Apple loses pinch-to-zoom patent case

Apple’s patent trolling has suffered a serious blow after the US patent office ruled that its iconic ‘pinch to zoom’ patent did not spring fully formed from the genius of Steve Jobs.

The patent figures prominently in an infringement lawsuit against Samsung Electronics, according to documents filed by the South Korean company in a US federal court.

Apple has up to two months to respond to the USPTO decision and it will almost certainly appeal, and seek a judicial review.

The patent was involved in Apple’s lawsuit against Samsung in the court, when a jury last August awarded Apple $1.05 billion in damages, but the court has ordered a partial retrial to review the damages to be paid to the iPhone maker.

According to PC World, the patent office thinks that the  ‘pinch to zoom’ idea was anticipated in U.S. Patent No. 7,724,242 awarded to Daniel W. Hillis and Bran Ferren.

“Hillis teaches distinguishing the number of contact points and determining whether the event object matches a gesture pattern,” the USPTO wrote in its decision.

The USPTO had already rejected multiple claims of another patent that figured in the lawsuit, known as “overscroll bounce” patent.  Apple said that the reexamination is not finished, and it is entitled to file a response to the action which may result in a withdrawal of the rejection or certification of the claims under re-examination.

It puts the entire Apple versus Samsung case in trouble. While Samsung is clearly going to have to pay Apple something, Samsung can now argue for much lower damages. It will also mean that Apple’s plans to keep Samsung smartphones off the shelves will be bogged down for much longer.