If you believe that everything that goes up must one day come down, then you may want to take a look at this latest report by FOSS Patents, which claims that the U.S Patent and Trademark Office has tonight issued what’s called a “First Office Action,” temporarily invalidating – (yes, invalidating), United States Patent No. 7,479,949, entitled “Touch Screen Device, Method, and Graphical User Interface For Determining Commands By Applying Heuristics.”
For those of you who perhaps haven’t been following Apple’s patent history, that patent names the late Steve Jobs as its inventor, and covers the very basic make-up of the company’s highly-popular iPhone.
The patent was originally granted to Apple in January 2009 following the iPhone‘s debut just two-years prior, and is now pending re-evaluation by the USPTO to determine whether or not the actual contents of the patent are indeed a valid claim of intellectual property which Apple can hold exclusive rights over.
As for how serious this could be for Apple, FOSS Patents writes:
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.
The patent in question is also thought to be one of more than 300 patents relating to Apple’s iPhone that the company allegedly used to defend itself in the recent $1 Billion settlement case against Samsung in the U.S. If the patent is deemed to be invalid by the USPTO going forward, Apple could theoretically find itself paying some of that compensation back to its competitors.
We’ll bring you more as this story develops.