A win came for Samsung last night as the United States Patent and Trademark Office has invalidated all 20 claims of Apple’s US Patent No 7,479,949. Patent number 7,479,949 covered the bounce-back scrolling effect that Apple uses on its devices and it was one of the big patents that Samsung was held to have infringed in its early Galaxy devices. One of the biggest problems with the US patent system is its reliance on inexperienced juries to determine patent validity, rather than having the validity determined by an expert judge. Juries don’t understand patent law, and the jury in the Apple v Samsung case apparently ignored evidence of prior art, because it was ‘bogging [them] down’.
The USPTO has re-examined patent 7,479,949 and has found a number of examples of prior art that anticipate its claims, including one prior patent from Apple itself. As I’ve discussed previously, patents can only be granted for things that are new and inventive, and the existing patents effectively disclose Apple’s ‘invention’, with the USPTO deciding that patent 7,479,949 did not include an inventive step over what was already in the prior art base.
Of course Apple will appeal this ruling, but it is likely that the examiner’s decision will be upheld. If nothing else, it’ll reduce the damages that Samsung owes, and should give them some ammunition to have the whole matter re-tried or dismissed. Patents!
[Edit]: Android Police have a brilliant article that discusses the decision (and the patents) in lots of detail.