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關於我們

天遠律師事務所

這是一間深研科技與商務的事務所,我們精通產業生態及法律實務,承辦過的案件亦常受社會矚目。

我們小而精,所以慎選客戶。

擁有20多年執業經驗、同時投資管理多家科技公司的主持律師,始終逐一把關每個委任案件,團隊亦時時設身處地,協助客戶以最經濟的手段達成商務目標。 天遠深信,空談法律規定毫無意義!

就算是Apple的專利,一樣可以打掉!

2012 年 12 月 08 日

2012.12.08

 

有了專利就世界無敵?拿來告人就無往不利?別傻了。我們之前曾經在專利漁夫與侵權主張 (i)中提過,擁有專利的確是告人的老本。但大家都知道,一講到訴訟不管在哪個國家都和賭博差不多,再雄厚的老本上了賭桌,都可能會賠得精光。

專利的老本怎麼賠得掉?被撤銷啊!專利從申請到發證的過程中間必須經過審查,而審查委員在有限的時間裡、以有限的語言能力,不論是誰,都絕不可能看遍全世界與申請案有關的技術文獻(你再厲害,能遍讀中英日三語的相關資料就已經夠嚇人的了,但是德國法國瑞典都一樣有很牛逼的研發人才啊…你讀了一萬篇只要漏掉一篇,這個專利的新穎性就有問題了…),去確認申請案的內容是否符合三項專利要件:(1) 新穎性、(2) 進步性、(3) 產業利用性;因此,審查委員不小心准了不具備這三項條件之一甚至之二之三的烏龍專利申請,時有所聞;多寡,純粹看審查委員的品質。然而,沒被告的時候,申請案亂送,專利局亂准,干我何事?但我萬一被告,哪能輕易放過你專利取得上的瑕疵?

我們代表當事人就專利案件到法院應訴時,常用的答辯概分為兩大類:(a) 未侵權 – 我的產品根本沒被你的「申請專利範圍」給涵蓋到;(b) 你無權 – 表面上你有專利,但你的專利是個屁!本文僅針對第二類 (b) 的答辯模式作介紹;由於第一類 (a) 的法定判斷方式相當複雜,日後有機會將另行撰述。

Apple主張Samsung在早期Galaxy手機上盜用了在Mac OS及iOS上用到的「橡皮筋回彈視覺效果專利」(Rubber band scrolling) 並構成侵權,有沒有道理?

盜用,的確有。2012年8月,Samsung在美國法院被判侵權並要賠償天價10億美金給Apple,其中一部分就是以侵害這個專利為理由。然而,這個讓Samsung恨之入骨的判決才下來二個月,美國專利當局USPTO就用令人敬佩的公正性,依Samsung之舉發,撤銷了Apple的這項專利(詳參本文下附之Foss Patents文章,解釋得相當詳盡)。專利如果被撤銷,人人就都能自由享用,哪來的侵權!

為什麼會被撤銷?多半是因為欠缺了新穎性。在你專利申請前,倘若有人、在世界上任何地方、用任何語言、公開在文獻裡提到「你以為可以被授予專利」的技術內容、或根本就把它實作出來,嚴格而言你的技術就不能算是「新」的,對吧?如果專利局「不小心」針對「不是新的」技術授予專利權,那這個專利就含有本質上的瑕疵;一旦被舉發,就只能依法撤銷。這個道理,在美國、台灣、或任何其他國家,基本上都大同小異。

Apple這項專利,除了欠缺「新穎性」外,另一個要件「進步性」也有很多問題,USPTO認為在申請專利範圍中還有好幾項都可以被熟習相關技術之人給輕易實現出來…總之,結論就是這專利被打掉了,因此「Apple, 你無權」!

接下來Samsung在美國一度受挫的專利戰上能玩的把戲就多了,以後有空再慢慢聊。

順便摘錄我國相關規定如下,應該有助於更進一步瞭解上面的分析:

專利法 (2011-12-21)

第22條

可供產業上利用之發明,無下列情事之一,得依本法申請取得發明專利:

一、申請前已見於刊物者。

二、申請前已公開實施者。

三、申請前已為公眾所知悉者。【筆者按:用白話文講,專利申請必須具備新穎性 (Novelty);而具備新穎性的前提,就是上述三款情事均不存在】

發明雖無前項各款所列情事,但為其所屬技術領域中具有通常知識者依申請前之先前技術所能輕易完成時,仍不得取得發明專利。【筆者按:這指的是進步性 (Inventive Step)。如果在你的申請案的技術領域裡,找個普通人都能輕易依照先前已經有的技術實現出你在申請案裡所主張的技術時,你的技術就不具備進步性,你的申請案當然也不能准】

