Apple suffers more patent setbacks

It has been a very bad week for Apple on the patent front. First the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) informed Apple that it could not trademark the iPad mini, then it said it would no longer enforce Apple’s “rubber band” user interface patent. In other words, the USPTO made it clear that Apple can’t go around patenting the English language and Newtonian physics.

Now a German court has weighed in on Apple’s quite famous slide-to-unlock patent. The Bundespatentgericht, or Federal Patent Court, ruled that all claims made in the patent are invalid.

Furthermore it found that none of the 14 amendments offered by Apple could save the patent from going out the window. It was more or less clear that the court would invalidate the patent, but the decision to drop the amendments probably won’t go down well with Apple. The decision is appealable, so we probably haven’t heard the last of it.

The court concluded that the only respect in which the patent is a new invention rather than prior art is the fact that a swipe is used to unlock devices. However, that is not enough under European patent law. Software for the sake of software is not patentable in Europe, unless it solves an actual technical problem, reports Foss Patents.

Although some of the aspects of the patent are technical, the actual innovative step was deemed only “software as such” and therefore could not enjoy legal protection. In contrast, the US patent law allows companies and individuals to patent practically anything, provided it is new and inventive, and it has no technicity requirement. This helps explain why the US patent system is hopelessly broken and easily abused by patent trolls.

The ruling is a small victory for Google’sMotorola Mobility and Samsung, which have spent years arguing that many Apple UI patents should be invalidated.