Apple’s 381 “bounce back” patent could be deemed invalid

August 16, 2012
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As most smartphone enthusiasts know, the Apple vs Samsung trial (you can call it a patent war if you want) has been under way for more then two weeks now. There have been loads of interesting stuff to report, such as the leaked Samsung rejected trial material, or the Apple and Samsung sales figures that have surfaced, but it’s safe to say that, until yesterday, few things that really matter were discussed in these two weeks.

Fortunately for those of us that are more interested in anticipating the final decision, yesterday marked a turning point in Apple vs Samsung patent litigation. In short, Samsung basically tore apart Apple’s ‘381 patent, one oftenly referred to as the “bounce back patent”.

This was all done by one Samsung’s expert witnesses, Dr. Andries van Dam, a faculty member at Brown University. Van Dam has proven (or so it seems, we’ll have to wait for a final decision to be sure) that Apple’s ‘381 patent should be deemed invalid, since there are two previously released devices that showcase the same technology that Apple has been granted a patent for.

The first piece of tech with a feature similar to Apple’s bounce back patent is the “Tablecloth” app for a projection-based touchscreen surface called the DiamondTouch Table. Released back in 2001, the Tablecloth app shows a blank space if the user scrolls beyond the actual content. Obviously enough, Apple lawyers have turned on the defence and have tried to question weather the DiamondTouch Table is an actual touchscreen device. In addition, Apple’s lawyers have also mentioned that the Tablecloth app returns the user to the original place before scrolling. Both of these claims have been contradicted by van Dam, who has based his affirmations on the actual wording inside the patent.

The second prior art that can deem Apple’s bounce back patent invalid is called LaunchTile, a user interface for mobile devices. The way LaunchTile works is by dividing the screen into four sections, each containing a different app. Users can swipe back an forth through the tiles to reveal other apps. What’s interesting is that when a user swipes from screen to screen, if his fingers did not pass a certain threshold, the previous tile would snap back, much like a reverse Applesque bounce back if you will. While Apple lawyers were quick to claim that LaunchTile did not display any off-screen information, van Dam has skilfully pointed out that the next tile, the one users did not scroll enough to actually switch to, is actually the off-screen information.

In this new light, the jury might decide that Apple has been granted a patent for a technology that was already used. Twice! If that will be the case, Samsung will have one less allegedly infringed patent to worry about.

Now that the narration is over, let me ask you a simple question, one that you can answer to in the comment section below: isn’t it a bit stupid that the two biggest smartphone manufacturers in the world are spending heaps of money on lawyers and days after days in courts to fight over a minor thing such as the scrolling bounce back? If you pardon the exaggeration, the next thing Apple is going to do is claim that they have invented the colour black…

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