Apple's iOS slide-to-unlock patent. In the end, it no longer matters to Apple.
Florian Mueller has described the situation in his "Foss Patents" report for Aug 25. The decision is based on a prior implementation. As Mr. Mueller describes it:
The Federal Court of Justice found ... that the Neonode N1m smartphone, which predates Apple's slide-to-unlock patent, anticipated the slide-to-unlock mechanism per se, so all that Apple could claim as an innovation on top of that one comes down to the visual representation (a slider movement), for which there also is prior art. What is not patent-eligigle by German standards (and not under post-Alice U.S. standards either) is the notion of users being able to figure out a certain graphical representation (a slider) more intuitively than, for example, a text (such as the one the Neonode N1m displayed in the same situation) instructing users to swipe.
This steady chipping away at Apple's patents has been a fairly successful affair. In March, the European patent office revoked, on a Europe-wide basis, Apple's rubber band patent. As in the U.S., the issue of prior implementation has come into play.
Today, Apple has been out of the business of suing Android device makers for patent infringement for several years. Now that that both iOS and Android have their generally solidified proponents, with the iPhone generally holding its own thanks to issues like customer loyalty and OS security, there's no real need for Apple to engage in expensive, problematic litigation.
The thermonuclear war that Steve Jobs once promised in the courts has been defused by Tim Cook and replaced with plain old-fashioned smart business moves. Apple is better off for it.