Apple patents the hiding vertical scrolling indicator; cue the lawsuits

Chances are that the computer you’re using right now has a vertical sidebar that tells you where you are on the page. Drag it down and the page moves down. Magic, right? Apple introduced a “feature” in iOS whereby that vertical sidebar disappears when you’re not scrolling anymore. Why? It’s pretty, but it’s actually quite functional when you consider how small the screen is on a mobile phone. Anyway, that disappearing act has now been patented according to The Verge. If you look at the patent itself [PDF document] you’ll notice two key things. First, Scott Forstall (pictured above), Senior Vice President of iOS at Apple, is listed as one of the five inventors who came up with concept. That’s impressive. Second, the patent was filed in March 2012, which means it took just four months to process. That’s extremely strange since some patents dating back from more than a decade ago are only just now being approved.

Anyway, what does this patent mean for you? It’s additional ammunition that Apple can use against their competitors in court. The report from The Verge has a screenshot of Android that features the disappearing vertical scrolling bar, so how long do you think it’ll take until Apple tries to ban yet another Samsung device from entering the market?

We’d like to point out that Microsoft uses the same sort of scrolling indicator throughout Windows 8, so does that mean Apple will sue Microsoft? We don’t think so, mainly because of the relationship that both companies formed in 1997. In case you forgot, Apple almost went bankrupt, but Microsoft threw them $150 million to keep on chugging along. Think Steve Ballmer regrets that investment? Probably.

As always, we want to stress that this patent stuff is pure bullshit, but we have to cover it since it’s relevant to our industry.

  • Seems like there’s plenty of prior art for this one, particularly if they filed the patent application in 2012. 

  • Noel

    Thought this has been on devices in some form prior to March why give it as a patent to one company.

  • Anonymous

    This is crazy. My 6 year old could have thought of a scroll bar like this. I have an iPhone, but I didn’t think “oh, it has a cool scrollbar that disappears, I should buy it,” nor did I think “wow, I’m really glad this scrollbar disappears.” Great, so it disappears. Next thing you know someone is going to patent disappearing anything, rabbits, Youtube videos, or the phone itself.

  • Two words: prior art

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