back to article Apple handed Samsung-busting nuke after Steve Jobs patent U-turn

Apple has won a crucial victory over its touchy rivals following a decision to confirm its ownership of intellectual property dubbed the "Steve Jobs patent". The patent relates to the fruity firm's multitouch user interface, which it uses on iPhones and iPads. It was one of the two patents allegedly infringed by Samsung that …

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  1. Gio Ciampa

    From TFP..

    "As portable electronic devices become more compact, and the number of functions performed by a given device increase, it has become a significant challenge to design a user interface that allows users to easily interact with a multifunction device"

    Does that not mean the patent fails on the "obvious" criteria? Just a thought...

    1. The First Dave
      WTF?

      Re: From TFP..

      "significant challenge" != "Obvious"

      Okay?

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. SuccessCase

      Re: From TFP..

      No, you need to look at the independent claims (the claims that don't reference a previous claim). If a device does everything described in each independent claims, then the patent applies.

      IMO this patent is a bit more specific than many people would suppose. Nothing supplants the independent claims, but to help with some understanding of what they mean, on my reading they relate to having a heuristic (read algorithm) to detect, based on single or multiple touches, if scrolling should be constrained to being vertical or horizontal or (typically if the angle of movement is beyond a certain threshold, e.g. at 45 degrees instead of 5 degrees), and a heuristic (read algorithm) to determine if the the scrolling should "snap out" of being constrained to vertical and/or horizontal mode.

      It's a nice feature for certain styles of interface (like the rubber-band effect on reaching the end of a scrolling table is nice), but this combination of constrained left-right, up-down scrolling combined with freeform scrolling if you really want it, is only useful in a relatively small subset of interfaces. Additionally, I believe the interface would need to implement all those things, plus allow the selection of sub-screens before it runs foul of this patent.

      An example of why this is a limited patent is given by Apple themselves. Go to the App Store, you can scroll content up and down, scroll screen shots left and right and select to view a screenshot full screen. However you can't try to move a screenshot at 45 degrees up the screen and find it will break out into the freeform scrolling mode. So the app page alone does not clearly "contravene" this patent.

      A more vexing question is if the patent applies if the API's implement functions which specifically support presenting to an app occurrences of 1 dimensional vertical scrolling, 1 dimensional horizontal scrolling and 2 dimensional freeform touch tracking/scrolling and item selection.

      No warranty is made as to the validity of this interpretation !

      1. Schultz
        Alert

        @SuccessCase

        ''If a device does everything described in each independent claims, then the patent applies.''

        You surely are mistaken, each claim in a Patent can be enforced separately. The patent lawyers spend their whole careers to inflate the number of claims for exactly that reason: one single claim can lead to courtroom victory even if all others are not breached or are invalidated.

        New patent war imminent, please don't feed the lawyers.

        1. SuccessCase

          Re: @SuccessCase

          Hi Schultz

          No, only the independent claims can be enforced separately. The independent claims are the broadest and set the broadest "umbrella" or footprint of application of the patent. Each clause in each independent claim is like a logical AND. You have to be doing each thing described in each clause of an independent claim before it is breached.

          Dependent claims by contrast, reference independent claims and can be thought of as adding more conditions to make them more specific. They are primarily used to describe additional application that can be made of the main invention (as expressed by the independent claims).

          If the wheel hadn't yet been patented and I patented an axle and wheel arrangement thinking it makes a nice toy to balance on the axle and roll down hills (like the guy in in the BC comic strip), then later you come along with a much better idea for how a wheel can be used, and patent the attachment of 4 wheels to a chassis, the value of my wheel patent will be diluted. I can get everyone who play rolls on wheels, everyone who rides a bike and a tricycle to have to pay me royalties and they won't have to worry about your patent. However 4 wheel cart manufacturers and cars manufacturers etc. will have to pay both me and you royalties. Since there is not unlimited margin on such sales, we end up having to share the margin to be paid on our IP (assuming we license it) and my patent is worth less than it would have been worth otherwise. Both patents are technically essential for being able to manufacture a car.

          If I had thought to add in addition to my independent claim for a wheel and axle, a dependent claim for 4 wheels and axles attached to a chassis, then you wouldn't have been able to make a patent application that dilutes the value of my patent. From the point of view of the "footprint" the patent marks out, the independent claims are by far the most important. Patent lawyers will always read each of them first before returning to read the dependent claims.

