updated 04:44 am EST, Thu December 20, 2012
US Patent Office issues preliminary invalidation of Apple patent
The USPTO has tentatively invalidated Apple’s key ‘pinch to zoom’ patent. All 21 claims in U.S. Patent No. 7,844,915 have been preliminarily rejected pending a lengthy, multi-year review process, which will determine whether the patent application will ultimately be tossed. Samsung’s lawyers have taken the news to Judge Lucy Koh, who continues to preside over the case in which Apple was awarded over $1 billion in damages.
The latest invalidation follows a similar preliminary ruling by the USPTO in October where a decision to invalidate all 20 claims of Patent No. 7,469,381, which covers Apple’s ‘rubber-banding’ effect when scrolling, was also rendered in what is called a "first office" rejection. As with the latest ruling, it is also subject to a lengthy review process where Apple will be forced to defend its claims against accusations that the patents are either "obvious" or had been preceded by prior art.
Apple's patents have come under increased scrutiny due to a change in patent law that allows anyone who pays a filing fee of just over $17,000 to challenge a granted patent anonymously. This has led to some speculation that certain companies may have a vested interest in putting forth challenges that net preliminary rejections, even if the rejections are later overturned.
Critically, both patents at question were both asserted by Apple in its recent court case against Samsung. Although it remains a real possibility that both patent claims may ultimately be upheld, it will put pressure on Judge Koh as she reviews the Californian jury's decision to award Apple its large damages award.