The reexamination division of the United States Patent and Trademark Office handed down a non-final decision for Apple's D'677 patent to be invalidated.
The decision comes after an anonymous ex parte reexamination request, most likely made by rival Samsung, that calls into question the validity of the said patent.
Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents, who spotted the decision, believes that Apple will find it difficult to argue the validity of the patent due to the long period in between the ex parte requests and the action of the USPTO.
In addition, the non-final decision released by the USPTO saw that the single claim of the patent was twice rejected due to obviousness, once due to obviousness in relation to a published application for a patent and once due to novelty.
The office is also not giving Apple the option to claim benefit of filing date in relation to two previously applied patents involving the same design. The D'677 patent covers different attributes in design compared to the company's previous filings, which would make it not meet the requirements for patentability according to Title 35 of the U.S. Code.
Two patents, one held by LG and another held in Japan, served as the basis for the two other rejections due to obviousness by the USPTO.
The invalidation of the patent is significant because it was involved in the first patent trial between Apple and Samsung. In the trial, it was found that Samsung infringed on the D'677 patent with several of its devices, including the Galaxy S 4G, the Epic 4G Touch, Mesmerize, Infuse 4G and Vibrant smartphones. In two of the cases, namely for the Galaxy S2 Epic 4G and the Galaxy S2 Skyrocket, the jury decided upon the infringement only on the D'677 patent.
While the decision by the jury on the Apple and Samsung patent trial has been released three years ago, the proceedings are still ongoing due to the appeals being lodged by both companies. The initial ruling for damages of $1.05 billion has been reduced by Samsung to $548 million, though an en banc rehearing to be able to further decrease the amount to $399 million was recently denied.
Samsung still holds the option to raise its case to the U.S. Supreme Court.