USPTO issues preliminary rejection of key claims in Apple translucent images patent

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued a decision tentatively rejecting certain aspects of a patent Apple holds on displaying translucent images, a development that could potentially impact Apple's ongoing legal struggles with chief rival Samsung.

overthinking
An illustration from Apple's U.S. Patent No. RE41,922


Samsung on Friday notified the United States International Trade Commission of the USPTO's preliminary decision, according to FOSS Patents. The patent in question ? U.S. Patent No. RE41,922, covering a "Method and apparatus for providing translucent images on a computer display" ? saw its claims 29-30 and 33-35 rejected on a tentative basis.

The decision is a First Office Action, the first substantive move from the USPTO that could eventually end up invalidating a patent. In issuing the preliminary rejection, the USPTO found that aspects of Apple's patent were anticipated or obvious in view of U.S. Patent No, 5,581,243, which covers a "Method and apparatus for displaying simulated keyboards on touch-sensitive displays," as well as admitted prior art.

A First Office Action is not binding, and the USPTO may reverse course in the course of its reevaluation of the patent.

Notably, the rejection stemmed from an anonymous request for a reevaluation of the '922 patent. That request, filed in December of 2012, pointed to five examples of prior art, including three U.S. patents and two Japanese patents.

In April, the ITC ruled that Samsung had infringed RE41,922 with the text selection feature of the Android browser and the translucent buttons of the Android photo gallery. Samsung hopes that the USPTO's recent decision could influence the ITC's final ruling, which is scheduled for August 1, 2013.

Despite Apple's landmark $1.05 billion victory against Samsung, the Cupertino has little to show after years of patent litigation. A number of Apple patents have been ruled invalid both in the U.S. and abroad in the course of appeals and reevaluations. So far, four U.S. patents Samsung was found to have infringed have been preliminarily ruled invalid or may be ruled so in the near future.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 25
    just_mejust_me Posts: 590member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



    The United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued a decision tentatively rejecting certain aspects of a patent Apple holds on displaying translucent images, a development that could potentially impact Apple's ongoing legal struggles with chief rival Samsung.




     

    Notably, the rejection stemmed from an anonymous request for a reevaluation of the '922 patent. That request, filed in December of 2012, pointed to five examples of prior art, including three U.S. patents and two Japanese patents.


     


    it was Samsung

  • Reply 2 of 25
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,015member
    Wasn't Apple basically responsible for almost all prior art on this matter?
  • Reply 3 of 25
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 31,015member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post



     U.S. Patent No, 5,581,243, which covers a "Method and apparatus for displaying simulated keyboards on touch-sensitive displays," as well as admitted prior art.


     


    Apple should consider buying out important patent holders as insurance.

  • Reply 4 of 25
    rob53rob53 Posts: 2,011member
    It appears someone can justify any type of art as being prior art, invalidating any patent. I'm sure someone could also come up with obvious patents for just about anything these days. Once you've seen it done once, it's obvious. All of this benefits Google, and therefore Samsung, because there's no reason for them to even try patenting anything because they're doing just fine selling products designed by others and fighting the patents in court.
  • Reply 5 of 25
    dysamoriadysamoria Posts: 2,081member
    Translucent images?
  • Reply 6 of 25
    normmnormm Posts: 555member
    This "story" is insane! This is a first office action, which means nothing, and all but four claims have been upheld, including all of the most important ones. That seems like an excellent start to a reexamination!

    This is really looking for the dark lining in a silver cloud! Like those stories that Apple is doomed because a major supplier, Pegatron, is making less profit than last quarter, when it's profits are actually up 85% year over year! Or Apple is doomed because its margins are down, when they're down (very slightly!) because it's going for more market share on the iPad mini. Margins on iPhones are actually up!
  • Reply 7 of 25
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by rob53 View Post



    It appears someone can justify any type of art as being prior art, invalidating any patent. I'm sure someone could also come up with obvious patents for just about anything these days. Once you've seen it done once, it's obvious. All of this benefits Google, and therefore Samsung, because there's no reason for them to even try patenting anything because they're doing just fine selling products designed by others and fighting the patents in court.


