Steve Jobs once declared he will bury Android for “copying” iOS. Apple has just been granted a broad, potentially far-reaching smartphone user interface pattern which will go a long way in doing just that.
U.S. Patent 8,223,134, titled Portable electronic device, method, and graphical user interface for displaying electronic lists and documents, covers basically every iOS user interface element you can think of. As PatentlyApple puts it, the patent covers “UI modules covering blogging, email, telephone, camera, video player, calendar, browser, widgets, search, notes, maps and more importantly, a multi-touch interface”.
I’m no patent lawyer but looking at the patent claims, the major sticking point for this patent which Apple will surely throw at Android is the vertical scroll bar. With this patent Apple now officially owns the intellectual property to a vertical scroll bar on a touch device that scrolls electronic documents, lists, etc. and then automatically hides itself. This type of scroll bar is literally found everywhere in Android and not only in native Android features but also in third-party apps.
There is plenty of public criticism of this patent. Some people claim this patent is based on ‘prior art’, a term used to define previous patents and previously developed technology. Other people say because of the broad nature of this patent, Apple will use it to stifle innovation and competition not only suing Android manufacturers but also potentially going after app developers. As I said, I’m no patent lawyer so I won’t editorialize this patent (too much) but I will say this much: Android is in for a world of hurt if this patent isn’t invalidated in future court cases.