Apple’s design patent for the third-generation iPhone was a key issue in the first Samsung vs. Apple patent trial, the jury found that Samsung did infringe this patent and on that verdict Samsung had to pay close to half a billion dollars in damages. Samsung was obviously not going to go down without a fight so there have been lawsuits, claims and counterclaims all while a reexamination of US Design Patent No. 618,677 was anonymously requested in all likelihood by Samsung itself. Following the reexamination the US Patent and Trademark Office finds this patent to be invalid which means Samsung just might have saved itself half a billion dollars.
The decision hinges more on a technicality than an inherent problem with Apple’s patent, Design Patent No. 618,677 relied upon two previous patents filed by Apple to obtain its January 5, 2007 “priority date.” Apple didn’t submit the actual patent to the USPTO until November 2008 but it claimed that since this patent was sufficiently described in the ones filed in 2007 it was also entitled to the same protection date as the other patents. This is allowed under patent law and there are circumstances to support this provision, USPTO hasn’t ruled on the contents of the patent it has ruled on whether or not it’s entitled to the same protection as the previous patents.
USPTO has ruled that Apple’s Design Patent 618,677 doesn’t enjoy the same protection date as the previous patents because between 2007 and 2008 there is sufficient design art from the likes of Samsung, LG and even Apple in the record which makes this patent valid, and it’s protection date only extends from November 2008 when it was originally filed. This has given Samsung a good chance to save half a billion dollars, the company can bring up this decision in the case’s remanded third trial to convince the court that it doesn’t owe any damages on a patent that’s invalid to begin with.