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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has declared in a preliminary ruling that Apple's patent on "pinch-to-zoom" technology should never have been granted. The decision will have implications for Apple's U.S. lawsuit with Samsung because the pinch-to-zoom patent was involved in Apple's $1.05 million court win against its rival last summer.
Mashable's Alex Fitzpatrick reported, "An Apple patent that paved the way for pinch-to-zoom functionality on the iPhone or iPad should not have been awarded in the first place, said the United States Patent and Trademark Office in a preliminary ruling made public late Wednesday. The patent is among six that lie at the heart of Apple's most recent lawsuit against Samsung, one of its top competitors in the mobile phone and tablet marketplace. Samsung was recently ordered by a jury to pay Apple $1.05 billion in damages for copyright infringement as a result of that case, but that number may change as a result of the USPTO's decision this week."
Steve Lohr with The New York Times explained, "The patent, No. 7,844,915, is one of six that a jury in August found that Samsung had infringed. It covers usability software that distinguishes between single-touch and multitouch gestures on a smartphone or tablet screen. The patent is widely known as the 'pinch to zoom' patent, but the software is actually narrower in scope. Apple’s legal documents refer to it as controlling a 'scroll versus gesture' feature."
Reuters noted that this is the second preliminary rejection of an Apple patent in recent months. "Samsung won a preliminary invalidation of Apple's 'rubber-banding' patent in October that had the 'bounce' feature. The patent allows a user with a touch screen to bounce back to the image on the screen if the user goes beyond the edge."
On the other side of the patent war, Samsung received some bad news of its own. Accoring to Computerworld's Jennifer Baker, "Europe's top regulatory authority will charge Samsung over abuse of patents. The European Commission is very close to issuing a statement of objections against the electronics giant, Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said Thursday. The list of Samsung's alleged breaches of European competition law may be released before the end of the year, he said. Samsung is accused of abusing its dominant market position by filing patent lawsuits against Apple."