The patent is an iconic one, but just one that Apple uses among hundreds of others related to multitouch tech in its legal proceedings, including those against Motorola and Samsung. And aside from the fact that it is still only one among a number of patents that Apple claims have been infringed by other smartphone OEMs, it’s also true that at this stage, a first Office action like the one issued by the USPTO is far from the final word on things, and in fact, once a reassessment of a granted patent is allowed as it was in this case, this kind of rejection of claims is actually pretty common.
This particular reexamination request was actually rejected once before in 2010, but once granted, chances were in its favor that some kind of rejection of the patent claims would come back. First office actions often include a rejection of some or all claims asserted in a patent, and some sources suggest that patent examiners tend to favor an approach that errs on the side of the arguments made initially by the party that filed the complaint, since they aren’t getting the original patent filer’s input during their first pass. This is also an ex parte reexamination, which means that the complaining party won’t be involved in the rest of the reexamination process, while Apple will have the opportunity to defend its original claim.