Friday, August 2, 2013

Pinch to Zoom - Apple versus Samsung

Friday, August 02, 2013
The patent war between Samsung and Apple has from time to time captured brief attention of the public.

On July 28, 2013, Samsung’s counsel filed new evidence in the US court in efforts to invalidate Apple’s “pinch to zoom” patent (US. Patent No. 7,844, 915).

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has rejected “pinch to zoom” patent. The patent has already been rejected once by the USPTO and this is the “final objection” during the patent examination process. However, it is not so final. Apple will have two months to respond to the Examiner’s objections and even if that fails, further appeal venues will be available to Apple, including appealing to Patent Trial and Appeal Board, and if unsuccessful, judicial review. The entire process could take many years until final resolution.

The Examiner rejected all 21 claims of the patent on the grounds that the claims have been anticipated by a patent filed by W. Daniel Hillis and Fran Ferren back in 2005 for various gestures on touchscreens (US. Patent No. 7,724,242).

Although the ultimate determination of the validity of Apple’s “pinch to zoom” patent will not be available for years, the USPTO’s rejection may have an impact on the on-going patent litigation proceedings.

Back in August of 2012, Apple had its first patent litigation victory in US. Apple was awarded a hefty 1.05 billion US dollars in damages by the jury. The quantum however has since then been scaled down to approximately $598.9 million. It is predictable that Samsung will attempt to use USPTO’s rejection to bolster its appeal and to dissolve the damages claim.

The ramification however extends beyond United States. Apple and Samsung are going head to head in nine countries. Apple is now in a precarious position because it is fundamental and trite patent law everywhere that a patent must present novelty; something new. It is conceivable that Samsung is going to do everything they can in the other jurisdictions to use USPTO’s objection, convincing evidence from a credible regulator, to invalidate Apple’s corresponding “pinch to zoom” patents in these jurisdictions. Samsung may also seek to stay the proceedings in other jurisdictions, pending the outcome of the US battle.

In the end, what does this all mean to consumers? Not a lot.

Sure, if Apple’s patents were held to be valid, Samsung will incur higher production costs. But with the fierce competition in the mobile phone market, Samsung would not be able to pass the costs down to the consumers easily. When we “zoom” ahead, whatever the final outcome is, consumers are not likely to feel the “pinch” in their pockets.

By David Chen
Articling Student with MBM