updated 06:21 pm EDT, Thu August 7, 2014
Finding unlikely to affect judgement or payout, will take years to resolve
A claim asserted against Samsung in the second Apple-Samsung patent trial in California, which had already received a summary judgement of infringement by US District Court Judge Lucy Koh, has been rejected alongside other claims in the same patent by the US Patent and Trademark Office -- the same body that initially granted the patent. The finding, which is a preliminary rejection that is part of a long process, has already been brought up by Samsung in an effort to get out of paying part of the $119 million judgement against it.
The initial rejection is essentially meaningless, and illustrative of the confused and confusing nature of software patents. When patenting the result of coding, many ideas that were novel at the time -- such as Apple's "bounceback" scrolling, which mimics some real-world behavior (that thus creates "prior art") -- seem "obvious" today.
The appeals process for disputing patent invalidations is very long -- even before the final appeal that moves to the federal court system -- and takes a number of years to complete. Further, it can often result in complete flip-flops within the USPTO itself, as happened to Apple with it's bounceback patent. Following two complete rejections of the patent, a second appeal ended up re-confirming the original patent in its entirety.
During the trial, Samsung presented prior art to defend itself against the claim of infringement on the "autocomplete" patent, saying that examples (which included a fictional tablet used in the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey) invalidated Apple's claims in the patent. The judge found at the time that this was insufficient, and ruled that Samsung had so clearly copied the technology that this particular patent issue shouldn't even be brought to trial. With its new filing, Samsung is attempting to put the judge in the awkward position of having to enforce her previous summary judgement on the matter for a patent that could -- several years from now -- be found invalid, reports patent analyst Florian Mueller.
As Apple will undoubtedly reply by pointing out numerous examples of preliminary rejections that were later reversed (including its own) and that Samsung will not be liable to pay the judgement until after the appeal is exhausted -- again a possibly years-long process -- it seems unlikely that Judge Koh will reverse herself on the finding, particularly given that Samsung was again found guilty on nearly all counts by the jury on the other infringement claims they examined. However, Samsung has filed a notice with the judge asking for a review in light of the preliminary rejection.