Print 46 comment(s) - last by BifurcatedBoat.. on Dec 11 at 4:18 PM

  (Source: AllThingsD)
USPTO finds patent invalid after review

Not long after the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) hit gadget-maker Apple, Inc. (AAPL) with a painful preliminary invalidation of its "rubber-band" animation patent, the USPTO has moved another crucial Apple patent to the chopping block.

FOSS Patents on Friday announced that the USPTO had issued a preliminary ruling of invalidity regarding U.S. Patent No. 7,479,949, which covers "touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics".

Awarded in 2009, Apple's lawyers had affectionately referred to it as "the Steve Jobs patent" and argued it was a key pillar of Apple's argument that the USPTO had granted it exclusive rights to produce modern smartphones.

Back in 2010, a complaint was filed regarding the patent, requesting a re-review, but the request was denied.  But Apple began to face scrutiny this last year and a half when U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago) Judge Richard A. Posner, a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals judge who was moonlighting for the important case between Apple and Google Inc. (GOOG) subsidiary Motorola, banned Apple's lawyers from calling the patent "the Steve Jobs patent".  Subsequently Judge Posner rejected Apple's request to ban Motorola handsets, rejecting the case twice with prejudice.

Steve Jobs iPad
The late Steve Jobs's prized multi-touch patent was just invalidated. [Image Source: Reuters]
The rejection, like that of the rubber-band patent is only preliminary, not final.  Steve Jobs is listed as the first author of the multi-touch patent, which was filed in April 2008.

Apple has hundreds of touch-related patents covering hardware, software, and GUI animations, much of which it in part purchased from startups.  In 2006 it brought in TPK Holding Comp., Ltd. (TPE:3673) and Optera (a small U.S. display firm) to supply the multi-touch hardware for a secret project in 2006 [Sources: 12] -- which would later be revealed as the iPhone.  To supply the software, it in 2005 bought a company called FingerWorks, which had implemented and slightly expanded on some of the multi-touch gestures published by Bill Buxton back in the 1980s.

However, the rejected patent was considered among Apple's most crucial.

Apple can at least take comfort that the USPTO has recently approved some of its other questionable filings, such as a patent on animating turning pages.

Source: FOSS Patents

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Don't you mean "to the trash can" not from it?
By sprockkets on 12/10/2012 10:50:31 AM , Rating: 4
Anyhow, here's a very interesting tidbit about that patent, and shows that maybe the patent system isn't that broken as I thought:

"The application by Apple that eventually became patent 8,086,604 first crossed desks at the Patent and Trademark Office on a winter day in 2004.

In the next two years, a small cast of officials spent about 23 hours — the time generally allotted for reviewing a new application — examining the three dozen pages before recommending rejection. The application, for a voice- and text-based search engine, was “an obvious variation” on existing ideas, a patent examiner named Raheem Hoffler wrote. Over the next five years, Apple modified and resubmitted the application eight times — and each time it was rejected by the patent office.

Until last year.

On its 10th attempt, Apple got patent 8,086,604 approved. Today, though the patent was not among those Vlingo and Nuance fought over, it is known as the Siri patent because it is widely viewed as one of the linchpins of Apple’s strategy to protect its smartphone technologies.

In February, the company deployed this new patent in a continuing lawsuit against Samsung that could radically reorder the $200 billion smartphone business by giving Apple effective ownership of now-commonplace technologies, software experts say.

Patent 8,086,604’s path to approval “shows there’s a lot wrong with the process,” said Arti K. Rai, an intellectual property expert at Duke University School of Law who reviewed the patent application for The Times. That patent, like numerous others, is an example of how companies can file an application again and again until they win approval, Ms. Rai said.

When Apple submitted the first application for 8,086,604, the iPhone and Siri did not exist. The application was aspirational: it described a theoretical “universal interface” that would allow people to search across various mediums, like the Internet, corporate databases and computer hard drives, without having to use multiple search engines. It outlined how such software might function, but it did not offer specifics about how to build it. It suggested that some people might speak a search phrase rather than use a keyboard.

The ideas contained in the application would blossom at Apple, Google, Microsoft, Nuance, Vlingo and dozens of other companies. All the while, the application traveled quietly through the patent office, where officials rejected it twice in 2007, three times in 2008, once in 2009, twice in 2010 and once in 2011.

The patent office has a reputation for being overworked, understaffed and plagued by employee turnover, and employees concede that some of their work is subjective.

“When I get an application, I basically have two days to research and write a 10- to 20-page term paper on why I think it should be approved or rejected,” said Robert Budens, a 22-year patent examiner and president of the examiners’ labor union. “I’m not going to pretend like we get it right every time.”

To receive a patent, an invention must be novel (substantially different from what exists), not obvious (one can’t patent a new toaster simply by expanding it to handle five slices of bread), and useful (someone can’t patent an invisibility machine if invisibility is impossible).

“If you give the same application to 10 different examiners, you’ll get 10 different results,” said Raymond Persino, a patent lawyer who worked as an examiner from 1998 to 2005.

After patent 8,086,604 was first rejected in 2007, Apple’s lawyers made small adjustments to the application, changing the word “documents” to “items of information” and inserting the phrase “heuristic modules” to refer to bits of software code. A few years later, the inclusion of the word “predetermined” further narrowed Apple’s approach.

These changes had little substantial impact, said experts who reviewed the application for The Times. But the patent office slowly began to come around to Apple’s point of view.

Though submitting an application repeatedly can incur large legal fees, it is often effective. About 70 percent of patent applications are eventually approved after an applicant has altered claims, tinkered with language or worn down the patent examiners."

The worst part of this patent is apple already had this patent granted, with the same pictures as the new one, a few years earlier, with nearly the same claims, albeit more narrow.

