Following up on last year's slide-to-unlock patent grab (which itself built on a patent granted in 2010), Apple has been granted another, yet more expansive slide-to-unlock patent, one which ditches the previous patents' emphasis on "predefined paths" in favor of more ambiguous language covering the movement of an unlock image to "an unlock region" on a device's display.

While US Patent 8,286,103 is largely similar to Apple's previous two slide-to-unlock, its language is considerably broader. The logic of the patent is not concerned with what path a user takes to unlock a device, nor where the user starts or stops that path, just that an unlock image is moved "from the first location to an unlock region."

Essentially, the language of the patent has been loosened to cover workaround solutions (presumably like the circle locks of Ice Cream Sandwich and Jelly Bean) and, ostensibly, to ensure that pretty much any method of unlocking a device through a continuous touch movement is protected.

As the Verge points out, Apple's grabbing of the '103 patent represents a common practice in the US in which patent owners can be granted "continuation" patents before a patent issues, usually to increase the scope of the original claim. Apple evidently used this process again in July to file yet another continuing patent before '103 was granted, so it's likely we haven't seen the last entry in the slide-to-unlock patent saga just yet.

While it isn't clear if, how, or when Apple may use this new patent, odds are we will see its effects soon, either in further design workarounds, or yet more legal action. Either way, we'll be here to deliver the details. Look below for the full patent.

Via The Verge