updated 06:33 pm EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
Ruling could have affected outcome of second Apple-Samsung trial
US Federal District Court Judge Lucy Koh has denied Samsung's post-trial request to invalidate two Apple patents, both of which were used successfully to convict Samsung of copying the iPhone maker's technology yet again in the second federal Apple-Samsung trial, held earlier this year. Samsung had filed the motion in early July, based on a recent Supreme Court decision, Alice vs. CLS Banks, which stated that software ideas that were just abstract representations of real-world concepts (such as turning a doorknob) were not patentable.
The two patents Samsung sought to invalidate through a ruling by Koh based on the Alice decision were the '959 "unified search" patent, and the '721 "slide to unlock" patent, both of were judged to have been copied by Samsung. Apple was awarded some $119 million in the final verdict, far less than the company was expecting given its victory.
Koh ruled that Samsung "had not preserved its original invalidity defense" under the prevailing law, and it was now "too late to raise the issue of abstract subject matter," said former patent analyst Florian Mueller. The "slide to unlock" concept doesn't really have a direct correlation to real-world actions, though it has since become "obvious" thanks to Apple's success with the iPhone and the many similar unlocking iterations that success spawned from competitors.
The US Patent and Trade Office has recently and tentatively invalidated the '721 patent, but the full process is a long one and subject to many appeals before a final judgement on the patent's fate is rendered. The USPTO has been known to reverse itself -- sometimes more than once -- in the course of re-examinations of patents.