‘Pinch to Zoom’ Patent Facing Review by USPTO

Sam Reynolds — December 20th, 2012

Officials at the US Patent and Trade Office declared Wednesday that another strategic Apple patent should not have been awarded to the company.

This is the third Apple patent post-Apple v. Samsung to be tentatively rejected by the USPTO following an “ex parte” request for re-examination.

In a letter to Apple and Samsung dated December 19, the USPTO declared it has tentatively rejected all 21 claims of Apple’s ‘pinch to zoom’ patent — which anchored its case against Samsung this summer — known legally as U.S. patent no. 7,844,915 (the ‘915 patent) on “Application programming interfaces for scrolling operations.”

Apple will certainly appeal the decision.

According to the USPTO the patent is invalid on the basis that its claims are either obvious or invalidated by prior art.

Patent blogger Florian Mueller points out that during the Apple v. Samsung trial, Apple claimed that this patent was the most commercially valuable out of all the multitouch patents demanding a per-unit royalty of $3.10 compared to the other two patents that were valued at $2.02.

Mr. Mueller believes that of all the patents rejected by the USPTO (which he stresses does not mean the patents are invalid) the ‘915 patent has the best chance of surviving appeal.

“Of the three Apple multitouch software patents that have given rise to tentative rejections in the form of first Office action, I believe the ’915 patent is most likely to have some surviving claims when all is said and done,” Mr. Mueller blogs. “There will be some back-and-forth and some roller coaster rides, and in the meantime, tentative rejections don’t affect the enforceability of a patent claim.”

While things seem to be going in favour of Samsung with these recent rejections, the company could be facing trouble in the EU.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, a branch of the EU’s competition watchdog is investigating Samsung to see whether the company’s past use of injunctions against Apple violated antitrust rules.

“We will issue a statement of objections very soon, I don’t know if at the end of this year or at beginning of next year, because we are in the last step of our internal procedure,” the head of the Watchdog told the Wall Street Journal.