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The US Patent Office's rejection of the patent covering the "pinch to zoom" feature (now prevalent in most touch-screen phones) follows its rejection, in October, of the patent covering the "bounce back" feature. Both of the patents formed the cornerstones of the $1.05 billion lawsuit that Apple won against Samsung in August this year. Now, all hell seems to have broken loose, with most online outlets and blogs claiming this to be a strike on Apple's legal achievements. But this outcry may be heavily misplaced. For one, as long as the patent is not legally "invalidated" (instead of rejected—which is what the USPTO did), the patent is very much alive and nothing really changes. More importantly, however, both these judgments (the October one, and December one) were made ex parte, meaning that Apple was not present to defend its claims. Statistics show that patents once re-examined by the PTO, on the request of the patent holder (or a member of the public), are allowed to continue 92% of the time, albeit often with certain modifications. In short, these rejections barely symbolise any weakening in Apple's legal standing. What could happen, however, is that the patent could be approved, following re-examination, could allow for certain modifications and claims to be shot down. This may then impact the $1.05 billion sum Samsung is due to reimburse Apple.
Currently, the "bounce back" patent is being reviewed by USPTO, while Apple is surely to bring the rejected "pinch to zoom" patent up for re-examination. Critics would do well to wait for the results, than bask in pre-emptive pronouncements.
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