Samsung calls for new trial on Apple's 'rubber banding' patent

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In a move that could considerably reshape the timeline for its ongoing patent struggle with Apple, Samsung has requested an entirely new trial over whether or not it violated the so-called "rubber banding" patent used in the iPhone and other devices.

Samsung filed its most recent motion on Monday after 11 p.m. local time, according to FOSS Patents. That motion was the latest in what Apple has called a series of attempts to "delay and derail" the limited damages retrial stemming from the court's earlier decision to vacate a portion of the $1.05 billion verdict handed down against Samsung in August.

At issue in Samsung's request is U.S. Patent No. 7,469,381, which covers the "rubber banding" animation seen at work in the iPad, iPod touch, and iPhone. That animation — which causes icons and other on-screen elements to bounce back when a user has scrolled beyond the end of a screen — was largely duplicated in a number of Samsung's products and found to be in infringement both in the United States and more recently in Japan.

In October, though, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office tentatively invalidated Apple's patent on the rubber banding effect, citing prior art. Apple subsequently narrowed the scope of the claim in its patent to deny that it covered bounce-back animations "in which the specific purpose or cause of the computer code that generates the snap back effect is anything other than edge alignment." Samsung argues that, had this narrowing happened prior to last year's trial, the jury would have been more likely to rule in Samsung's favor on claims stemming from the '387 patent.

FOSS' Florian Mueller notes that Samsung's argument is not unreasonable, but also that issues could arise that would cause the court to deny the South Korean firm's motion. First among these is the use of "very broad terms" to describe Apple's argument for the USPTO to reexamine the patent, giving Samsung wiggle room with regard to whether its products infringed.

A second issue is that Samsung's products are said to infringe Apple's patents in not one, but three different ways. The photo gallery and Android Browser center on-screen elements, but the Contacts application aligns the contact list with the edge of the screen. Florian notes that just one infringement is enough for a liability finding, though the extent of liability may have an impact on the size of any damages awarded.

The third issue is the potential impact on the timeline of the whole process. Samsung's motion for a rubber-banding retrial would delay the start of the already scheduled partial retrial for the vacated damages. Florian also notes that Samsung would likely ask for a final ruling on the '381 patent, with the company appealing the ruling were it to come out not in Samsung's favor. In all, the proceedings could drag on or be delayed for a year or more.