Appeals Court Dumps Apple's Slide To Unlock Patent, Tosses Massive Jury Award Against Samsung In The Trash

from the bye-bye dept

Apple may have been able to convince a jury that Samsung violated a bunch of its patents, on concepts like "slide to unlock," but apparently the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (CAFC) disagrees. Despite the court's reputation for regularly expanding the power of patents (and getting smacked around by the Supreme Court for doing so), CAFC has sided with Samsung and tossed out a jury's $120 million award and with it some Apple patents -- including "slide to unlock."

There were a few different patents in this lawsuit, and the appeals court found that Samsung didn't infringe on one of them and that two others were invalid. On the Slide to Unlock patent -- US Patent 8,046,721 -- the court said it was invalidated due to obviousness and the fact that all of the elements involved in slide to unlock were found in prior art. It notes that the "case for obviousness was strong" while "Apple's evidence... was weak." In fact, the court is not at all impressed by Apple's arguments for why "slide to unlock" was some great innovation -- including the idea that because the Steve Jobs reality distortion field made people all excited about it, that doesn't mean the idea wasn't obvious at the time.
Apple appears to identify the unsolved problem as the lack of an “intuitive” method of unlocking a touch-screen portable device. But Apple provided no evidence showing that this problem was recognized in the industry. No reasonable jury could find testimony by a single expert about his personal experience with one device as evidence of an industry-wide long-felt need.

[....]

As evidence of industry praise, Apple presented expert testimony that the attendees at an Apple event manifested approval when Steve Jobs first presented and unlocked the iPhone.... Evidence of approval by Apple fans—who may or may not have been skilled in the art—during the presentation of the iPhone is not legally sufficient.
CAFC also found an Apple patent (US Patent 8,074,172 on "autocorrect" features to be invalid as well. Everyone agreed that there was a ton of prior art around autocorrect -- it was just a question of whether or not Samsung did it "Apple's way." But here the court said that "Apple's way" was pretty obvious from the prior art. Once again, this may sound familiar:
In short, we find that Samsung presented a strong case of obviousness, showing that every element of claim 18 was present in the prior art. Apple’s evidence of secondary considerations was very weak.
Apple's "weak" defense was, in short, "but the iPhone was super popular and people like autocorrect" The court notes that this doesn't really matter.
Apple’s evidence shows that phones with autocorrection may sell better than phones without autocorrection, but it does not show that phones with the specific implementation of autocorrection embodied by claim 18 sell better than phones with other methods of autocorrection disclosed by the prior art.
The even bigger win, monetarily, for Samsung, though is the US Patent 5,946,647, which was on a "system and method for performing an action on a structure in computer-generated data." The alleged infringement of that patent was what made up the bulk ($98 million) of the $120 million award. And here, CAFC found simply that Samsung didn't infringe (the discussion there involves claim construction and specifically how Samsung's setup operates). Samsung is still fighting Apple on multiple other patent battles (and has lost a few). But considering how much attention the "slide to unlock" patent got, it's good to see it get tossed.
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Filed Under: obvious, patents, slide to unlock
Companies: apple, samsung


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  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 26 Feb 2016 @ 8:20pm

    Re:

    It's a pretty harsh indictment of one of the ills of our jury system. Those who are intelligent, hard working, and busy quite often try their hardest to avoid jury duty. Those who do take the time, usually are weeded out during jury selection because one set of lawyers (depending on the case) are usually looking to weed out those who have technical expertise or are rational thinkers. Often what it leaves us with is a jury pool of non-technical people who are more apt to be swayed by passionate statements rather than the merits of the arguments.

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