Friday, December 21, 2012

USPTO invalidates Apple's pinch-to-zoom patent

As we saw earlier, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued a preliminary ruling invalidating another key Apple patent. This one is for a feature familiar to people using any of the current smartphone platforms: pinch-to-zoom.

The ruling came on Wednesday, but did not hit the media until Friday; earlier in December, the USPTO issued a similar ruling on the so-called "Steve Jobs Patent." These are, however, preliminary -- not final -- rulings, and Apple can appeal.

The USPTO rejected all claims in Apple's patent on Wednesday. According to a document issued by the patent office that was filed by Samsung in federal court in San Jose, Calif. on the same day, portions of the patent were struck down on re-examination, with the USPTO determining that prior patents already covered those innovations.

In order for the claims in the Apple patent to be valid, they must be considered patentable despite any "prior art patent and printed publication cited." This, the USPTO said, was not true.

In August, Apple was awarded $1.05 billion in damages after a jury ruled that Samsung had willfully violated Apple patents in the design of some of its devices. It is unclear if this decision -- if upheld -- will affect that award.

The pinch-to-zoom gesture allows an end user to zoom in or out of a view by moving two fingers farther apart or closer together while touching a touchscreen display.

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