Apple totally loses the patent plot, big time

Apple has been told by the All Seeing Eye of the US Patent Office that it did not invent a key patent which it has been using to see off rivals in some of the most vicious patent trolling known to man.

For those who came in late, Apple has been unable to compete against rivals who have been releasing shedloads of similar, cheaper and often more innovative products. So rather than coming up with new ideas, it set its lawyers on rivals claiming they copied all of its ideas.

According to the International Business Times, one of the key weapons in its armoury had been the infamous “pinch to zoom” patent. The patent, No. 7,844,915, covers usability software that distinguishes between single-touch and multi-touch gestures on a smartphone or tablet screen.

This patent was one of six that a jury claimed that Samsung had infringed and ordered the company to pay Apple $1.1 billion.

Now the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has said that the patent should never have been granted and in fact Apple just used ideas which had already been invented.

The news of the Patent Office’s ruling was made public by Samsung, which says it will be used as a basis for an appeal.

The patent office said that for Apple’s claims to be valid, they must be considered patentable despite any “prior art patent and printed publication cited”. In a detailed report, the agency said Apple did not qualify.

Apple will appeal the USPTO’s ruling, but it might have its work cut out. This is the second time the Patent Office has come up with a decision which says Apple had patented other people’s ideas.

In October, the office came to the same conclusion about the patent for Apple’s “rubber-banding” or “bounce” feature, which makes a digital page bounce when a user pulls a finger from the top of the touch screen to the bottom.

Although Apple still has other patents to fire at rivals in its various trolling antics, the fact that this one has been taken from it is upsetting its grand campaign. Who knows, perhaps a court will say that Steve Jobs did not really invent the rounded rectangle shape after all?