          Incidentally it is often the case an inventor isn't very good at identifying all the uses an invention can be put to and so often fails to see all the best independent claims to make. Famously Alexander Graham Bell thought the most obvious use for is telephone invention would be ship to submariner communication.

          1. SuccessCase

            Re: @SuccessCase

            last para should of course have said "so often fails to see all the best dependent claims to make"

    4. g e
      WTF?

      Surely PixelSense is prior art from 2001

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_PixelSense

      I'd have thought it would in MS's interest to get it invalidated as they'll be liking MT functionality on Surface?

      1. ptmmac

        Re: Surely PixelSense is prior art from 2001

        Apple and Microsoft have cross licensed all patents after they settled a multi decade patent war in 1997. Microsoft has no reason to sue Apple.

        1. Tom 13

          @ ptmmac

          That was 16 years ago under different management teams. That particular settlement would certainly not have covered future patents. They might have continued updating the agreement on a yearly or other intermittent basis, but the existence of the agreement in 1997 does not mean they couldn't start again over something new.

          I'd hope you are right and they both see the senselessness of continuing to feed the lawyers. But here of late we seem to be returning to the old ways.

    5. Muhammad Imran/mi1400

      Re: From TFP..

      How about Samsung says our touch screens and multitouch etc are for stylus... not fingures as Apple patent claims... we dont know why are people using fingures on our screens !?! our they can say our screens are developed to work with gloves not fingers as apple patent applies. these are not meant to be used with bare hands but we cant stop people for doing so :P .... samsung we are with you.. take no prisoners... send the apple down to where it belongs.. in the lap of steve.

  2. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    A blow for consumers...

    And once again only the lawyers win...

    1. Lars Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: A blow for consumers...

      Yes indeed, but as the wheel was never patented could Apple not patent it now as a rectangle with very round corners. Just suggesting.

  3. Eradicate all BB entrants

    Hang on a minute ....

    ....... heuristic means a number of things, all slightly different but grouped by the main definition, trial and error. Reading the patent application with that in mind makes it one dumb document.

    And by Apples definition it looks like it means interpretation, and they have been granted a patent on that. So have they been handed a patent covering pretty much every possible thing that can be done on a touchscreen device? Seeing as every time you touch the screen software interprets that touch into an action.

    Or do I just need a little more caffeine before looking at the complete mindf**k that patents are?

    1. Raumkraut

      Re: Hang on a minute ....

      One shouldn't judge a book by its cover, and nor should one judge a patent by its summary.

      If you want to know what actually has been patented, read carefully all the claims in the patent (particularly the independent claims). More than likely the implementation actually patented is far more specific than any news article is likely to take the time to explain.

      Then again, this is the US patent system we're talking about.

  4. sabroni Silver badge
    Unhappy

    Damn.

    With no Groklaw how are we going to find out what this actually means?

    1. Moof
      Megaphone

      Re: Damn.

      It's called "reading."

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re: Damn.

        No - you can read the patent but you will be none the wiser. You may think you are wiser but ....

      2. sabroni Silver badge

        @Moof

        What is called "reading"? I read the article, I'd like to know what it means in real terms. I always got a balanced (though google-centric) explanation from groklaw, certainly when compared to coverage in the Register or elsewhere on the net.

        So where can I go to "read" a clear, concise, legal explanation of what this means, smartarse?

        1. M Gale
          Coat

          Re: @Moof

          So where can I go to "read" a clear, concise, legal explanation of what this means, smartarse?

          Fosspatents, of course.

  5. Big_Ted

    God not again.......

    Please can we have a simple world wide system for all this.

    Hardware can have patents for 5-10 years dependant on what type of patant it is. ie standards patants 10 years and others 5 years.

    Design patants banned and copyright used instead

    Software only copyrightable again and then only what is not open....

    This would leave Apple et al with a bunch of patants that are restricted to hardware innovation and copyrigts on design etc.

    Would free up a lot of court time to clear the backlog of people waiting for trial plus cut costs re lawyers fees etc. On top of that a design is easy to proove as new or prior art.

    Ah well dream on. Apple would be the last to accept this and would fight it in the court again...

