“Steve Jobs Patent” Preliminary Ruled As Entirely Invalid, Could Affect $1Bn Samsung Lawsuit

The “Steve Jobs patent” for the Apple iPhone is invalid, according to a preliminary ruling declared by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) this week.

On Friday, Florian Mueller posted on his FOSS Patents blog a header of the Office Action in Ex Parte Examination on the most famous patent spearheaded by the late Steve Jobs – referred to by many people, including Apple’s own lawyers, as the “Steve Jobs patent”, which is now subject to further review.

"Steve Jobs Patent" Preliminary Ruled As Entirely Invalid, Could Affect $1Bn Samsung Lawsuit

Image: FOSS Patents by Florian Mueller

The USPTO disputes the claims of the “Steve Jobs patent” (U.S. Patent No. 7,479,949), which focuses on a “touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics.”

The abstract of U.S. Patent No. 7,479,949 says,

A computer-implemented method for use in conjunction with a computing device with a touch screen display comprises: detecting one or more finger contacts with the touch screen display, applying one or more heuristics to the one or more finger contacts to determine a command for the device, and processing the command. The one or more heuristics comprise: a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a one-dimensional vertical screen scrolling command, a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a two-dimensional screen translation command, and a heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a command to transition from displaying a respective item in a set of items to displaying a next item in the set of items.

This patent, as part of many others, names Steve Jobs first in a list of its inventors, including Scott Forstall, known as the iPod creator and former SVP of iOS Software at Apple. Many of Jobs’s more than 300 patents relate to design. Among software patents, U.S. Patent No. 7,479,949 arguably is the most popular piece. The USPTO, which now seems to have second thoughts on the patent, even held an exhibition related to Steve Jobs’s patents.

The International Trade Commission had a different ruling. FOSS Patents’s Mueller writes, “In late October, a preliminary ruling by an ITC judge deemed this patent valid and held Samsung to infringe it (as well as three other patents). The ITC staff supports the judge’s initial determination.”

The USPTO granted Apple the “Steve Jobs patent” in January 2009, and the company has added it into several apps since that time. In 2010, the Patent Office denied a petition for reexamination against the “Steve Jobs patent”, but another petition successfully reopened it for redirect examination. The USPTO’s preliminary result found the patent invalid in its entirety.

The possible relinquishment of this patent, which also relates to multi-touch screen technology, could affect its other existing court cases – a California jury held Samsung to infringe that patent, as part of many others, and ordered the Korean company to pay Apple an estimated $1 billion in damages. Samsung has appealed the August ruling and is now in a court hearing.

The decision marks the second time in around two months that Apple is on the losing side of a patent ruling. In October, the USPTO advised Apple that 20 claims of its rubber-banding patent were invalid. The FOSS Patents blog notes it was several months after a jury awarded Apple the patent infringement case, but now, with the appeal in a court hearing, it may swing over to Samsung’s favor. That and the patent decision this week could affect how jury’s decision.

Note, however, that the Patent Office’s decision is just a preliminary ruling. Apple could still find itself rewarded with the patent in the end, but Samsung, Motorola, Google and other firms worldwide who are currently engaged in lawsuits against Apple are eyeing the final ruling.

Note

An expanded version of the abstract is on the first claim of U.S. Patent No. 7,479,949, which says,

A computing device, comprising: a touch screen display; one or more processors; memory; and one or more programs, wherein the one or more programs are stored in the memory and configured to be executed by the one or more processors, the one or more programs including: instructions for detecting one or more finger contacts with the touch screen display; instructions for applying one or more heuristics to the one or more finger contacts to determine a command for the device; and instructions for processing the command; wherein the one or more heuristics comprise: a vertical screen scrolling heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a one-dimensional vertical screen scrolling command rather than a two-dimensional screen translation command based on an angle of initial movement of a finger contact with respect to the touch screen display; a two-dimensional screen translation heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to the two-dimensional screen translation command rather than the one-dimensional vertical screen scrolling command based on the angle of initial movement of the finger contact with respect to the touch screen display; and a next item heuristic for determining that the one or more finger contacts correspond to a command to transition from displaying a respective item in a set of items to displaying a next item in the set of items.

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Francis Rey Balolong

A coffee junkie who spends most of his time writing about the latest news on social media and mobile technology. I would definitely consider myself a nerd (in the coolest most hipster way possible). That being said, I love technology, music, writing, and all things mobile.
Tags: us patent office, foss patents, patent office

Francis Rey Balolong the author

A coffee junkie who spends most of his time writing about the latest news on social media and mobile technology. I would definitely consider myself a nerd (in the coolest most hipster way possible). That being said, I love technology, music, writing, and all things mobile.
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