Remember during the big Apple v. Samsung trials back in August, one of the patents people kept talking about was the “rubber-banding” or “bounceback” patent? Basically, it was an Apple patent on the effect that happens when you scroll to the edge of your home screen on an iOS device: it scrolls past the icons a little bit, and then an animation plays where the icons bounce back into their correct positions. It’s a neat little aesthetic touch, and its one that was used on early versions of Android, too.
It looks like Samsung and other Android partners may be safe from getting sued over it anymore, though, because the USPTO has issued a non-final declaration that the patent is invalid in its entirety. They say non-final because Apple still has a chance to appeal, but assuming the USPTO’s current decision stands, Apple will lose the patent, and will be unable to sue people over it anymore.
This could have implications on Samsung’s appeal, which is currently ongoing. The ‘949 patent is one of the ones that they were found to be guilty of infringing on in their earlier battles with Apple, so if the patent ceases to exist, they may be at least partially off the hook for some of their fines.
Oddly, the USPTO doesn’t seem to have given an actual reason for the invalidation of Apple’s patent. There’s been much controversy about the patent in question before (the U.S. Judge Posner already invalidated it in a Apple v. Motorola case), and the general consensus seems to be that it’s an overly broad patent. Apple may be able to re-apply for a new patent if this one gets invalidated, and narrow the scope of their claims within the patent application. We’ll have to wait and see what the USPTO’s final decision on the matter is.