FOSS Patents reports that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has issued a notice preliminarily ruling that Apple’s massive iPhone patent popularly referred to as “the Steve Jobs patent” invalid in its entirety upon reexamination.
The patent, issued as Patent No. 7,479,949, had been granted in January 2009 and incorporated several prior patent applications dating back to September 2006 before the company publicly unveiled the device. Steve Jobs is listed as the first inventor on the patent, and FOSS Patents notes that it is probably the most famous of the over 300 patents credited at least in part to Jobs.
Some people say that first Office actions are partial because they are based only on submissions made by those challenging the patent, and many examiners like to take a tough position early on in order to enable and require the patentee to present the strongest arguments in favor of validity. But it would be a mistake to underestimate the significance of a first Office action. Also, a complete rejection of all claims of a given patent is potentially more devastating than one affecting only some claims.
Apple has asserted the patent against a number of its competitors, including Samsung and Motorola, and an ultimate finding of invalidity in the reexamination process would substantially weaken Apple’s cases against those companies, although it is far from the only weapon in Apple’s patent arsenal.