Apple's "bounce scroll" rubber-banding patent has been invalidated, at least preliminarily, by the US Patent and Trade Office, potentially throwing the company's legal victory over Samsung into disarray. The decision by the USPTO to tentatively withdraw patent 7,469,381 is down to "lack of novelty" among other factors FOSSPatents reports, with prior art supposedly indicating that Apple was suitably imaginative with the bounce-overscroll effect to warrant a patent on it. Exactly who requested the re-examination of the patent is unclear at this stage, though there are plenty of potential candidates.
Samsung is obviously high on the list, given Apple has used elements of the overscroll patent to slap down the Galaxy-series of phones and tablets in the past. In particular, Apple cited claim 19 of the patent against Samsung's Android-based devices, a claim which the USPTO now says is rejected for two prior developments.
However, HTC is also under attack from Apple with allegations of copying based on the same patent, and Google would undoubtedly have a vested interest in requesting the validity of the patent be re-examined. The identity of the organization requesting it take place, however, is not shared by the USPTO, though it was apparently filed in the spring of this year.
The patent, titled "List scrolling and document translation, scaling, and rotation on a touch-screen display," describes - among other things - the ways Apple envisages iOS users being made aware that they have reached the end of a scrolling list or pane. The screen "bounces" as if caught on rubber bands; a similar animation was used in Samsung's earlier TouchWiz interface.
When that was highlighted, Samsung swapped the animation for a "blue glow" which flares up from the end of the list when it is reached. However, the company was prevented from submitting that work as evidence in the US courts, having not revealed its source until after a deadline for evidence submission. Meanwhile, Samsung, Motorola, and HTC have all requested the European counterpart to the patent be re-examined, and - while there's no guarantee the European Patent Office will agree with the USPTO - should it be rejected the injunction Apple has against Motorola Mobility devices in Germany would likely be abandoned.
Apple can - and undoubtedly will - appeal against the decision, and there's a long way to go before the patent is off the books. The process to battle through whether it is legitimate or not is likely to be a lengthy one, however, with a considerable prior-art search to be undertaken. Meanwhile, it's not the only patent with which Apple has been spanking Samsung, and it's unclear to what extent invalidating it would affect the expensive judgement against the Korean firm.