    1. tom dial Silver badge

      Re: God not again.......

      Upvoted. But I have to take exception to this:

      "Software only copyrightable again and then only what is not open...."

      Copyright, at bottom, is what protects the GPL and its successors and derivatives. So copyright needs to apply to open equally with closed source.

      Apple, and a great herd of other rent seekers, great and small, would fight such a thing first in the legislatures, then in the courts, and then in the fields and streets... The will never surrender.

    2. Tom 13
      Unhappy

      Re: God not again.......

      I'm not even fond of copyright on software, especially US copyright law. Most software is more akin to a machine than a copy of Faulkner or Asimov. As such the time period for patents (17 years in the US) seems more reasonable to me. The problem is you also have things like Encarta as software and they are more akin to Faulkner or Asimov where 70 years seems more reasonable. Of course at this point Walt has been dead for a few decades, but every time the copyright is about to expire on The Mouse, Congress extends it another 15-20 years.

      Truthfully, the whole IP thing (including trademarks) needs to be rewritten by honest people. I'm not so sure the distinction between patent and copyright is especially useful, the issue is the time of exclusivity after the IP monopoly is awarded and what determines whether or not an infringement claim is enforceable. Unfortunately it is in the hands of the politicians.

  6. Shagbag

    "Apple now has a potent stick with which to beat Samsung through the courts."

    The last time I looked, it was the Legislature and Judiciary that make the laws, not the USPTO. This latest "win" [sic.] by Apple is pointless. With widely held concerns over the company's overall direction (or lack thereof) , they should be focusing more on the future rather than dwelling on past glories.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      > This latest "win" [sic.] by Apple is pointless. With widely held concerns over the company's overall direction (or lack thereof) , they should be focusing more on the future rather than dwelling on past glories.

      This could indeed prove to be a very useful win for Apple in the future. For as they say: "If you can't innovate: litigate".

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        False dichotomy, again again again ... JHFC people, I wish you would all get an education!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          JHFC people, I wish you would all get an education!

          And we wish you'd post with a user account instead of hiding your massive ego behind an AC. With the amount of anonymous blowhards on here it's getting difficult to justify allowing ACs. While it's handy to be able to post without work knowing most seem to just use it to hide their identities whilst posting like dicks....

          (AC because "you started it!" and it's ironical!)

    2. Tom 13

      Re: The last time I looked

      You didn't look very hard.

      If you're TEA party like me you'd know the Judiciary isn't supposed to be engaged in making the laws, only rendering verdicts based on the laws the Legislature passes with the consent of the President and ensuring the laws passed actually conform to the Constitution.

      Regardless of what OUGHT to be happening you should still be aware of the fact that for at least the last 50 years the Legislature has been delegating those power to unelected bureaucrats like the ones at the USPTO. They don't want to be held accountable.

  7. ElReg!comments!Pierre Silver badge

    Not suspicious at all, no siree

    So what REALLY happened between the initial rejection of claims 1-20 and their recent upholding? Was someone told that rejecting invalid Apple patents was not "in the public interest"?

  8. ThatGuy

    Mutli touch screen invented in 1984...

    ... but why let facts interfere with the law. http://www.billbuxton.com/multitouchOverview.html

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Mutli touch screen invented in 1984...

      Because if Jobs says he invented it then he invented it..

      How dare you question the Word of Jobs

    2. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Mutli touch screen invented in 1984...

      But those are for a 3 dimensional tablet - not these damn 2d ones they make these days.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    US, not a place to do business.

    And even if you did a two fingered salute there, someone would claim the patent.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    America courts protecting American companies.

    Yawn...

  11. rurwin

    A pain in the butt, but not the end of the world

    There's only one independent clause (repeated twice). It would seem to be rather easy to code around, since it depends on the initial direction of finger movement to determine if the command should be a one-dimensional or two dimensional scroll or a "next-item" command.

    In fact I seem to remember Samsung making a persuasive argument that they did not infringe this patent... although the jury was seriously dysfunctional and probably ruled that they did.

  12. PaulR79

    Bemused

    How can it be invalidated one time, have no changes at all made, and then suddenly be valid? Just how much were they paid to decide on this valuable reconsideration?

