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Apple multitouch patent ruled invalid by US patent office

Apple's multi-touch patent is under threat, which could have an impact on the company's many court cases.

This could be bad news for Apple. The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has been reexamining one of the Cupertino company's multi-touch patents, and it's ruled that none of the 20 claims involved are valid, Foss Patents reports.

The patent is pretty broad, covering interaction with touchscreen devices, which now account for the bulk of what Apple does. The decision isn't final, so it could be nothing comes of it. But it's not Apple's first multi-touch patent to come under fire.

The USPTO came to a similar decision about Apple's rubber banding bounce effect in late October. That patent covers the effect of the page 'bouncing back' when you scroll past where it ends on a touchscreen device. That finding is also subject to appeal.

If both are ruled to be invalid, this could open a can of multi-touch worms. The most recent patent was used in Apple's court case with Motorola last month, while the previous rubber band one was one of the sticks Apple used to beat Samsung down in its $1 billion victory. It looks like we could be in for a whole host of court-based shenanigans.

The late Steve Jobs is listed as the chief inventor of this patent, which is the latest to be ruled invalid. It's previously been referred to as "the Steve Jobs patent".

Many patents labelled invalid at this stage do go on to survive. But, as Foss Patents notes, "it would be a mistake to underestimate the significance of a first Office action. Also, a complete rejection of all claims of a given patent is potentially more devastating than one affecting only some claims."

Will Apple win out in the end? How do you feel about Apple going after another $700 million from Samsung? Let me know in the comments, or over on Facebook.