     


    Totally agree.  One of the most disturbing things about the recent patent wars is that in defiance of all logic, what qualifies as "prior art" seems to have morphed into something no patent lawyer from even ten years ago would recognise.  It used to be a fairly hard rule for instance that fantasy art does not qualify as "previous art" on a technical or design patent, yet we've seen several patents overturned recently on the basis that some science fiction writer or futurist "imagined" a similar device previously.  This is (or at least was) clearly wrong, but judges are deciding otherwise lately.  


     


    Personally, I think it's down to how ignorant and poorly educated the average person is today relative to a few decades ago.  


     


    People seem to be thinking that "Prior Art" means drawings and illustrations, because … you know .. "art" == "pictures" image

  • Reply 8 of 25
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,594member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by dysamoria View Post



    Translucent images?


    Invisible images - how cool is that?


     


    But I gotta say I find it hard to see how image translucency warrants a patent. I understand the issue must be the implementation of translucency but I struggle with it. I think it deserves a 'well done'  and that's about it. Its just a gut reaction, I know nothing about this case.


     


    Regardless - as Samsung's sales and profit margin rise, so should their fine for copying Apple. 1 Billion seems a pittance now. Samsung's recent and overwhelming success is clearly a product of Apple's innovation. I don't think anybody can argue that had Apple not successfully brought the iPhone to market Samsung would have been anywhere near where they are today.

  • Reply 9 of 25
    As I've said before, Samsung will never be prevented from selling their products no matter if they are found in violation of a patent or not. Apple is completely wasting their money. It's a game that's been played for centuries. There are no winners. Everyone losses money in the end trying to litigate patents.
  • Reply 10 of 25
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    normm wrote: »
    This "story" is insane! This is a first office action, which means nothing, and all but four claims have been upheld, including all of the most important ones. That seems like an excellent start to a reexamination!

    This is really looking for the dark lining in a silver cloud! Like those stories that Apple is doomed because a major supplier, Pegatron, is making less profit than last quarter, when it's profits are actually up 85% year over year! Or Apple is doomed because its margins are down, when they're down (very slightly!) because it's going for more market share on the iPad mini. Margins on iPhones are actually up!

    Exactly. The claims that were questioned are far down the path of dependent claims - and not all that critical.

    More importantly, it is quite common for ALL claims to be rejected in the first office action - only to have all of them allowed after examination. The first office action is often "we're going to reject this if there's anything that's even remotely related - and leave it up to you to show why it should be granted." The fact that most of the claims were allowed is a success, not a failure, when it comes to first office action.
  • Reply 11 of 25
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    paxman wrote: »
    Invisible images - how cool is that?

    But I gotta say I find it hard to see how image translucency warrants a patent. I understand the issue must be the implementation of translucency but I struggle with it. I think it deserves a 'well done'  and that's about it. Its just a gut reaction, I know nothing about this case.

    You might want to get your information from somewhere other than technically illiterate sites like AI.

    Apple didn't patent translucency, nor could anyone do so. You patent a specific implementation. If Apple's implementation is novel and meets the other requirements, it's entirely patentable - even if other people have found other ways to do it.
  • Reply 12 of 25
    hudson1hudson1 Posts: 800member
    A number of posts seem to be based on commentators assuming they have some kind of intimate knowledge of the case... almost as if they had read all of the legal briefs in entirety themselves. These are complicated cases where the details are integral to the findings and rulings. To assume anything else is rather naive.
  • Reply 13 of 25
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,452member
    jragosta wrote: »
    Exactly. The claims that were questioned are far down the path of dependent claims - and not all that critical.

    They're a bit more important than you might realize JR. It's reportedly those specific patent claims that Samsung was found to infringe. Apple didn't assert the remaining patent claims against Samsung and thus they're completely irrelevant to their case. if the preliminarily rejected claims are tossed then Samsung would not be infringing on the patent as a whole.
  • Reply 14 of 25
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,452member
    normm wrote: »
    This "story" is insane! This is a first office action, which means nothing, and all but four claims have been upheld, including all of the most important ones.

    A really minor correction: There were 5 rejected claims not 4.
  • Reply 15 of 25
    gazoobeegazoobee Posts: 3,754member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by battlescarred1 View Post



    As I've said before, Samsung will never be prevented from selling their products no matter if they are found in violation of a patent or not. Apple is completely wasting their money. It's a game that's been played for centuries. There are no winners. Everyone losses money in the end trying to litigate patents.


