German Court Uses Apple Video to Kill Bounce Back Patent

A German court has said that the patent covering Apple's bounce back, or rubberband, scroll effect on the iPhone based on a prior art argument isn't valid. The proof that swayed the court was a video of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs demonstrating the original iPhone in 2007 ahead of the patent application filing. In other words, Apple was the prior art that ultimately led to the German court invalidating the patent.

Apple's own demonstration was used against it to invalidate the rubberband patentApple's own demonstration was used against it to invalidate the rubberband patent

The ruling should put a smile on the faces of Samsung and Google executives because it means a mobile device photo management patent they've been fighting over with Apple in the country can't be used against them. This won't ruin Apple's chances of stopping Samsung and other Android device makers from copying its technology, but it does mean the iPhone and iPad maker will need to work on new legal strategies in Germany.

Citing a company's own demonstration of its technology as prior art and then using that to invalidate the related patent sounds completely backwards, and from the perspective of the average person it most certainly is. From a legal perspective, however, it's a completely different thing.

In this case, the argument goes something like this: Apple showed off its rubberband effect that makes a page over extend and then bounce back when you scroll to its end, and that demonstration happened to precede the patent filing by a few months. Since the filing hadn't already happened, the demonstration meets the legal requirements for prior art, and that's enough for German courts to invalidate it even though U.S. courts have a different perspective.

European countries don't have a grace period that allows for a patent filing after a public demonstration, but at the time the United States did -- a 12 month grace period, in fact. Currently, inventors have a six month window where they can still file for a patent after a public demonstration.

The German ruling hurts Apple, but the company still has options for defending its technology in the country thanks to a set of utility patents that the court hasn't ruled invalid. Those patents also cover the bounce back effect, and while they aren't considered full patents, will still come in handy for Apple's defense plans.

While the ruling isn't good news in Germany, it most likely won't have a major impact on Apple throughout the rest of Europe since the evidence presented to invalidate the patent was the company's own demonstration.

Apple will most likely appeal the ruling, and if the company can get its patent brought back to life in the country it'll then be able to push to reinstate its related patent infringement case against Samsung.

This week's ruling won't make Apple's courtroom fights any easier, but it isn't the end of the line. The big takeaway is that patent law seems to defy logic, no matter which country you're in.

[Thanks to FOSS Patents for the heads up]