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Pinch-To-Zoom Apple Patent Rejected By USPTO 110

Posted by Soulskill
from the somebody-pinch-me-and-patent-it dept.
freddienumber13 writes "In another patent surprise, a patent application by Apple for pinch-to-zoom has been rejected by the USPTO on the grounds that its claims were either anticipated by previous patents or simply unpatentable. This will be welcome news for Samsung, who back in April asked for a stay of the trial. However, Apple has a short period of time in which they can appeal this finding."
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Pinch-To-Zoom Apple Patent Rejected By USPTO

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  • by barlevg (2111272) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @03:25PM (#44428019)
    It seems like the USPTO is doing a *slightly* better job of not granting these absurd and frivolous patents. Love to see if they keep up this kind of thing.
    • by thaylin (555395) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @03:36PM (#44428137)
      not granting? This is a reexam.
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      It seems like the USPTO is doing a *slightly* better job of not granting these absurd and frivolous patents. Love to see if they keep up this kind of thing.

      Whoa, there cowpoke. Let's not acknowledged them for ordinary powers of observation over one "dee-NIED!"

      Now if they start making a habit of it, there may be cause to light one cupcake on fire in celebration.

      • by Kleen13 (1006327)
        So in the past has it been more of a "I got there 1st" race to the patent office?
      • by icebike (68054) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @04:26PM (#44428687)

        It seems like the USPTO is doing a *slightly* better job of not granting these absurd and frivolous patents. Love to see if they keep up this kind of thing.

        Whoa, there cowpoke. Let's not acknowledged them for ordinary powers of observation over one "dee-NIED!"

        Now if they start making a habit of it, there may be cause to light one cupcake on fire in celebration.

        Spot on.
        The re-examinations are starting to show some common sense.
        After the community at large finds the prior art for them, the patent office seem to fess up to their mistakes more easily than most government agencies.

        I'm not saying its the patent offices job to search for prior art, (but if Joe Random can find prior art [techcrunch.com] why can't they?), but voiding all of these patents only AFTER they have been issued
        and appealed, and used in court, and enforced by various import bans, and inflicted untold damage on the market place just seems backwards.

        Since we are now on a first to file basis, the idea of imposing a 1 year public comment period commencing just after the Patent office published an intent-to-award notice would seem a reasonable extension to the patent process. It would put the community or others in the field on notice of which patents need attention.

        As it is now, thousands of patents are filed and even the community efforts can't find all the prior art on every filing and the effort isn't warranted when significant percentage of patent applications will be rejected anyway.

        We probably need a Dewey Decimal System for patent claims, so that the search process would be faster.

        • by Zordak (123132)

          I'm not saying its the patent offices job to search for prior art,

          Yes it is. That is exactly their job.

          Since we are now on a first to file basis, the idea of imposing a 1 year public comment period commencing just after the Patent office published an intent-to-award notice would seem a reasonable extension to the patent process. It would put the community or others in the field on notice of which patents need attention.

          That is a non-sequiter. What does first-to-file have to do with anything? That only comes into play if Samsung for example filed a patent application, and then Apple filed one later and wanted to prove that they had invented first. What's more, this is a bad idea regardless. Your patent term is calculated from your earliest priority date, which means that we arbitrarily deprive patentees of one year of term, or we tack a year on to every patent term, which doesn't seem l

          • by icebike (68054)

            I'm not saying its the patent offices job to search for prior art,

            Yes it is. That is exactly their job.

            Wrong.
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prior_art#Duty_of_disclosure [wikipedia.org]
            http://www.uspto.gov/web/offices/pac/mpep/s2001.html [uspto.gov]

            Finding all prior art is the responsibility of the patent seeker. Failure to do so establishes a prima facie case of unpatentability.
            37 CFR 1.56.

            If you are indeed a lawyer, please stick to writing wills.

