One of the longstanding outrages at the USPTO was the Apple iPhone design patent. It’s flat out stupid for Apple to be able to sue a company for making a rectangular phone with a home button.
Thankfully, that’s about to be in the past. The USPTO has ruled that Apple’s patent is invalid. This wasn’t some hero-caped judge who decided to go against the grain, so get that out of your mind. The ruling was made based on a technicality involved with the patent’s protection date.
There’s a lot to explain in that regard, but here’s the skinny of it: Apple’s once-solid design patent had only come to form because it encompassed previously submitted patents that were initially rejected. The patents which were rejected did not originally clearly cover smartphone design, so Apple is not allowed to use the protection date from those rejected patents on the new one.
Therefore, their patent technically only covers the stretch of time starting from late 2008 through today. See where we’re going with this? Apple cannot possibly own a hard design patent for the general shape of their iPhone because there were phones on the market well before their patent was granted. Therefore, the USPTO feels the patent should never have been granted in the first place.
This means the patent cannot be used to sue someone like, say, Samsung and possibly get $500 million to $1 billion out of the lawsuit. That’s a huge deal, folks.
It likely won’t be enough to completely extinguish the flames on this Samsung vs Apple spat anytime soon — and, to be fair, there are still a lot of other patent hurdles Samsung has to get over in order to be completely clear of Apple’s wrath — but this is a major development in the case and things should take some very interesting turns the next time they’re scheduled to return to the courtroom.
[via FOSS Patents]