U.S. Patent Office Tentatively Invalidates Key Apple Patent

The United States Patent and Trademark Office finished reviewing Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 7,479,949, and found it invalid. The patent, which is known as the “Steve Jobs” patent because of Jobs’ role in its development, covers the functionality of multi-touch screens in the iPad, the iPhone, and the iPod touch.

This broad sweeping patent, which is for “a touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics,”covers 20 different claims, and it is a key patent in Apple’s claims against Samsung.

Apple used the Steve Jobs patent, which is one of its most famous software patents, in its lawsuit against Samsung and it was also part of a dispute with Motorola.

Though the patent was declared invalid, the ruling is preliminary and non-final. USPTO rules state that the office must provide an initial answer (this was part of a re-examination request) and then give the patent owner an opportunity to respond to the ruling. If Apple’s response is not accepted by the USPTO, the invalidation will be made final and the patent will no longer be in effect, though there are still many appeals that can be made. The fact that all 20 of the patent’s claims were invalidated looks ominous for Apple, though many patents survive this process according to Foss Patents.

As this proceeds, Apple can still use the patent in court, which means it will have no effect on the lawsuit with Samsung at this point in time. It is, however, potentially disastrous for Apple depending on how the ruling plays out in the end.

[via Foss Patents]

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