Apple 'bounce-back' patent declared invalid in Germany thanks to Steve Jobs video

Apple 'bounce-back' patent declared invalid in Germany thanks to Steve Jobs video

Summary: Citing a 2007 presentation by Jobs, a German court strikes down a patent for iOS' rubber band effect.

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TOPICS: Mobility, Apple, iOS, Patents, EU
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Last week, Germany's federal patent court declared Apple's iOS 'bounce-back effect' patent invalid, in a case brought by Samsung and Motorola. The reasoning? The court said that a January 2007 presentation by Apple's then CEO Steve Jobs, where he unveiled the iPhone (and in it, the now infamous effect) is considered "prior art", as it was made before the patent request was filed.

"Prior art" refers to information that is made public before a patent is filed, which can be used to contest an invention's claims of originality.

In the US at the time, patent law allowed for a 12-month grace period before a patent is filed, where a presentation like Jobs' would not have been considered prior art. (Apple filed the bounce-back patent in August 2007.) However, in Germany, no such grace period exists, and Jobs' demonstration of the effect — where he moves a photo around an iPhone screen and it bounces back to the centre — was enough to have the patent declared invalid.

The bounce-back effect has emerged as an important — albeit somewhat esoteric — element in a global patent battle between Apple and Samsung over their respective mobile operating systems. Last year, a Dutch court banned the sale of some older Samsung phones in the country, since they infringed on Apple's bounce-back patent. Earlier this year, a court in Japan ruled similarly.

In the US, the country's Patent and Trademark Office initially found in favor of Samsung, but eventually reversed its decision, saying that the company infringed on Apple's 'rubber-banding' patent.

The German court ruling applies specifically to the bounce-back implementation in photo galleries, so it isn't as broad as the US Patent Office ruling, which applies to the functionality more generally. 

In a sign that Samsung is working around the patent at issue, the company has implemented a "blue flash" effect in newer versions of some of its mobile applications, where a bluish halo replaces the bounce-back effect.

Apple can still appeal the German court's ruling.

Topics: Mobility, Apple, iOS, Patents, EU

Michael Filtz

About Michael Filtz

From the day he brought home a modem and dialed in to a local BBS in 1991, Michael has been obsessed with technology and how it enables collaboration. He has a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley, and has worked in and around the technology start-up scenes in San Francisco and Berlin.

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13 comments
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  • Stupid Germans

    I invent something. I show it to some folks. I patent it before anyone else. Germans say no good because I showed it.

    What idiots.
    DontUseMicrosoftAtAll
    • Take it easy,I bet Apple stole it too...

      Take it easy,I bet Apple stole it too...
      anywherehome
      • Oh?

        Then smart guy can you tell us who they "stole" it from?
        athynz
        • Jobs: "We are shameless about stealing great ideas."

          according to the experience and facts:

          Jobs: "We are shameless about stealing great ideas."
          "All your Rectangle with Rounded Corners are Belong to Apple"
          "Apple played 'central role' in ebook price-fixing conspiracy"
          "Apple, Adobe called out in Australian parliament"

          it's very very probable ;)

          you should read more to understand more the world :)
          anywherehome
    • That's how patents work.

      Look, an idea has to be novel to be patentable... and that means 'no one else has done it or seen it before' (that's the definition of 'novel'). If a significant group of people sees the idea before the patent is filed, then the idea is no longer novel. The fact that Apple revealed it isn't relevant.

      The US modification to patent law is actually the error, not the German one. US patent laws are trying to make it as easy as possible to patent something by stepping on public domain (which is a trend in the US... the same thing has happened with copyright laws as well).
      The Werewolf!
      • But here, the invention is considered prior art (relative to the invention)

        I'm listed as the inventor on more than a dozen US patents (assigned to a former employer). This kind of weirdness is news to me - and we used to take patent training *every* year.

        As far as I know, every one of my patents was filed after the invention initially shipped. It takes *a long* time to get a patent application ready to file - lawyers are slower than engineers.
        Flydog57
  • Hmmm..

    So the legal requirement in the US can be used against you in the EU? Whereas the law in the EU has no direct consequences in the US?
    Something is rotten in the State of Denmark
    frogspaw
  • LOL

    LOL, I'm no fan of Apple's IP claims but the mind-numbing stupidity of thus ruling shows just how absurd and Kafkaesque patent law has become.
    dsf3g
    • nope

      this is just how the patent law works here and in Europe. All presentations by a company employees are vetted by the company lawyers. This one was not, or maybe Jobs was just too tempted to show off.

      On the other note, what is RIDICULOUS is to be able to PATENT this revolutionary technological advancement,,,
      pupkin_z
  • Apple's patent trolling power

    is subsiding, it seems. Microsoft with its exFat long filenames, you're next, I hope.
    eulampius
    • Not a chance.

      That's just the German courts "interpretation", and a silly one at that.

      I see this being overturned in the future, as something smells fishy here.
      William.Farrel
      • Wrong.

        Prior art. Apple should have patented this in the EU before showing it off. Once an item is shown off to the world you can not rush to patent office 6 months later and try to have a patent issued. This is standard practice world wide.
        As for the owner having bought his employees patents, wrong, the employee is still the inventor and has every right to cancel your use of his patents unless you had it written into his contract any inventions etc he makes belong to you.
        It's like a photo, the person that pushes the button on the camera is the photographer, not the owner of the camera. Hence the person who pressed the camera button holds the copyright, not the camera owner.
        Mudrat70
  • Good: No more bounce back on non-Apple devices?

    I HATE that effect!
    ;-}
    arocee