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Old Dec 7, 2012, 02:32 PM   #1
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U.S. Patent Office Preliminarily Invalidates Apple's 'Steve Jobs Patent' on the iPhone




FOSS Patents reports that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a notice preliminarily ruling that Apple's massive iPhone patent popularly referred to as "the Steve Jobs patent" invalid in its entirety upon reexamination.

The patent, issued as Patent No. 7,479,949, had been granted in January 2009 and incorporated several prior patent applications dating back to September 2006 before the company publicly unveiled the device. Steve Jobs is listed as the first inventor on the patent, and FOSS Patents notes that it is probably the most famous of the over 300 patents credited at least in part to Jobs.
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Some people say that first Office actions are partial because they are based only on submissions made by those challenging the patent, and many examiners like to take a tough position early on in order to enable and require the patentee to present the strongest arguments in favor of validity. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the significance of a first Office action. Also, a complete rejection of all claims of a given patent is potentially more devastating than one affecting only some claims.
Apple has asserted the patent against a number of its competitors, including Samsung and Motorola, and an ultimate finding of invalidity in the reexamination process would substantially weaken Apple's cases against those companies, although it is far from the only weapon in Apple's patent arsenal.

Article Link: U.S. Patent Office Preliminarily Invalidates Apple's 'Steve Jobs Patent' on the iPhone
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 03:10 PM   #2
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This patent is like the Family Jewels.

If it is invalid, why was it ever issued in the first place. I think that the Patent Office needs to make up its mind.

But it doesn't really mean anything because Apple has more than one patent.

Apple will win.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 04:05 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by iGrip View Post
If it is invalid, why was it ever issued in the first place.
If a doctor made a diagnosis, why would you ever want a second opinion? If a judge made a verdict, why would you ever want to appeal? Because people make mistakes, that's why.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 04:17 PM   #4
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WWDC 2007 Keynote

The WWDC 2007 keynote provides a pretty good clue about how "obvious" this patent is: http://youtu.be/6uW-E496FXg?t=16m10s

Note the woots as the scrolling solution was far from obvious back then.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 04:35 PM   #5
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Note the woots as the scrolling solution was far from obvious back then.
The fact that the mass public hadn't seen something, does not make it non-obvious.

For example, I was using flick scrolling in a field app before the iPhone was shown off. In fact, pretty much any serious touch developer has accidentally invented it You see, the first time a developer programs a list to follow a finger, the test code often lags behind. Voila! Flick scrolling. Most just fix it. Some show it to someone and they love it.

There are LOTS of things the public hasn't seen, but would be wowed by.

--

However, the patent for this thread is not about flick (aka inertial) scrolling. It is a patent about determining if a flick should scroll in just one axis or two.

Like if you flick a web page upward. Your finger obviously doesn't move perfectly vertically, so good scrolling code should determine that if you flicked within a certain angle, it should just default to going vertical or horizontal. Hardly an non-obvious invention.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 04:41 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by xyster View Post

The WWDC 2007 keynote provides a pretty good clue about how "obvious" this patent is: http://youtu.be/6uW-E496FXg?t=16m10s

Note the woots as the scrolling solution was far from obvious back then.
I often watch that video... and think back to that time in mobile phone history.

It's crazy what Apple was showing off as early as January 2007.

Just 2 days prior to the iPhone announcement... Palm introduced this Treo:

Thumb resize.

And the Blackberry Curve didn't even get announced until 4 months later... in May 2007:



No wonder people were wowed by the iPhone.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 03:15 PM   #7
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Wow, talk about some BS! Guess that's what happens when you have the political power of Google and their Korean and Chinese friends.
Are you accusing the USPTO of corruption?
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 03:33 PM   #8
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Apologies if this has been answered, but where does it go from here? Does Apple have a right to appeal? Is it over? Does Apple reapply with a different proposal (for lack of a better word)?
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 03:35 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by kavika411 View Post
Apologies if this has been answered, but where does it go from here? Does Apple have a right to appeal? Is it over? Does Apple reapply with a different proposal (for lack of a better word)?
From TFA:

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I have said on various occasions that first Office actions and other non-final Office actions are just preliminary. Many patent claims that are rejected at this stage do ultimately survive. There are many steps inside the USPTO, followed by a potential appeal to the Federal Circuit (and in a few cases even the Supreme Court).
This is just one step in the process. I've even had patents of my own that came back from the dead after a "final" office action.

This is kind of like an opening bid.

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Old Dec 7, 2012, 03:35 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by kavika411 View Post
Apologies if this has been answered, but where does it go from here? Does Apple have a right to appeal? Is it over? Does Apple reapply with a different proposal (for lack of a better word)?
It's far from over. And I highly doubt that the patent will be fully invalidated
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 03:47 PM   #11
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Maybe I'm blind but looking at the list of patent holders reaffirms my belief that Apple only hires Males. (Or at least puts only males in high-profile positions).

