The U.S. Patent and Trademark office threw Samsung a bone on Monday when it invalidated Apple's "rubberband" effect patent. The ruling is preliminary, so Apple still has an opportunity to find a way to change the agency's mind.
Samsung gets a break in its patent fight with Apple
The patent in question covers the visual effect where a page appears to overshoot and bounce back in place when users scroll to the end. Apple uses the effect as a cue to let iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users know when they reach the end of a window or document.
The patent was ruled invalid for being obvious and for lack of novelty, according to Florian Mueller of Foss Patents. As part of its ruling, the USPTO said it found references to the rubberband effect that pre-date Apple's patent.
Mr. Mueller commented,
This means that Apple would have to convince the patent office (or, possibly, the appeals court) not only that rubber-banding was new despite the earlier existence of those documents (a finding of anticipation is a determination that there was no inventive step at all) but also that its claimed inventive step is sufficient to justify the existence of the rubber-banding patent.
The rubberband effect was part of Samsung's version of the Android operating system, but the company removed it after facing legal action from Apple for patent infringement. Assuming the USPTO refuses to reverse yesterday's ruling, Samsung will use that as a tool in its ongoing patent fight with Apple even if it doesn't bring the effect back to its mobile devices.
Samsung is already working on using the ruling to reverse a Jury's finding that it willfully infringed on several Apple mobile device patents. A Federal Court Jury ruled in August that Samsung's Galaxy smartphones and tablets infringe on Apple's patents, and awarded the iPhone and iPad maker over US$1 billion in damages.
Apple hasn't commented on the USPTO ruling.