RE: Don't you mean "to the trash can" not from it?
By Peter898 on 12/10/12, Rating: -1
By Peter898 on 12/10/2012 11:47:58 AM , Rating: 2
"Anything after 'application' is irrelevant, off-topic, lawyer-talk ."

Should have been :
Is irrelevant, off-topic, Shyster-schnack

By Kyuu on 12/10/2012 12:43:40 PM , Rating: 5
Erm, correct me if I'm wrong but I believe the word application was not used to refer to a computer program. It was referring to a written request for something, i.e., an application for employment, an application for admission to a university, or, in this case, an application for the approval of a patent.

RE: Don't you mean "to the trash can" not from it?
By Any14Tee on 12/10/2012 6:29:18 PM , Rating: 2
...."is NOT an 'invention', just like writing a book or composing a symphony is NOT AN INVENTION".

I think you're on to something, in the same way you compose a symphony, or write a book, create a film, shouldn't the same copyright rules apply to software (they do in games).

You make a valid point, I fail to understand why creative software that's derived from a predefined architecture could be placed in the same realm as invention?

By BifurcatedBoat on 12/11/2012 4:18:50 PM , Rating: 2
Copyright rules *do* apply to all software. That wasn't good enough for some companies that wanted to be able to prevent others from even making anything similar to what they'd made.

RE: Don't you mean "to the trash can" not from it?
By MartyLK on 12/10/12, Rating: -1
RE: Don't you mean "to the trash can" not from it?
By Peter898 on 12/10/12, Rating: -1
RE: Don't you mean "to the trash can" not from it?
By MartyLK on 12/10/2012 12:07:03 PM , Rating: 2
Can you please provide me the address of Rotten Apples screen-manufacturing plant ? How about their CPU-manufacturing plant ??

What does that have to do with anything? You think Samsung won't stab you in the back while reaching around and smiling at your face?

However, companies tend to keep their business separate from their dislike of each other. Samsung has already stated that court litigations would not effect their money-making business with Apple. But that in no way means they won't try to bring Apple down.

RE: Don't you mean "to the trash can" not from it?
By Peter898 on 12/10/12, Rating: -1
RE: Don't you mean "to the trash can" not from it?
By Tony Swash on 12/10/12, Rating: -1
RE: Don't you mean "to the trash can" not from it?
By momorere on 12/10/2012 1:57:10 PM , Rating: 3
Even the pro-loving crApple Yahoo is starting to run daily stories on crApple's slow demise. Everything from the supply guy trying to play CEO, to the rapid falling of marketshare, to lackluster reviews of crApple products, and their decreasing stock value (btw, is down $4.69 now).

I'm really enjoying watching them inch closer to that mythical $1,000 stock price and TRILLION dollar value. Oh wait, they are barely holding on to half of that and it is only getting worse.

Hurry and find some random pro-crApple blogger's site and pass off his opinion as "facts" per your usual tactics.

By momorere on 12/10/2012 2:04:26 PM , Rating: 2
My mistake as they are no longer above 1/2 of that value. Silly me

By retrospooty on 12/10/2012 2:35:40 PM , Rating: 3
"pro-loving crApple Yahoo"

LOL... Yes, that is one of my favorite Tony quotes. "Apple will go over $1000 per share". As if record growth can continue forever. Eventually they would own the entire planet if that were true. With Apple taking an inoovation vacation, the competition was bound to surpass them and now that has happened.

Another great TS line - "No one wants a screen larger than 3.5 inches" . LOL. Until Android started outselling iPhone 5 to 1 with its larger screens... Then of course Apple followed suit and released a larger screen.

By themaster08 on 12/10/2012 4:13:33 PM , Rating: 2
I care for Samsung about as much as I care for Apple. Just because some of us dislike Apple, that doesn't make us fans of Samsung. I use products from neither of those companies.

By Cheesew1z69 on 12/10/2012 4:23:40 PM , Rating: 2
It's quite amusing and pathetic how someone like him, who is completely obsessive about a company who gives 2 shits about him, calls others fans of other companies.

By Any14Tee on 12/10/2012 6:46:28 PM , Rating: 2
"When two tribes go to war 1 on 1 and 2 makes 4, go to war go to war"....that's entertainment with a Capital E.

.......Keep on trolling, keep on rolling.

RE: Don't you mean "to the trash can" not from it?
By sprockkets on 12/10/12, Rating: -1
RE: Don't you mean "to the trash can" not from it?
By MartyLK on 12/10/2012 12:42:21 PM , Rating: 1
Apologies. My mistake. There's so much Apple hate, it's almost a given that any, even moderately, difficult to understand comment will be interpreted as such.

By Cheesew1z69 on 12/10/2012 12:44:00 PM , Rating: 3
Nothing to interpret, it's evident in your posts that you are a total AppleTool.

RE: Don't you mean "to the trash can" not from it?
By MartyLK on 12/10/12, Rating: -1
By Cheesew1z69 on 12/10/2012 1:09:00 PM , Rating: 2
Apple lovers never rationalize. To them, if they love something, that something never did anything wrong - no matter what actually belongs to that something. They only see any and all non-loving comment as hate

By Any14Tee on 12/10/2012 7:40:25 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know man, maybe they need to sack Tony and get a new PR. I hit my head hard on the wall (maybe too hard), I still can't understand,...why are people so angry and why have I lost the feeling in my penis, when I hear Apple???

OK I admit mention the word 'Apple', my head spins around and I froth at the mouth. Vot to do Vot to do I dunno.....

By fic2 on 12/10/2012 1:01:32 PM , Rating: 2
Seems like every time the same patent application is re-submitted the bar should be set higher and higher for the application to be approved.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive

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