California Intellectual Property Blog


Apple Suffers Patent Invalidation in Samsung Case

iphoneLos Angeles – In what could serve as a turning point in the ongoing Apple vs. Samsung patent saga, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) handed down a decision that questions the validity of one of Apple’s design patents for its mobile phones. The ruling came down after a request for reexamination was made anonymously, however all signs point to the request coming from rival tech giant Samsung, which has been engaged in a years’ long bout with Apple over its patented phone features.

The non-final action in the reexamination was handed down on August 5, 2015 and concerns a feature of the iPhone contained in U.S. Design Patent No. 618,677, the text of which claims “the ornamental design of an electronic device”. Apple filed the original D‘677 patent application back in the summer of 2010 and given the recent invalidation action, the chances that Apple will be successful in keeping this patent are becoming more and more grim. Several commentators have echoed this sentiment, finding that since it took almost two years for the USPTO to make a ruling on the reexamination request, it likely will not reverse its conclusion.

As for the reasoning behind the invalidity finding, in its decision the USPTO pointed out that the very same claim had been previously denied patentability on two separate occasions on the grounds of obviousness.

The decision could have widespread impact on the Cupertino based company because the D‘677 patent was implicated as far back as the original lawsuit between the two tech giants, in which Samsung was found to have infringed on several of the iPhone’s design features, with models such as the Galaxy S 4G, the Epic 4G Touch, Mesmerize, Infuse 4G and Vibrant.

Given the implications of an invalid D‘677 patent, Samsung could be better positioned in the ongoing appeals proceedings stemming from the original patent trial. While no money has actually been paid by Samsung as of yet, any strike against Apple could have big money effects on both parties. Already the original damages ruling has been reduced to $548 million, down from the original $1.05 billion judgment.


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