Lawsuits about intellectual property has always been part of the ever quickening pace of technological progress, but Apple has been the major bully in the courts in recent years as the company has tried to fend off competition in the smartphone and tablet sectors in the courtroom rather than through research and development.
Apple’s biggest lawsuit has been against Samsung, a suit which has been fought all over the world. They found little success in the UK courts, but in the US a jury found that Samsung owed Apple an eye-watering $1.1 billion in damages for infringing on six patents and design rights. Apple has been using these six patents to try and demand damages or licenses from everybody from HTC to LG and everybody in between, but in what will come as a major blow – the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has said that the infamous “pinch to zoom” patent should never have been granted in the first place. The patent is invalid, as their competitors had always claimed, because it is not a new invention at all and instead just makes use of previous inventions by others – there was “prior art”.
We’ll ignore that this discovery is yet another failure of the US patent system which grants patents before properly examining them which is what happens here in the UK, and Apple will appeal the decision – but they will have their work cut out. This is the second time Apple has been found to be attempting to patent other people’s ideas after its “bounce” or “pull down to refresh” patent was found invalid back in October. The first time I saw that was actually in Icon Factory’s Twitterific iOS app, which later became the official Twitter app – but maybe that was just me.
For a company that keeps jumping to the courtroom complaining that others are just copying them, the list of things Apple actually invented seems to be dwindling daily.