            • by Zordak (123132) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @09:41PM (#44430981) Homepage Journal

              I am a registered patent attorney. I live and breathe patents every day. I know what the duty of disclosure is. You do not. You sound like a twelve-year-old telling Richard Stallman that he doesn't know what the Free Software Foundation is all about because he heard the term "free software" and thought it was about warez. It's nice that you have the Google skills to find a link to the MPEP, but perhaps you should also try reading your own links. And while you're at it, read chapter 700 of the MPEP. Or at least read this page [uspto.gov] (the one that instructs the examiner to perform a search). Then try reading some patent file wrappers, and look at the examiner's search strategy that he puts in the record before every office action. And while we're at it, your misdirected ad hominem attack and your misuse of prima facie make you look all the more foolish (and yes, I'm aware that you pulled that phrase from s. 2001, but you don't understand what it means).

              In short, you are clueless about how patents work, as are most people on Slashdot, who think that patent prosecution is merely a ministerial act of rubber stamping an application. Patent prosecution is arduous and expensive. While there are occasional cases where examiners allow questionable claims, I have also had many, many opportunities to personally deal with examiners rejected claims on sorely strained arguments. Under W's appointee Jon Dudas (who was not even statutorily qualified for the post), the "Reject Everything" culture got so bad that the patent bar was practically in open revolt. You really have no idea what you're talking about.

        • I'm not saying its the patent offices job to search for prior art, (but if Joe Random can find prior art [techcrunch.com] why can't they?), but voiding all of these patents only AFTER they have been issued and appealed, and used in court, and enforced by various import bans, and inflicted untold damage on the market place just seems backwards.

          I thought searching for prior art was part of a patent examiner's job. Is that not correct?

          As you say, allowing shitty patents that later get overturned causes a great deal of damage to the market (and expense to our court system). It's interesting to note that Apple can also claim to have been damaged by this - after all, pinch-to-zoom (along with other gestures) was actually patented by Fingerworks, which Apple bought in 2005. Apple actually went the right way on this, legally - they wanted this patente

          • by icebike (68054)

            I thought searching for prior art was part of a patent examiner's job. Is that not correct?

            When you file for a patent, YOU have to search for prior art and document how your invention does not infringe each item.
            http://www.law.cornell.edu/cfr/text/37/1.56 [cornell.edu]

            • by ProfBooty (172603)

              Duty to disclose is only for art that applicant is aware of or believes is reasonably pertanant to the current application. This is why you see information disclosure statements which may have references cited in other pending cases, but may have nothing to do with the current claimset.

              If applicant searches and finds new art then they should disclose it in a later IDS. Strangely applicants do cite prior art which reads on their claims and may be found by a foreign office, but do not ammend the claims to get

          • by rtb61 (674572)

            However reality is, once a company invented a multi-point touch screen, the application is obvious. Which is why the patent should not have be granted initially. Reality is the USPTO failures should be billed back to them or the patent applicant as that cost should not be pushed upon others.

    • by ppanon (16583)
      I'm sorry, Who's zooming who? [youtube.com]
  • by Anonymous Coward

    YAY!

    that's all the text that is needed.

    • by ackthpt (218170)

      YAY!

      that's all the text that is needed.

      Disney has a trademark on Celebration, so watchit!

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        I thought Carinval did (though finding the link I found out it was sold).

        http://www.cruise-ships.com/carnival-cruise-lines/sold/celebration/
  • Even made it to the evening chat shows when Samsung lost. I look forward to them now making jokes about Apple abusing the system, or the utter shambles that's the US Patent office. For more lulz, Samsung should buy the original IP holder of pinch to zoom and counter sue Apple for stealing THEIR patents.
  • The main reason it was rejected appears to be that its claims were anticipated by patent 7,724,242 [uspto.gov]. But now that patent still covers a pretty wide range of the same things, and is still valid (at least so far).

    And if we look at who filed that patent, it's two people whose names appear at the list of Senior Inventors [intellectualventures.com] of everyone's favorite litigious organization that doesn't technically hold patents itself [slashdot.org]...

