Apple streamlines ITC suit against Samsung with fewer patent claims

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In a move to narrow the scope of its ITC patent infringement case against Samsung, Apple on Monday removed a number of claims pertaining to two owned patents and dropped one patent assertion entirely.

The iPhone maker dropped a physical push button patent and 15 claims regarding plug-in detection and multitouch patents in an attempt to streamline its ongoing U.S. International Trade Commission dispute against Samsung, reports FOSS Patent's Florian Mueller.

Due to the ITC's strict timeline requirements, it is not uncommon for complainants to drop certain claims or entire patent assertions so that a favorable ruling can be reached.

Apple dropped U.S. Patent No. 7,863,533 for a "cantilevered push button having multiple contacts and fulcrums," and is most likely in response to Samsung's claim construction win regarding the IP. The IP is implemented in Apple devices as the volume rocker found on the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch among others.

Claim construction is an important step in patent litigation where the meaning of the asserted patent is interpreted by the court. Last week, Apple won favorable claim construction rulings on four of five asserted patents, though Samsung was successful in arguing against the '533 patent.

Apple's '533 push button patent. | Source: USPTO

In addition to the push button patent, Apple dropped claims 1-3, 11, 12, 15, 16, and 21-27 of U.S. Patent No. 7,789,697 on "plug detection mechanisms," and claim 3 of U.S. Patent No. 7,479,949 which describes a "[t]ouch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics."

Mueller feels that Apple's decision to withdraw the 15 claims from the '697 and '949 patents was likely not related to claim construction, and was instead intended to bolster Apple's position against Samsung's non-infringement arguments.

The case may see more "streamlining" on Apple's part moving forward, some of which could happen with the upcoming evidentiary hearing, which will take place between May 31 and on June 6, 2012.