In the ongoing patent dispute between Apple and Samsung in the Australian Federal Court, Samsung counsel Richard Cobden has questioned the validity of the Apple gesture patents that Samsung is alleged to have infringed, stating that a "beautiful or elegant" gesture is not something that can be patented.
The long-running case kicked off in July 2011, when Apple sued Samsung over alleged patent infringement in the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.
Apple alleges that its patents over the "slide to unlock" gesture to gain access, as well as the pinch-to-zoom and edge-bounce features when viewing images and reading documents on devices, have been infringed by Samsung.
But in the Federal Court today, when making the argument that Samsung has not infringed on Apple's patents, Cobden said that Apple's patents describe human-computer interaction — and this is a design principle that is not patentable. He said that Apple inferring that functionality is gained through gestures because the movements are "elegant or beautiful", and therefore people will want to use those gestures more, is not a valid argument for the patent to have been granted.
"Patents are not granted for the reason that something is beautiful or elegant," he said. "The attractiveness of a feature is subjective.
"We dispute functionality can be derived from the attractiveness of a feature. What is subjectively beautiful to one may not be beautiful to another."
The gestures are better defined as fine art, and therefore not able to be patented, Cobden said.
At the same time, Samsung is seeking to invalidate the patents with the Australian Commissioner of Patents, arguing that Apple can't hold innovation patents and be granted standard patents for the same patents.
The standard patents expire in 2028, but the innovation patents expire sooner, in 2016. Cobdern said that Samsung is seeking to have the patents declared invalid to "clear the deck to prevent Apple from threatening the market" with more patent suits.
In an unusual step, the case now has two judges: Justice Annabelle Bennett and Justice David Yates. The two judges are hearing the case at the same time. Bennett suggested the two-judge system back in July last year.
Hearings for the case are scheduled to run until the end of this year.