Rejected 'pinch-to-zoom' patent could reignite Apple vs Samsung trial

iPhone 5
Apple may not own pinch-to-zoom after all

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) tentatively invalidated Apple's "pinch-to-zoom" patent Wednesday following a second review.

The claim was a key component to Apple's legal victory over Samsung earlier this year. It may be years before anything comes of the decision, but the rejection could spell a retrial in the Apple vs Samsung legal saga.

It seems the South Korean company paid attention to the ruling as it informed a federal court of the invalided patent the day all its claims were rejected.

A long history

At the end of August, Samsung was found guilty of infringing on a number of Apple patents by a U.S. District court.

Apple was awarded $1.05 billion (UK£664 million, AU$1 billion) in many claims related to Samsung's Galaxy devices such as the Galaxy S 4G and Galaxy SII.

Apple's "pinch-to-zoom" patent was a cornerstone of the Cupertino company's case against Samsung. Now that the USPTO has at least temporarily invalidated the patent, it could leave the door for Samsung to recoup some of its losses.

Several other Apple patents have recently been picked apart during second examinations by the USPTO.

In October, the U.S. patent office invalidated another pillar of Apple's suit. The office rejected all 20 claims relating to Apple's "rubber-banding" (also called the over-scroll bounce) patent.

Then a few weeks ago, the patent office nullified another 20 claims related to the so-called "Steve Jobs" patent that dealt with touchscreen heuristics. While it's a crucial patent, it has less to do with the current Samsung case.

The long road ahead

Though it seems Apple may not be left with a patent to stand on, it will be a long time, maybe years, before anything comes of the recent ruling.

The tentative rejection is only the first trigger in a long line of legal steps and not much is certain right now. For the moment the onus is on Apple as it will have to defend the validity of the patents to the USPTO.

The patent office may validate the "pinch-to-zoom" patent after Apple defends it, or a final rejection could lead to a retrial.

The only thing we know for certain is there will be a few more ups and downs on the roller coaster ride that is the Apple and Samsung legal tug of war.