APPLE’S patent on pinching to zoom, key in its battle against Samsung, should never have been granted, the US Patent Office has said.
Pinch to zoom is one of six patents that Samsung was found to have infringed earlier this year, and formed a key feature of Apple’s iPhone as well as all subsequent smartphones. It allows users to zoom in and out of almost anything on a smartphone screen simply by moving two fingers together or apart.
Apple's claims were rejected on the grounds that prior patents covered the inventions.
Earlier this week Apple’s bid for an injunction barring the sale of 26 Samsung handsets in America was rejected by US courts, while Samsung itself said that it would suspend its application for injunctions in Europe.
The Patent Office ruling was revealed in court documents filed by Samsung in San Jose, where the two technology giants are battling over the patent infringement claims.
Samsung, which is petitioning for a new trial and for the reduction in the $1bn damages awarded by a jury, said that the patent removed a key plank of the prosecution case. Apple, however, is likely to appeal the ruling so the patent is still technically in force.
The patent makes a key distinction between a single-touch gesture, for instance to move around a web page, and multi-touch to zoom in or out. As such, it does not cover all “pinch-to-zoom” features, but it is a key part of them. Apple’s own legal documents refer to it as controlling a “scroll versus gesture” function.
In October, the Patent Office also threw out Apple’s “bounce” feature, also known as “rubber-banding”, which governs the visual effect to indicate when a user has hit the bottom of a web page.
Although the upholding of the patents could theoretically trigger a new retrial if Apple’s appeals fail, a reduction in damages is thought more likely.