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Auto Unlock Apple Watch feature targeted by patent troll | #ios | #apple | #iossecurity | #hacking | #aihp

A patent troll who purchased a 2016 patent has filed an infringement claim against Apple for the Auto Unlock feature, originally designed to allow an Apple Watch to unlock a Mac using the same Apple ID.

This is despite the fact that the patent application was filed after Apple announced Auto Unlock …


Apple first announced Auto Unlock at WWDC back in June 2016. Users need to have two-factor authentication enabled for their devices. Once that’s set up, you can enable the feature in System Preferences.

Step 1: Ensure a passcode is set on your Apple Watch running watchOS 3

Step 2: On your Mac running macOS Sierra Developer Preview Seed 2 or later, open System Preferences → Security & Privacy → General, and click the check box next to Allow your Apple Watch to unlock your Mac.

Step 3: When requested, enter your Mac’s password. Once the password is entered successfully, you’ll briefly see a “Turning On” message.

Step 4: Lock your Mac, and then wake it up while wearing your Apple Watch. For my MacBook, I simply closed the lid with the Require password setting under System Preferences → Security & Privacy → General set to Immediately.

Step 5: You should see a message that says Unlocking with Apple Watch. If successful, your Mac will unlock automatically.

Your Apple Watch can also unlock your iPhone: just put on your Watch, wait for the PIN prompt, and then unlock your phone. Because you can do this with Face ID or Touch ID, it’s easier than typing the PIN, especially on such a small screen.

In 2020, we called for Apple to allow the reverse: the Apple Watch to automatically unlock the iPhone, just as it does for the Mac. Apple did so seven months later.

Auto Unlock Apple Watch patent troll

Patently Apple reports that a company clearly formed for the purpose purchased a later patent for the same functionality, and is now seeking royalties from Apple.

Apple has been sued by SmartWatch MobileConcepts for patent infringement. The company states that the patent being infringed relates to novel and improved systems, methods, and apparatuses for enabling a wearable device user to access secured electronic systems.

SmartWatch MobileConcepts LLC is a patent troll who acquired 2016 patent 10,362,480 titled “Systems, Methods and Apparatuses for Enabling Wearable Device user Access to Secured Electronics Systems” from members of the Ortiz family.

The complaint states in-part that Apple operates, and administers systems, products, and services that enable a wearable device user to access secured electronic systems that infringe one or more of claims 1-9 of the ‘480 patent, literally or under the doctrine of equivalents.

9to5Mac’s Take

The claim is clearly without merit, and the patent should never have been granted. It’s essentially a generalized description of Apple’s Auto Unlock feature.

Systems, methods, and apparatuses disclosed enable wearable device (e.g., smartwatch) user access to secured electronic systems based on at least one of user authentication for access to secured electronic system by the wearable device, user biometric authentication by a wireless carrier, user biometric authentication by remote server, user location, and user proximity to a secured electronic system. A wearable device can include a telecommunications carrier identification module (e.g., SIM), cellular RF communications, and short-range RF communications. A registration module can register secure electronic systems, authenticate a wearable device user, and grant the wearable device user with access to secured electronic systems if the wearable device user is authenticated by at least one of the wearable device, the registration module, a carrier network, a remote server, and the secured electronic system. Authentication can include biometric measurement facilitated by the wearable device.

Since the announcement of Auto Unlock predates the patent, and Apple would have developed and tested the feature some considerable time prior to launch, there is no possible legitimate claim here.

Patent trolls file such claims in the hope that Apple will find it cheaper and easier to pay them off than to litigate. Cases like this reinforce the need for patent reform to prevent the granting of patents for pre-existing technology, descriptions of the obvious, and overly general claims.

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