Apple’s “rubber band” (“bounce-back”) patent is invalidated by US Patent Office — justice one step at a time?

Some may call it justice; others, karma. Me? I prefer “music to my ears”. How ever you describe it, it doesn’t make it any less real. What am I talking about? The following: the US Patent and Trademark Office has tentatively invalidated Apple’s ’381 patent, popularly known as the “rubber band” or “bounce-back” patent due to how it is the patent that covers the showing of a bounce-back animation whenever someone on a touchscreen device scrolls beyond the end of a page or screen.

Why exactly has the patent been invalidated now? Well, for one, Apple going to war with almost every Android manufacturer has spurred the USPTO to reexamine some, if not all, of Apple’s patents to see if they are invalid due to prior art. (Prior art is a term used to describe a patent that existed prior to the grant of the patent in question.) More importantly, however, the USPTO has found that there are two cases of prior art that precede Apple’s ’381 and thus the patent is invalid.

Ironically, one of the patents found to precede Apple’s ’381 is a patent filed in December 2005 by Apple themselves. According to the USPTO, the patent, which was granted in August 2010, “anticipated the claims” (aka already described the claims) made in Apple’s now-invalid ’381 patent., thus rendering ’381 invalid. The second patent is a European patent filed by AOL in 2003. Apple’s ’381 patent was filed in December 2007 and granted in December 2008.

It isn’t entirely clear why Apple filed two patents for essentially the same thing. Steve Jobs’ patent-them-all strategy, maybe?

It is important to note the invalidation of Apple’s ’381 patent is temporary. It has not been finalized yet and will only be finalized after a full review process. Still, the fact that it has been tentatively invalidated is still a win for everyone that is trying to compete with Apple.

This ’381 patent is one of the patents used against Samsung in the recent Apple v Samsung trial that Samsung lost. While the damages granted by the jury for this patent in that trial are relatively minimal, roughly $66 million as pointed out by Android Police, the fact that USPTO has invalidated Apple’s patent will help Samsung in its appeals process to either overturn the Apple v Samsung ruling or to grant Samsung a new trial. It will also likely encourage the USPTO to take a look at other Apple patents to see if they are valid, too.

[via ArsTechnica, Android Police | image via levork]

[via Ars'381

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