USPTO invalidates Apple design patent used against Samsung

If you thought the patent squabble between frenemies Apple and Samsung was over, better wake up and smell the coffee. Or in this case, read the US Patent and Trademark Office's latest finding. According to the Central Reexamination Division of the USPTO, Apple Design Patent number 618,677 is invalid on grounds of "obviousness" and prior art. This D'677 was one of the more important patents used by Cupertino to sue Samsung for infringement, a case that would have awarded it half a billion dollars if not for this recent ruling.

The USPTO held that Apple's claim to the patent is rejected on multiple grounds under several articles of Title 5 of the US patent Code (USC). One rejection based on obviousness was due to a patent held by LG, Samsung's Korean rival, combined with other Japanese patent applications. Almost ironically, one of the rejections on the grounds of obviousness comes from Apple's own prior design patents. The USPTO ruled that the D'677 patent should not be able to benefit from the filing date of two earlier Apple patents since the particular design was not disclosed in those two older patents.

D'677 was one of the key iPhone design patents that Apple used as a weapon against Samsung in one of the most high-profile patent litigations in tech history. While the validity of patents themselves have already been questioned to no end, many have also questioned the amount that was levied on Samsung as payment for design patent damages, almost $547 million in total. This has been characterized as an exorbitant amount that makes a dangerous precedent as well.

Samsung has yet to make an official move or statement regarding this, but it is most likely to file a petition for a writ of certiorari within the Supreme Court in order to get the case reexamined in light of new evidence. That said, the USPTO's finding is a non-final action, and Apple could very well still take action to have its patent upheld. But given it took more than two years for the patent office to issue a verdict, the odds might be stacked against Apple this time.

VIA: FOSS Patents