USPTO rejects another Apple patent — but it’s far from dead

Man using Apple iPad tablet with finger on touchscreen on desk

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has struck another blow against a key Apple patent on Wednesday. It’s a patent that covers an iPhone or iPad’s ability to tell if the user is using one or more fingers in a gesture on the screen, and is one of the patents that Apple used to win a billion-dollar verdict for patent violations from Samsung this summer. However, the ruling is not a final action, and does not “invalidate” the patent. More than anything it’s a symbolic victory for Samsung for now.

Samsung brought the USPTO’s ruling to the attention of Judge Lucy Koh, who is still sorting out final rulings in the Apple-Samsung case. Samsung, naturally, wants the judge to know that a key patent in the trial is having its status questioned by the patent office, as noted by the Verge.

But, like last week’s reexamination and invalidation of the “Steve Jobs patent,” also used in the same trial, this is by no means a big setback for Apple — yet. This is an initial answer from the USPTO. Apple will be able to respond to the ruling. Even if the USPTO finds against Apple again in a final office action Apple still has many more avenues of appeal. And crucially, Apple can still continue to assert the patent as its own.

So, in the short term, the USPTO’s ruling should have no immediate effect on the outcome of the Apple-Samsung trial.

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