One of the most significant lawsuits in recent history, Apple's patent infringement suit against Samsung will probably continue for years. Most of these will be routine proceedings, with each side trying to negotiate the amount of damages owed. Today, however, brought a major development in the case.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has now declared that one of the crucial patents that Apple used in its case against Samsung is now deemed invalid. The patent in question, D618,677, described the general design of the front of the iPhone 3G.
The decision to revoke the patent came after the USPTO was anonymously requested to reexamine the patent. The reason for the cancellation stems from the fact that Apple submitted the design patent to the USPTO in November of 2008 but argued that its effective filing date should be considered January 2007 because two prior patents belonging to the company sufficiently described the November 2008 patent.
The Patent Office's recent findings, however, call into question the validity of this privileged protection date by arguing that the patent was not clearly defined in those instances and, as such, the patent can only considered valid after November 2008. In the almost two years between those dates, however, the design described by the patent had already gained prominence in the market, with several companies - like Samsung, LG and even Apple itself - having submitted designs that could be considered prior art. In the context of this prior art, the patent is thus likely to be nullified as it goes against the USTPO's guidelines regarding 'obviousness'.
While this decision is not yet final, the chances of Apple retaining this patent are rather slim at the moment. With many major companies already siding with Samsung on the amount of damages owed, this development might be the respite Samsung was looking for and will likely lead to a significant reduction from previous amount of $547 million that the Korean company owed.