A key patent used by Apple to secure its legal win over Samsung this August was rejected Wednesday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a move that could help Samsung in its efforts to have the trial's outcome overturned.
The patent office has preliminarily rejected Apple's "pinch-to-zoom" patent, which lets users "pinch" their fingers directly on an iPhone or iPad screen to resize images, on the grounds that Apple wasn't the first company to file a patent claiming the technology.
Apple did not immediately return a request for comment but will likely ask the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to reconsider its findings.
Samsung, meanwhile, hopes to use the office's decision to fuel its argument that the U.S. District Court's ruling this August, which found Samsung guilty of infringing on six Apple patents, needs to be reviewed. In a new filing Wednesday with the U.S. District Court, Samsung noted that the office's rejection of Apple's pinch-to-zoom patent is "relevant" to its motion for a retrial.
After being found guilty of infringement in August, Samsung was ordered to pay Apple $1.05 billion in damages, a figure it's fighting to have lowered.
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's decision is the second setback this week for Apple in its ongoing legal battle with Samsung. On Monday, U.S. District Court Judge Lucy Koh denied Apple's request to permanently ban 26 Samsung smartphones from U.S. shelves.
Koh found that many of the 26 devices did infringe on Apple patents but not significantly enough to warrant a ban.
"Though Apple does have some interest in retaining certain features as exclusive to Apple, it does not follow that entire products must be forever banned from the market because they incorporate, among their myriad features, a few narrow protected functions," Koh wrote in the ruling.
Samsung and Apple have been engulfed in a high-stakes legal battle since April 2011, when Apple first accused Samsung of infringement. The two tech giants currently dominate the smartphone and tablet markets and are slated to return to U.S. District Court in 2014 to battle a new set of infringement claims related to their newer mobile devices, including Apple's iPhone 5 and Samsung's Galaxy S III smartphone.
PUBLISHED DEC. 20, 2012