    1. andreas koch
      Facepalm

      @ PaulR79 - Re: Bemused

      Look at this.

      Explains how reasonable the USPTO is, regardless of pay.

      1. Shades
        WTF?

        Re: @ PaulR79 - Bemused

        andreas koch wrote:

        "Look at this."
        Did I really just read what I think I did?!?

        1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
          Devil

          Re: @ PaulR79 - Bemused

          Fortunately the animal toy doesn't have rounded corners (or a touch screen) :)

      2. PaulR79

        Re: Bemused

        I ... wow....... yeah...

      3. Tim Bates

        Re: @ PaulR79 - Bemused

        Sadly, click on Full Pages, scroll (careful - don't accidentally use 2 fingers) to the bottom and take note of the last few lines.... All 20 claims are cancelled by review.

        Of course one does question why it took a review to get to that stage, rather than having it directed to the recycling on receipt.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let's face it - Apple innovate - others copy - end of.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      So is that operating system they "invented" working out for them then?

    2. andreas koch
      Trollface

      @ AC 1219h GMT -

      How's your bridge? Nice and dry under there?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      end of what?

      Your pathetically limited thought process presumably....

    4. Jim Wilkinson

      Apple innovate?

      Errr, MacOS was derived from OpenStep on the Next box. Not to say they don't innovate as well as buy-in.

  14. Nef

    The patent should never have been granted in the first place. It's so broad it essentially covers moving any objects on the screen (including scrolling up and down) by using touch controls. It was ridiculous when it got accepted to begin with, and it's ludicrous it's been declared valid again.

    The US patent system needs serious reform, their current system of granting everything and letting courts settle which ones are valid isn't working, and that isn't even considering the presidential veto in favour of apple a few months ago.

    The only people winning are the lawyers.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The author of the article cites FOSSPatents, without GROKLaw to balance the view, we have just bias.

  16. Wang N Staines
    WTF?

    LOL

    The Reg still does postback to register a vote.

    1. sabroni Silver badge

      Re: LOL

      or a downvote!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    USPTO are as effective as the Rebuplicans = Cr*p.

  18. Chris Evans

    On the other hand see Trevor Baylis

    On the one hand I like many find these sort of patents either absurd or obvious and don't think they should be granted a patent.

    On the other hand one of the Sunday papers was reporting yesterday how Trevor Baylis has had to do an equity release from his house as many companies have circumvented his many patents.

  19. R69

    This is madness

    Perhaps there needs to be a time limit on patents in the IT industry?

    Trevor Bayliss aside, companies should succeed or fail on the strength of their products - if Apple & co spent as much time & money innovating as they did in the courtroom then they wouldnt need to resort to these farcical playground tactics.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This is madness

      I think you will find that Apple spend considerably more on on product development that on their legal department.

      The false dichotomy that so many anti-Apple posters cling to becomes tiring, and tedious.

  20. heyrick Silver badge

    Your starter for ten...

    ...dig up prior art for this. Shouldn't be hard.

  21. rcorrect

    Shutgun wedding

    Apple + Sumsung

  22. armster

    Irrelevant

    All this litigation is irrelevant for the companies involved. Even if Samsung gets found guilty of infringement they can ban imports of the S4 two years or so from now. Big win. Patents in the current system work great for trolls (they can easily make it more expensive to settle than to fight), but not so much for protecting IP from copies. The money involved is not going to hurt Samsung or Moto.

  23. Observer1959

    This is really GREAT news. It's nice to see justice actually happening for a change.

  24. Bladeforce

    Why is America so corrupt?

  25. Quotidian

    Copyist Samsung

    Because Samsung is not used to innovation and is not confident that it can innovate well enough, it has embarked on a business strategy based on copying innovators like Apple by copying Apple's IPs. Its stock price has shown that copying is a good business strategy largely by gaming the patent system's slow response which works works in virtual cahoots with the infringer.

    1. Tim Bates

      Re: Copyist Samsung

      Not... sure... if... trolling... or... just... stupid...

  26. Philip Lewis

    Where is the popcorn icon when I need it?

  27. PeterGriffin

    Apple innovate and don't copy rivals... Hmmm... Apple vs Creative?http://www.macnews.com/content/apple-pays-creative-100-million-ipod-related-lawsuit

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