     


    Hyperbole much?  While patents as a concept might have been around for "centuries," the patent system in North America is both relatively new and radically changed from what it was even 30 years ago, so it's not like there is really one unique continuous "thing" called the patent system to be railing against here.  It's evolving all the time.  


     


    We are talking only about the latest series of changes and definitions, in a constantly evolving system that has only recently been skewed towards corporate interests and "free market" Capitalist ideology over and above the original concept of protecting the originator of the patented idea.  


     


    People and companies have successfully defended their patents in the past.  The courts seem to have a different idea nowadays, but that doesn't mean that they might not swing back the other way some day soon and actually value the idea and it's originator over and above general concerns for "commerce" and "competition."  It would be both more efficient and a better protection of the economy overall than what they are currently doing and IME, the best, most efficient method usually wins out in the long run.  

  • Reply 16 of 25
    kdarlingkdarling Posts: 1,640member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by jragosta View Post



    You might want to get your information from somewhere other than technically illiterate sites like AI.


     


    Hard to disagree with that advice.


     


    Quote:


    Apple didn't patent translucency, nor could anyone do so. You patent a specific implementation. 



     


    That would be wonderful if true.  The problem is a lot of software patents are incredibly vague, and seem to be only about a general idea.  For example, the claims in this one are variations of:


     


    1. A method for establishing a translucent window having a translucent window background and a translucent window frame on a display screen of a computer system, comprising the steps of:  displaying a translucent window on a display screen such that a base window can be seen through said translucent window, and conducting image operations on at least one of said translucent window and said base window.


     


    No specific implementation is described.  Only the idea that a translucent window overlays another window, and one of them can be used.  Not exactly what most people would think of as a unique invention.


    --


    On that note, some Interesting news today, not sure about the details yet:


    "A U.S. appeals court has ruled that an abstract idea is not patentable simply because it is tied to a computer system, signaling what one judge described as the "death" of software and business method patents."


     

  • Reply 17 of 25
    ecsecs Posts: 307member
    If Apple succeeds in patenting blending, I have other patent suggestions:

    Linear interpolation
    Binary arithmetic
    Applications that read source code and produce executables
    And, since they want to extend to other markets, let me suggest also:
    Eating
    Breathing

    Btw, I'm not a Samsung fan, nor a Google fan either. I've sympathized Apple when they were a _different_ business. Now they're far dirtier than Mocrosoft in their worst years. And then people say StreetView is scary. Ha!! Patenting blending is scary!!! Please read the SIGGRAPH paper on alpha blending. It's from the 80s. Shame on Apple!
  • Reply 18 of 25
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,452member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by KDarling View Post


    On that note, some Interesting news today, not sure about the details yet:


    "A U.S. appeals court has ruled that an abstract idea is not patentable simply because it is tied to a computer system, signaling what one judge described as the "death" of software and business method patents."


     



    Thanks for the mention and link. That's been a closely watched case that's swung both pro and anti-software patent so far. Next stop is the Supreme Court with any luck, which has shown some distrust of computer software patentability. It may take a couple more years but I personally believe there will be clear and strict limits placed on business-method/software patents by courts and/or law-makers if they're not tossed out altogether. I'm pinning my hopes on courts.

  • Reply 19 of 25
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,452member


    Patently-O (Mueller says it's his most trusted opinion site on patent issues IIRC) has an article up about the ruling and it's implications.


    http://www.patentlyo.com/patent/2013/05/cls-bank-v-alice-corp-court-finds-many-software-patents-ineligible.html

  • Reply 20 of 25
    paxmanpaxman Posts: 4,594member
    jragosta wrote: »
    You might want to get your information from somewhere other than technically illiterate sites like AI.
    Dumb reply to my comment.
    Apple didn't patent translucency, nor could anyone do so. You patent a specific implementation. If Apple's implementation is novel and meets the other requirements, it's entirely patentable - even if other people have found other ways to do it.
    And this what strikes me. I can see the argument how every novel implementation of a state or process is patentable, but my reaction was to the seeming triviality of the result of the patented method. But as I said, I am no expert. Just a gut reaction.
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