Patent wars, loved by lawyers, hated by pretty much anyone else. And of the patent wars, few have been as long running, acrimonious and at times, downright bloody stupid as the battle between Apple and Samsung over the latter’s alleged copying of the iPhone’s patented design. They’ve been at each others throats in court for 3 years on and off, with the verdict swinging one way and then the other. Well the US Patent Office is about to well and truly put the boot into Apple’s case by invalidating one of the major patents at the centre of the case.
A brief note about patent law
Before I get further into it you need to understand a little about patents. If you apply for a patent and it is rejected you can, under certain circumstances, re submit the patent or derivatives of it and claim protection for your new patent(s) from the ORIGINAL filing date, that is the date you originally filed the rejected patent. This is important because the patent we are talking about (D618677) relied upon 2 earlier patents to claim it’s filing date.
Back to the action
But now the USPO has said that Apple has no right to that earlier date as the 2 previous patents didn’t mention the design details shown in D618677 which means it is only able to get protection for this design from November 2008, but it gets worse (for Apple at least). Between the originally granted filing day and the now revised filing day several other patents were granted for mobile phone designs which now form a pretty solid wall of “prior art” which means Apple would not have been granted the patent and may have those patent holders consulting their lawyers to see if they can now sue Apple and/or Samsung for copying their designs. While the judgement is not final it’s hard to see Apple being able to revive this patent without the original filing date and the USPO has been thinking about this one long and hard, so that’s unlikely. Of course Apple and Samsung’s lawyers will still need to go back to court to get the original ruling overturned, but I suspect Samsung’s lawyers (and Samsung itself) will be more than happy to do this. Source FOSS Patents via Android Police