One of Apple’s iPhone patents—the one that a jury used to decide that Samsung owed Apple hundreds of millions of dollars in damages—was just ruled invalid by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
The patent in question, D618677, covers the design of the iPhone 3G and was filed in November 2008, but Apple relied on two patents filed in January 2007 to give that 2008 patent an earlier protection date. It’s a common practice, but the earlier patents have to sufficiently describe the later one in order to extend the protection date. The U.S. patent office decided that those two original patents didn’t describe the design patented in late 2008 sufficiently enough, and that perhaps that patent should have never been issued to begin with, according to FOSS Patents.
In the nearly two years between the two patent filing dates, a host of other smartphone makers produced phones that looked similar to the iPhone, including Samsung. Those devices stand as “prior art” now, which means that the patent covers design traits that were already common by the time it was filed.
The story behind the story: Samsung is still fighting the $548 million damages bill it owes Apple, money that was awarded largely due to this now invalid design patent. A date for a new trial, the third in this lengthy legal battle, has yet to be set to determine the final amount Samsung owes, but it’s likely that Samsung will point to the patent office’s ruling as evidence that it owes Apple nothing.