US Office Rejects Apple Pinch-to-Zoom patent

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US patent authorities rejected Apple’s Inc’s key “pinch-to-zoom” patent, the second piece of  bad news in the last two months for the iPhone maker in its battle against Samsung Electronics. The United States Patent and Trademark Office declared that the “pinch-to-zoom” patent, that helped Apple win $1.05 billion in damages against Samsung in a jury trial should not have been granted. Samsung said that the action should be taken in account in evaluating its petition for a new trial and its challenge to the damages award.  Apple is expected to appeal the patent office’s ruling this week.

The “pinch-to-zoom” features distinguish between single and double touch on the screen of a mobile device and allow the user to zoom out and in moving two fingers apart or closer touching the display.

Samsung and Apple, the world’s top two smartphone makers, are locked in patent disputes in at least ten countries. Of the six patents that were the basis of the ruling against Samsung, this is the second that the patent office has concluded, on re-examination, should not have been granted. In October, the office came to the same conclusion about the patent for Apple’s “rubber-banding” or “bounce” feature, which makes a digital page bounce when a user pulls a finger from the top of the screen to the bottom.

On the second week of December, the judge who oversaw the patent dispute between the two companies in San Jose, made a final plea for a “global peace”. Charles Verhoeven, the Samsung’s legal counsel, described the battle as a “thermonuclear war created by Apple throughout the world”.

A Difficult 2012

This year has not been particularly successful for the tech giant created by Steve Jobs. Recently, Apple’s shares have taken a beating, with investors worried about rising competition from other mobile device makers using Google Inc’s Android platform.

Endless lawsuits with Samsung, financial results missing analysts expectations, perplexity on Siri, ‘the intelligent personal assistant’ and doubts of iPhone5 (not revolutionary) and mini iPad (too expensive and too less powerful) cast some shadows on the company lead by Tim Cook.

On the business side, however, Apple remains not just the biggest technology company, but the biggest publicly traded company in the world. It is still registering record earnings and profits and it has shipped over 5 million iPhone 5 the same week end it was launched.

Nevertheless, in 2012, Apple lost ground to Google, with 122 million Android powered devices sold in the third quarter of 2012, representing 72% of worldwide mobile sales, according to a study from Gartner Research. The iPhone 5S or 6 will be probably available in the spring, earlier than anticipated, and will include a faster processor, more RAM and a better camera.

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