    • by MrDoh! (71235)
      At least deals could/would be done with the right people instead of Apple fraudulently trying to get the money? Or maybe it's part of MS's plan to weaken the opposition. Then again, don't all the Android makers pay MS for some patent they won't tell us about? Could this be related (as why everyone else hasn't been hit, just Samsung?)
      Don't know, it's going to continue to get messier as we go on I'm sure.
      But I still want to see Apple sued for infringing on someone else's patent. Which will make for fas
      • How do you know others haven't been hit and settled out of court with a gag order?

        • Worse how many still have to Apple for patents they no longer own due to licensing agreements?

          Doesn't matter if they were invalidated if you agreed Apple can sue if you do not pay each month etc.

          Next time you pay $699 for a Galaxy 4 S that cost $250 to make be happy you are paying Apple and other millionaires who invested in these rotten companies.

    • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

      When doing a re-exam they only look at one patent at a time unfortunately. At least now this one can't be weaponized in court.

    • by steelfood (895457)

      Anticipated, but likely not covered.

      Wouldn't stop the trolls from initiating lawsuits if they haven't already, but at least legally they'd be on shaky ground, and would have to settle for far less.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Giving patents to trolls is better than giving them to big players. That way it's more obvious that the system as it is benefits leeches rather than creators and there will be more pressure on fixing it. (assuming actual tech giants have more political power than IV, which I find likely)

  • by h4rr4r (612664)

    As much as I rag on Apple they should get a refund from the Patent Office, and something for their trouble.

    The Patent office should not hand out patents then take them back. It should have never been issued and their fees should at least be refunded. The examiner who granted this as some serious explaining to do.

    • by ergo98 (9391) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @03:38PM (#44428157) Homepage Journal

      Quite the opposite, if you file and are granted a patent for something that is later ruled invalid, there should be substantial penalties for the filer, because the purpose of a patent application is a government granted monopoly, leveraging the legal power and force of government to suppress other business. If you tell the government that you've done something novel that isn't, and prevent competition through that mechanism, there are substantial social costs (none of the benefits of invention, but all of the costs of a monopoly).

      • by h4rr4r (612664)

        Sure, but if you think it is novel and the government agrees then changes its mind that is wrong.

        I don't think it was novel, you don't, but someone did at some point.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by thaylin (555395)
          How is it wrong? The government is not all knowing, or all seeing. It makes mistakes, and has to correct those mistakes for the public interest. If you penalize the government like you are stating than they will just let these patents stand, contrary to public interest, which will just cause a rise in crappy patents.
          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            I want them to penalize the patent examiner.
            By making the patent office pay they are encouraged to do that.

            You might be correct though.

            • by thaylin (555395)
              Again how is that in the public interest? Do you want the examiner to have info on every single patent ever issued? Do you know how unrealistic that is? There is no way a single examiner can know every single patent, and all its claims. There is no search engine that can get all that information in a way that can reasonably be consumed or compared.
              • by h4rr4r (612664)

                Then they should not issue patents.
                If they cannot determine their validity why are they issuing them?

            • That'll encourage the government to avoid overturning patents its already granted given it's much easier to just keep saying "Our decision stands" than it is to overhaul the system of granting patents in the first place. Hard to see how that's a better deal.
      • by Dynedain (141758)

        It just comes down to burden of proof.

        Do you want the burden of proof to lie with the submitter (making the research process more expensive), or do you want the burden of proof to lie with the government (making the filing process more expensive).

        Either way, the people filing are paying for it, it's just a matter of how.

        • by thaylin (555395)
          The people filing. They should be subject matter experts on the patent. We cannot afford to have government employees who are SMEs on every subject working in the patent office.
          • by iapetus (24050)

            So you want patents to become increasingly the preserve of large companies who have the money to invest in the legal processes required to get a patent, and to discriminate against small businesses and individuals who want to protect their inventions? Because it's bad enough as it is - raising the bar for entry still further and worse, providing punishment for missing something would absolutely cut the process off for those without the resources to do the work upfront and weather the hit of potentially stil

        • No we are paying for it and all the competitors. A licensing agreement has clauses saying you will pay even if they are invalidated and they can sue you for billions if you violate it etc.

