Thursday, August 7, 2014

U.S. patent office rejects Apple's autocomplete patent claim Samsung was found to infringe

Apple has just given up its thermonuclear ambitions and practically agreed with Google's 2011 statement that "bad software patent litigation is a wasteful war that no one can win", but even in the U.S., the only jurisdiction in which Apple is still trying to at least collect a face-saving amount of money, there's bad news. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has very recently rejected multiple claims of Apple's '172 autocomplete patent, including claim 18, the one asserted against Samsung in the second California litigation.

Judge Koh had ruled on summary judgment (i.e., ahead of the spring trial) that Samsung infringed it -- but infringement of an invalid patent doesn't matter, and only because the jury was grossly misled about the validity of issued patents in general and Apple's patents-in-suit in particular doesn't mean that Judge Koh couldn't still agree with Samsung's post-trial motion and hold claim 18 of the '172 patent invalid. The legal standard is stricter in the infringement case (especially now at the JMOL stage) than in reexamination, where clear and convincing evidence is sufficient to reject a patent claim, but it looks awkward that Judge Koh held Samsung to infringe a patent claim that the USPTO probably wouldn't have granted if it had been aware of all of the relevant prior art. In a new filing, Samsung just drew Judge Koh's attention to this decision and stressed the fact that "the USPTO concluded that the prior art identified in the Office Action is the same or in the same family as the prior art asserted by Samsung in this case."

The $119 million verdict in the second California case was disappointing enough for Apple when it came down a few months ago and may have played a role in its decisions to agree to ceasefires with Google/Motorola and (in eight countries) Samsung, but it could be further reduced as a result of patents being held invalid (or not infringed).

Here's Samsung's notice to Judge Koh, with the USPTO Office Action (which is not final, and it would take several years if Apple exhausted all appeals) included in the same PDF file:

14-08-07 Samsung Filing on Office Action in Reexamination of Apple's '172 Patent by Florian Mueller

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