Right now Apple is embroiled in so many patent-related lawsuits, that I’ve frankly lost count of them all. In a could key cases (versus Samsung and versus Motorola) a couple patents stand out in their importance. They are the “bounce back patent” and the “Steve Jobs” patent for multitouch activities. The US Patent Office has made a preliminary ruling that those patents are invalid. But because you scream that all hope is lost, the fight isn’t over yet.
FOSS Patents, as usual, has the details of the ruling:
This week, the USPTO issued a first Office action rejecting all 20 claims of U.S. Patent No. 7,479,949 on a “touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics”, which has been referred to by many people, including Apple’s own lawyers, as “the Steve Jobs patent”.
What is most critical to understand is this explanation of what the preliminary nature of the ruling really means:
I have said on various occasions that first Office actions and other non-final Office actions are just preliminary. Many patent claims that are rejected at this stage do ultimately survive. There are many steps inside the USPTO, followed by a potential appeal to the Federal Circuit (and in a few cases even the Supreme Court). Some people say that first Office actions are partial because they are based only on submissions made by those challenging the patent, and many examiners like to take a tough position early on in order to enable and require the patentee to present the strongest arguments in favor of validity. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the significance of a first Office action. Also, a complete rejection of all claims of a given patent is potentially more devastating than one affecting only some claims.
This is like a legal shot across the bow for Apple. It’s saying: “we don’t think you’re right, prove to us that you are by refuting all these claims to the contrary…”
So the fight isn’t over, but Apple has a lot of work to do if it wants to maintain the validity of the patents.