          It should be illegal but money can buy a lot of things if you are rich and powerful including laws, favors, and corrution.

          • by Dynedain (141758)

            What you described depends on the party-to-party licensing agreement. It is 100% between those two parties what to put in there. No laws force anything.

            • What you described depends on the party-to-party licensing agreement. It is 100% between those two parties what to put in there. No laws force anything.

              Except when your product uses fonts, touch, has a battery, etc

              Now your at mercy with the monopolist who says pay @$2,000,000,000 or else! So you must sign the agreement or else pay the fine and have an injunction on your product. Thats not fair as in essence this was not an agreement but forced action.

              • by Dynedain (141758)

                You're mixing up what I said.

                What you are describing is the cost of licensing a patent.
                The end purchaser shoulders the cost of patent licensing.

                What I described was the cost of validating a patent.
                The patent filer shoulders the burden of patent validation (either directly through research, or indirectly through increased filing fees so that patent clerks do the research).

                The patent filer can elect to recoup their costs by licensing or producing works that use their patent. However that is tangental to how t

              • by Dynedain (141758)

                ProTip: That agreement is negotiable.

      • Quite the opposite, if you file and are granted a patent for something that is later ruled invalid, there should be substantial penalties for the filer, because the purpose of a patent application is a government granted monopoly, leveraging the legal power and force of government to suppress other business. If you tell the government that you've done something novel that isn't, and prevent competition through that mechanism, there are substantial social costs (none of the benefits of invention, but all of the costs of a monopoly).

        In other words, no small inventor would ever again dare filing a patent, due to the risk of bankruptcy if the patent is later found invalid. Only the largest companies will be able to find patents.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          In other words, no small inventor would ever again dare filing a patent, due to the risk of bankruptcy if the patent is later found invalid. Only the largest companies will be able to find patents.

          It's not like the current patent system benefits the little guy or every will.

        • by mjwx (966435)

          Quite the opposite, if you file and are granted a patent for something that is later ruled invalid, there should be substantial penalties for the filer, because the purpose of a patent application is a government granted monopoly, leveraging the legal power and force of government to suppress other business. If you tell the government that you've done something novel that isn't, and prevent competition through that mechanism, there are substantial social costs (none of the benefits of invention, but all of the costs of a monopoly).

          In other words, no small inventor would ever again dare filing a patent, due to the risk of bankruptcy if the patent is later found invalid. Only the largest companies will be able to find patents.

          This is why you make the punishment in proportion to the crime.

          Companies that file 100's of frivolous patents to in a shotgun approach to prevent competition need to get fined out of existence. A company who accidentally files a patent that is too obvious and is later revoked shouldn't be punished severely.

          As always the intent of the crime comes into it. Apple has been filing patents to use as weapons against their competitors. As the patent system currently stands, no small inventor would risk invent

      • Quite the opposite, if you file and are granted a patent for something that is later ruled invalid, there should be substantial penalties for the filer, because the purpose of a patent application is a government granted monopoly, leveraging the legal power and force of government to suppress other business.

        But Apple didn't file for this patent - Fingerworks did. Apple bought them out in 2005 so they could use pinch-to-zoom along with other Fingerworks patents.

      • by Sir Holo (531007)

        ...if you file and are granted a patent for something that is later ruled invalid, there should be substantial penalties for the filer...

        The thing is, you can't know. Applications are made "public," but you'll need to know an exact application number to get to the application claims and description vie the public PAIR interface.

        That is, pending applications are not available in a searchable database.

    • by mjr167 (2477430)
      Or... don't submit stupid patents and you don't have to worry about wasting money getting them rejected/invalidated :P
    • by msobkow (48369)

      Nonsense.

      Apple should have done their research in the first place. They count on the patent office being lax with their approvals.