Seriously... where are all the gals at Apple?
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 03:51 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Krazy Bill View Post
Maybe I'm blind but looking at the list of patent holders reaffirms my belief that Apple only hires Males. (Or at least puts only males in high-profile positions).

Seriously... where are all the gals at Apple?
They were too ashamed to put their signature under this phony patent
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 04:22 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Krazy Bill View Post
Maybe I'm blind but looking at the list of patent holders reaffirms my belief that Apple only hires Males. (Or at least puts only males in high-profile positions).

Seriously... where are all the gals at Apple?
The gals are over at Microsoft coming up with soft, touchy-feely UIs like Metro and using girlie terms like "charms" :-)
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 04:31 PM   #14
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The gals are over at Microsoft coming up with soft, touchy-feely UIs like Metro and using girlie terms like "charms" :-)
Yes, I know. I see the female persuasion throughout the industry - except at Apple.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 05:12 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Michael Scrip View Post
Don't patents protect the IMPLEMENTATION of an idea... and not the idea itself?
Correct! You cannot patent just an idea.

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In other words... the way Apple does it has to be different than the way someone else does it.
That's the problem that with not only software patents in general, but Apple's patents in particular, because they are incredibly vague. They're basically ideas submitted using fancy words like "heuristics" and other general terms, without giving any unique implementation details.

For example, Apple's patent (8,086,604) primary claim for a search box that looks both on the device and on the web, goes like this:

Quote:
1. A method for locating information in a network using a computer, comprising: receiving by the computer an inputted information descriptor from a user-input device; providing said information descriptor received from the user-input device to a plurality of heuristic modules, wherein: each heuristic module corresponds to a respective area of search and employs a different, predetermined heuristic algorithm corresponding to said respective area to search the area for information that corresponds to the received information descriptor, and the search areas include storage media accessible by the computer; searching by the heuristic modules, based on the received information descriptor, the respective areas of search using the predetermined heuristic algorithms corresponding to each respective area of search; providing at least one candidate item of information located by the heuristic modules as a result of said searching; and displaying by the computer a representation of said candidate item of information on a display device. - Apple patent
Wow, sure looks impressive, doesn't it. Until you break it down and read it closer. Then, hey wait a minute...

Quote:
1. A method for locating information in a network using a computer, comprising: receiving by the computer an inputted information descriptor from a user-input device;
Okay, the user types in a search term.

Quote:
providing said information descriptor received from the user-input device to a plurality of heuristic modules, wherein: each heuristic module corresponds to a respective area of search and employs a different, predetermined heuristic algorithm corresponding to said respective area to search the area for information that corresponds to the received information descriptor, and the search areas include storage media accessible by the computer;
The search term is given to multiple pieces of code that search different areas, including the network and the disk drives. Typical user desire and typical object-oriented programming.

Quote:
searching by the heuristic modules, based on the received information descriptor, the respective areas of search using the predetermined heuristic algorithms corresponding to each respective area of search;
And each code section has its own way of looking through the data. Which makes sense. Searching the web is different from searching local files.

Quote:
providing at least one candidate item of information located by the heuristic modules as a result of said searching; and displaying by the computer a representation of said candidate item of information on a display device.
And you show the results to the user.

What? Hello! My wife, who knows nothing about computers, can come up with an idea like that. In fact, we all do this type of thing in our everyday lives, using different methods to search different information sources.

Where's the implementation details? Where's the non-obviousness?

This kind of vague idea patenting... especially of actions that humans take every day... should not be allowed. Don't get me started. Oh wait. Too late
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 05:15 PM   #16
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I don't really get the prior art argument. Do you have to show that the inventor of the patent definitely had access to the prior art or is it enough that someone somewhere in the world actually invented the same thing which nobody heard about back then?

In my field, which is academics, it doesn't work that way. Two people independently from each other can prove a theorem, yet the theorem will be credited to both of them, not to the one who published it first. Only in the case that one of them published it much earlier and it was pretty well known in those circles, then the journal will say "this has been done before". But there are many examples where a russian mathematician proves something an american mathematician proved 2 years ago or vice versa, yet the theorem belongs to both because it was kinda obvious that the later one didn't hear about the other one while doing his/her work.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 05:19 PM   #17
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I don't really get the prior art argument. Do you have to show that the inventor of the patent definitely had access to the prior art or is it enough that someone somewhere in the world actually invented the same thing which nobody heard about back then?
No, the inventor does not have to know about the prior art and rarely does. Just like you can sue someone for patent infringement when they've never heard of your patent, your patent can be invalidated (or be prevented from being granted) by someone you never heard of.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 05:26 PM   #18
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No, the inventor does not have to know about the prior art and rarely does. Just like you can sue someone for patent infringement when they've never heard of your patent, your patent can be invalidated (or be prevented from being granted) by someone you never heard of.
Ok then, it's pretty wrong to say that Apple didn't invent something just because there's prior art. If Apple didn't know about the prior art, they invented that thing, no matter what. Just that the patent is invalid.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 05:33 PM   #19
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In my field, which is academics, it doesn't work that way. Two people independently from each other can prove a theorem, yet the theorem will be credited to both of them, not to the one who published it first.
That makes perfect sense.

