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  (Source: Orion Pictures)
Rejection is still preliminary, just like past rejections

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) Central Reexamination Office (CRO) has damaged Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) legal campaign against rival smartphone maker Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) with its third in a series of major patent rejections in recent months.

On Wednesday, the CRO ruled [PDF] that Apple's "pinch to zoom" patent -- U.S. Patent No. 7,844,915 -- was invalid [PDF].  The patent claims the invention of a number of things multi-touch related -- including being able to distinguish between single finger scrolling gestures and a plurality of multi-finger gestures, including the aforementioned pinch to zoom.

These multi-touch techniques were largely first demonstrated in the 1980s in the world of academia by groups such as Myron Krueger's team at the University of Toronto.  Professor Krueger developed and published papers on virtually equivalent pinch-to-zoom multi-touch technology almost 25 years prior to Apple producing its first multi-touch device (the iPhone). 

Early multitouch devices
Myron Krueger developed pinch-to-zoom [pictured] in the 1980s. [Image Source: Bill Buxton]

The '915 patent joins the "rubber band patent" (U.S. Patent No. 7,469,381, aka the '381 patent) and the "Steve Jobs [multi-touch] patent" (U.S. Patent No. 7,479,949, aka the '949 patent) in patents that were rejected in preliminary rulings by USPTO reviewers.

All three patents will next be headed to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) -- a court of sorts at the USPTO -- for a final ruling.  Assuming the PTAB sticks to its latest decision (which is not guaranteed, but is often the case), the ruling can be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit if Apple chooses.

How critical would it be if these three Apple patents were invalidated? The invalidation would eliminate two out of the three utility patents that Apple asserted in winning a $1.05B USD verdict against Samsung.  As a result the invalidations could slash hundreds of millions of dollars off the damages verdict.

One advantage Apple does have in both the '915 and '381 invalidations is that they are ex parte evaluations; meaning that Apple is the only party the USPTO is discussing the matter with.  Thus it's possible Apple could rectify the language in the patent to be less ambiguous, but in such a way to try to preserve its trial verdict against Samsung.

Also, it should be noted that while all of the patent's 21 claims were rejected, only a single claim -- Claim 8 -- was used in the Samsung case.

Sources: SBNation [The Verge] [PDF] [1], [2]



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RE: Maybe
By Solandri on 12/21/2012 3:56:07 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Don't get me wrong! If Apple had not done it, I doubt anyone else would have. On the other hand, they do steal (ideas) from the best.

Lots of PCs, PDAs, and MP3 players (including the iPod) had a touch interface before the iPhone. Some were even multitouch. Heck, the original Palm PDA's digitizing area could be operated with your fingernail if you wanted. The stylus was just a lot more accurate and natural, and it included a few physical buttons for navigation.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CYY-g6ionzM
http://www.gizmag.com/go/6473/

What Apple did differently was (encouraged by the success on the iPod) they took the risky step of using touch as the only interface on the iPhone. No keyboard, no stylus, no trackball or nub, just touch. They completely deserve the success they got for taking that risk. But I'd hardly call removing other interface options an innovation. Touch technology had just gotten to the point where a purely touch interface became a feasible alternative to physical buttons and navigation tools.


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