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  (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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