Such independent invention is incredibly common in software development, as many people will come up with the same set of solutions, given the same problem.

That's why most non-FRAND software patent cases are about accidental infringement, not outright copying.

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Ok then, it's pretty wrong to say that Apple didn't invent something just because there's prior art. If Apple didn't know about the prior art, they invented that thing, no matter what. Just that the patent is invalid.
Correct, and that brings up a very important point that needs to be made:

ANYONE WHO SERIOUSLY DOES TOUCH PROGRAMMING WILL EVENTUALLY INVENT THE SAME THINGS INDEPENDENTLY.

(Actually, that probably applies to any software specialty.)

For example, when NeoNode decided to make a touch phone back in 2002, they came up with slide-to-unlock. It wasn't rocket science when they did it, and it wasn't rocket science when Apple reinvented it years later. It was simply something that you come up with if you spend long enough time developing an all-touch device, and need a way to make the darned thing stop going off in your pocket. Duh. Trouble is, how many patent examiners have spent years developing a touch device? My guess is, zero.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 10:25 PM   #20
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From Wired:

"It is simply too early to make any sweeping conclusions at this point," Brian Love, an assistant professor of law at Santa Clara University School of Law, said. "Office action rejections during re-examination are common and rarely are fatal to the entire patent.
Not that rarely. See my previous post #67 which presents USPTO supplied statistics:

In one out of eight cases (12%), ALL the claims are invalidated. In 70%, at least some of the claims are rescinded or modified.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Michael Scrip View Post
So yeah... Apple was ahead of pretty much every other phone manufacturer in 2007.

The sad thing is... all those other companies have been making phones for years.
As I keep saying, that's exactly why Apple was able to leapfrog them. The older companies had legacy apps and screens to support, and the fear of losing their current buyers held them back from making too large a change, even though their R&D concepts were quite similar to what Apple did. (*)

Likewise, five years after the iPhone came out, Apple is in a similar legacy support and customer situation. That's why they only make baby steps in changing the screen size and/or adding features.

Such is life. A neverending cycle of the same situations and mistakes playing out again and again. The older you get, the more you notice the repetition.

(*)E.g. Samsung's 2006 internal concepts for phones and UIs, which btw, were banned from the California trial due to a legal technicality Apple used. Imagine if the jury had seen these:

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Old Dec 7, 2012, 11:16 PM   #21
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Originally Posted by kdarling View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by iWe View Post
From Wired:

"It is simply too early to make any sweeping conclusions at this point," Brian Love, an assistant professor of law at Santa Clara University School of Law, said. "Office action rejections during re-examination are common and rarely are fatal to the entire patent."

http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2012/...ively-invalid/
Not that rarely. See my previous post #67 which presents USPTO supplied statistics:

In one out of eight cases (12%), ALL the claims are invalidated. In 70%, at least some of the claims are rescinded or modified.
Well, from my perspective your 12% is in line with what the man said. Thanks for the numbers though.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 04:43 PM   #22
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I wouldn't second guess the patent guys. I doubt Steve was the first one to think of this anyway although he was the first to create it.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 04:46 PM   #23
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I always wondered why the iPhone didn't include a Dictionary app, as most of Jobs' operating systems always had a free one included. Now I see one on the home screen of this patent, and so I guess they had planned to include one and at some point took it out.

More on-thread: the patent system is completely broken, so whether someone has a patent or not is irrelevant to the truth of the matter.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 05:03 PM   #24
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As is well documented: When Steve Jobs was alive he created, through sheer, immense psychic power, what is now known as a "Reality Distortion Field". Sadly,with his death the "Field" has been slowly dissipating and now is finally gone forever. People all over the world (including patent officers) are rubbing their eyes and and seeing a true reality for the first time in many a year. What does this mean for the future of Apple as a company? Nothing, because in a world that is free of reality distortion, Apple still makes great products and will continue to do so. Life will go on, the patent wars will continue and Macrumors will still be a place where tales of Apple products are told.
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Old Dec 7, 2012, 05:43 PM   #25
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Perhaps Samsung invented the iPhone after all.
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