USPTO Calls Apple's "Rubber Banding" Patent Invalid

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has reportedly declared all twenty claims in Apple's "rubber-banding" patent invalid in a non-final Office action. This patent was one of several used in Apple's California patent infringement lawsuit against Samsung over the summer.

The South Korean company informed Judge Koh about the invalidation in a filing late Monday night.

It's currently unknown as to who requested the re-examination of the patent, and the identity wasn't disclosed when the request was submitted during the spring. Samsung is, naturally, at the top of the suspect list, followed by HTC, which is also under attack by Apple based on the same patent. Google also has an interest given that the lawsuits center around its mobile operating system, Android.

The patent in question, "List scrolling and document translation, scaling, and rotation on a touch-screen display," describes what happens when iOS users reach the end of a scrolling list or pane, among other things. Users see the screen somewhat "bounce" as if its connected to the device with rubber bands.

However, Apple isn't the only device maker to use this animation -- Samsung's TouchWiz interface is just one other that uses it. But Samsung removed the bounce animation anyway, replacing the elasticity with a "blue glow," which flares up when the user reaches the end – similar to what Google did in Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" (though it was more a pumpkin color). But the workaround couldn't be submitted as evidence to the jury due to sanctions for litigation misconduct, thus Samsung was made liable for damages.

As it stands now, the patent in question hasn't been fully deemed as invalid by the USPTO – the new declaration is merely a "first-glance verdict" sparked by the re-examination request.

"Apple's rubber-banding (overscroll-bounce) patent is still going to go through a lengthy process before it may or may not be invalidated," said IP analyst Florian Mueller. "There can be more than one non-final Office action. Even a 'final Office action' is not final at all."

Mueller points out that Apple has many patents in play against Android, and it doesn't matter if one or several patents are rendered invalid – the company just needs enough to ensure product differentiation. However, this particular patent is a signature element of iOS, and Apple is expected to appeal against the USPTO decision at all costs.

Meanwhile, as Mueller stated, the patent itself will go through a lengthy process to determine if its truly invalid or not.

"It can be reconsidered by the Central Reexamination Division itself, and the last decision by that division can be appealed to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI), which is like an USPTO-internal appeals court," he said. "Remands by the BPAI to the Central Reexamination Division cause further delay."

Once the USPTO is done with it, the decision can be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. What's more, a Federal Circuit decision can be appealed to the Supreme Court which really doesn't deal will many patent validity cases.

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  • hate machine
    Ut Oh! Hey look an Apple article not posted by Zak Islam.
  • Bloob
    Things like this should not be patentable!
    I could see one implementation of it being patentable, but the idea itself certainly should not be.
  • bllue
    Apple is the cancer of the patent world
  • house70
    A ray of light through the iCloud...
  • LukeCWM
    house70A ray of light through the iCloud...
    The lands are darkening, and a shadow is growing in the East. There is evil in Mordor that does not sleep... Oh wait, that's West. Must be the iCloud. =]
  • murzar
    From what I read.. most of Apple's case revolved around this and the rounded corners design.

    The more I read about this case, the more angry I get.
  • overlandpark4me
    Coming soon, Apple sues for their power on feature.
  • scottiemedic
    The more patent lawsuit cases I read, the more I dislike my iPhone being made by such pettiness in companies...
  • svdb
    In some European countries software (features) cannot be patented because it is believed that otherwise a competitor would not be able to propose a similar feature that is implemented better. They only allow the source code to be protected by copy-right to prevent straight theft.
  • f-14
    this whole lawsuit seems pretty ridiculous in itself and for once i have to agree with apple, the whole bounce thing, vs microsofts stop and androids color flare up.

    one thing i am famous for saying it there's a hundred ways to do something and still get the same outcome!
    fighting over how the result happens in terminating a page seems as ridiculous as the twix commercial of flow vs cascade as can be seen here.
    TWIX - "Ideologies" Commercial - Extended Version