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Samsung gets a boost with USPTO's 'final' rejection of Apple's pinch-to-zoom patent

The United States Patent and Trademark Office has issued a "final" rejection of Apple's pinch-to-zoom patent, opening the door for chief rival Samsung to push back even more against its loss in last summer's $1.05 billion patent infringement verdict.

Early Sunday morning, Samsung filed notice with U.S. courts of the USPTO's decision to reject all of the claims of U.S. Patent No. 7,844,915, according to FOSS Patents. The ruling rejects claims 1 through 21 of Apple's filing, but holds that they are all subject to reexamination.

The final office action found that Apple's claims in the patent were both anticipated by prior art references and obvious according to the combination of another two other prior art references.

The USPTO had issued a tentative invalidation of Apple's patent back in December, calling into question just how much of Apple's $1.05 billion victory over Samsung could remain intact. The pinch-to-zoom patent, according to Apple's own damages claims, was the most valuable software patent at issue in that case. Foss' Florian Mueller notes that the patents Apple has put forward in its second patent action against Samsung are "on average, considerably more valuable than the ones asserted in the first case."

The pinch-to-zoom patent isn't the only one of Apple's filings to see eventual rejection from the USPTO. In October, the agency invalidated the rubber-banding patent, stating that a number of its claims were anticipated or obvious due to prior art.

The finality of the USPTO's "final" action on the patent is open to interpretation. Apple now has two months to argue the validity of its patent before the invalidation goes into effect. Even following that, there is an appeals process that could see the legal and regulatory action over pinch-to-zoom stretching into mid-2017 or beyond, according to some observers.

In October of last year, a Dutch court found that Samsung had not infringed Apple's pinch-to-zoom patent. Apple has also unsuccessfully asserted that patent in Britain against HTC, as well as in Germany against Samsung and Motorola.