USPTO rejects Apple’s 'pinch to zoom' patent (again)

Rejected claims in a key Apple touchscreen patent could have an impact on its patent suit with Samsung.
Written by Liam Tung, Contributing Writer

The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has once again rejected Apple's claims over a patent that plays a key role in its infringement suit with rival Samsung.

Samsung's legal team on Sunday filed in a US court the USPTO's "final" decision to reject 20 claims in Apple's pinch-to-zoom patent 7,844,915. Apple now has two months to argue for its validity.

The USPTO similarly rejected Apple's claims in the same patent last December and both times it has rejected claim 8, which was central to a jury's previous finding that 21 Samsung devices infringed on Apple's patent.

As noted by patents expert Florian Mueller, a jury will be asked this November to reassess damages to be awarded to Apple based on 13 Samsung products, including 12 that were found to infringe patent '915.

Total damages to Apple were set at $1.05bn last year but the final amount is still pending further court decisions.

Despite the seemingly negative outcome for Apple, it remains to be seen what impact the USPTO's latest decision has on the US company's legal prospects against Samsung.

As previously noted by Mueller, Apple has argued that in the US it would still be entitled to already-awarded damages even if claims in the patent were later cancelled under re-examination. Apple does not expect those claims to be invalidated until at least 2017.

The other key Apple patent that has faced re-examination is Patent No. 7,469, 381 covering its "rubber band"  touchscreen feature. The USPTO in April gave a 'final' rejection to most of the claims in that patent, leaving Apple with the opportunity to appeal to its appeals board or the courts.

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