    • As much as I rag on Apple they should get a refund from the Patent Office, and something for their trouble.

      The Patent office should not hand out patents then take them back. It should have never been issued and their fees should at least be refunded. The examiner who granted this as some serious explaining to do.

      Nope and if you are competitor you still have to pay Apple for patents they no longer own. After all you agreed to it out of court right?

      So when you purchase a galaxy S that cost $250 to make for $699 you can rest assured Apple and CEOs of these shady IP companies like Intellectual ventures are stealing your money.

  • by ianare (1132971) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @03:34PM (#44428123)

    Apple seems to be losing much of the gains they made during the initial trial. Not even at appeal yet and already getting patents invalidaded.

    Hopefully this is part of a trend, where these ridiculous patents get thrown out, or even better, never granted in the first place.

    • It's too bad the jury in the original trial didn't do that patent invalidating itself.

      They had the opportunity, but insufficient information. Perhaps the Samsung lawyers did not consider invalidating the patent as a tactic. Perhaps the prior art had not been identified in time. Or perhaps the jury, being selected for gullibility and passivity, was just not competent to that point.

  • If Apple or any of these other bigCs could patent the letters A to Z, they would.
  • Silly Putty (Score:5, Funny)

    by sjames (1099) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @03:42PM (#44428215) Homepage

    Any child with Silly Putty would have anticipated the pinch to zoom patent.

  • The day apple stops innovating and starts spending millions of dollars on lawyers, we know it is inevitable it will go down hill. What I'm surprised though is how fast it comes down. Looking at their slumping market share and the report about 40% drops in their quarterly iphone sales in China are very troubling for the company. I'm not a apple hater but I did short its stock twice in the past and made a few coins. You guess it right, I will be watching their sales very closely in the next few quarters.
    • Apple is staying making money. Just off suing people instead even if the sales of iPhones are going down.

      China is in a recession right now with only 5% growth! I know in the US that is considered 1999 days, but for China it causes many to save cash as they are more used to 15% per year growth.

    • by PRMan (959735)

      Those who can, innovate.

      Those who can't, litigate.

    • by mjwx (966435)

      The day apple stops innovating and starts spending millions of dollars on lawyers,

      This day happened years ago. Some would even say decades (ye olde Look and Feel lawsuit).

  • by Anonymous Coward

    For years, Apple adamantly rejected a mouse that needs more than one finger.
    Now, they require you to use two fingers to zoom?
    Apple, please make up your freakn' mind.

  • by Alejux (2800513) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @03:56PM (#44428341)
    ...in research and development, gone to waste! Now any company can use such marvel of technological achievement, without paying a dime. The world is not fair!
  • SUN had prior art (Score:4, Informative)

    by cyber_rigger (527103) on Tuesday July 30, 2013 @04:11PM (#44428575) Homepage Journal
    SUN had prior art.

    I remember back in the 90s SUN having a demo with 2 point zooming.
    • by gl4ss (559668)

      SUN had prior art.

      I remember back in the 90s SUN having a demo with 2 point zooming.

      I'd wager that pretty much everyone with 2 point touch surface trials had prior art... it's a pretty obvious application. sure, patent the tech for reading those two points but fuck no don't allow patents for the sw interaction with it..

    • Also back during that time there were many immersive VR demos with glove input devices that used thumb-finger pinching to scale objects. It's a very intuitive gesture that should never have been considered for a patent.
  • It just a show off of touch tecnology; "Oh look, we have multi-touch screens!". But I find it annoying to use, you need to use both hands instead of just pressing zoom icons with your thumb.

  • Some signs of intelligent life at the USPTO

    Yes, there is previous art for this way before Apple released any touch based device and I am glad someone at the USPTO is doing their homework and reviewing Apple's patent grabs and calling them for what they are.

    What should happen is a 3 strikes policy where companies/individuals attempt to constantly patent prior art claims should be banned from submitting any patents for a period of time, pretty much penalized for wasting the patent office resources to deny som

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