Apple's Controversial Page Turn Animation Patents Challenged

Apple’s controversial design patents covering page turn animations are under attack by an anonymous party seeking to invalidate them, as revealed by The US PTO Litigation Alert blog and reported by FOSS Patents Wednesday. Two design patents, Nos. D670,713 and D699,906, are the target of the challenge.

The patents were granted in October and November of 2012 and cover both single-page and multi-page “open book” style animated page turns, like those found in Apple’s iBooks and numerous other Apple iOS apps.

Apple Page Turn Patent Challenge

Apple Page Turn Patent Challenge
Images via FOSS Patents

The decision by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) to grant the patents drew significant criticism, as many felt the animation was neither novel to Apple nor specific enough to qualify for patent protection. Nick Bilton of The New York Times sarcastically described the situation at the time:

Yes, that’s right. Apple now owns the page turn. You know, as when you turn a page with your hand. An “interface” that has been around for hundreds of years in physical form. I swear I’ve seen similar animation in Disney or Warner Brothers cartoons.

Now, with the anonymous challenge, Apple may lose a patent that many felt should never have been granted in the first place. From the US PTO Litigation Alert blog:

On Monday an anonymous party requested ex parte reexamination of two Apple design patents – U.S. Design Patent Nos. 670,713 and 669,906 – claiming display screen images simulating page-turning.

This is by far not the first Apple patent to be challenged, but it is relatively unique in that most challenges arise only after Apple has asserted its patent in litigation against an allegedly infringing company. The timing and motivation of the page turn patent challenge leaves open several possibilities, as elaborated by FOSS Patents:

In this case, the motivation behind the reexamination requests may be that someone actually being sued by Apple (or anticipating such litigation) decided to launch a pre-emptive strike. All the media coverage of the grant of the D’713 patent may have sparked the interest of someone who feels that patents of this kind must be defeated before they can do any damage through litigation. Makers of e-reader devices must be particularly concerned about page-turn design patents.

The USPTO will now evaluate the challenge application and make a decision on whether to proceed with the invalidation process. We will report on any further developments, including the identity of the anonymous challenge if it is revealed.