第71條

發明專利權有下列情事之一,任何人得向專利專責機關提起舉發:一、違反第21條至第24條、第26條、第31條、第32條第1項、第3項、第34條第4項、第43條第2項、第44條第2項、第3項、第67條第2項至第4項或第108條第3項規定者…

第82條

發明專利權經舉發審查成立者,應撤銷其專利權;其撤銷得就各請求項分別為之。

發明專利權經撤銷後,有下列情事之一,即為撤銷確定:

一、未依法提起行政救濟者。

二、提起行政救濟經駁回確定者。

發明專利權經撤銷確定者,專利權之效力,視為自始不存在。【筆者按:根據這項原則,如果Apple的這個專利被撤銷確定,Samsung就算在筆電、平板、手機上全部都用上這個橡皮筋彈回的視覺效果,也不會構成侵權!】

智慧財產案件審理法 (2011-11-23)【筆者按:這是我國訴訟制度的特別法,針對專利侵害案件的訴訟程序,必須優先適用此法】

第16條

當事人主張或抗辯智慧財產權有應撤銷、廢止之原因者,法院應就其主張或抗辯有無理由自為判斷,不適用民事訴訟法、行政訴訟法、商標法、專利法、植物品種及種苗法或其他法律有關停止訴訟程序之規定。

前項情形,法院認有撤銷、廢止之原因時,智慧財產權人於該民事訴訟中不得對於他造主張權利。

【筆者按:這兩項條文寫得夠清楚了吧…這就是為什麼我們在前文中提到,「你無權」是我們在答辯上很重要的模式之一!】

 

Patent office tentatively invalidates Apple’s rubber-banding patent used in Samsung trial

[2012-10-23 FOSS PATENTS]
http://www.fosspatents.com/2012/10/patent-office-tentatively-invalidates.html
The United States Patent and Trademark Office has good news for Samsung, and Samsung has already shared it with Judge Koh in a late-night filing. In a non-final Office action the USPTO has declared all 20 claims of Apple’s rubber-banding patent (U.S. Patent No, 7,469,381invalid, including claim 19, which Apple successfully asserted against Samsung in the summer trial in California. In fact, claim 19 is one of several claims to be deemed invalid for two reasons, either one of which would be sufficient on its own. Here’s the part of the Office communication that summarizes the rejections (click on the image to enlarge or read the text below the image):

Rejections:The following rejections are utilized by the Examiner below, referencing the proposed prior art listed on pages 23-85 of the Request:

Rejection A: Claims 1-6, 8-12, 16, 19, and 20 as being anticipated by Lira

Rejection B: Claims 7 and 13-15 as being obvious over Lira

Rejection D: Claims 1-5, 7-13, and 15-20 as being anticipated by Ording[emphasis of claim 19 rejections mine]

uploaded the entire Office communication to Scribd and will provide details on “Lira” and “Ording” further below.Claim 19 appears on the “Rejection A” and “Rejection D” lists. Both kinds of rejections are for lack of novelty, not just obviousness (which is what “Rejection B”, which does not relate to Claim 19, is about). This means that Apple would have to convince the patent office (or, possibly, the appeals court) not only that rubber-banding was new despite the earlier existence of those documents (a finding of anticipation is a determination that there was no inventive step at all) but also that its claimed inventive step is sufficient to justify the existence of the rubber-banding patent.While this non-final decision is not binding, there is a possibility that Judge Koh will be persuaded by this to grant Samsung’s Rule 50 (“overrule-the-jury”) motion to the extent it relates to the ‘381 patent. Even if Judge Koh is hesitant to overrule the jury on this and skeptical of a non-final action, the reexamination process will continue during the Federal Circuit appellate proceedings, so if the non-final findings concerning claim 19 are affirmed in subsequent Office actions, they will have more weight. And even after the appeals process, a subsequentfinal rejection of the relevant patent claim would make the patent unenforceable going forward.Samsung has already worked around this patent. As a Samsung customer I noticed a workaround in Europe about a year ago. Two days ago I commented on Samsung’s claim to have worked around all three multitouch software patents the jury deemed it to infringe. It was only due to sanctions for litigation misconduct that the jury wasn’t informed of those workarounds, making Samsung liable for damages even with respect to many months in which it actually wasn’t infringing anymore. If this patent is ultimately invalidated, chances are that Samsung will again implement the overscroll bounce effect in its devices sold in the United States.Samsung is not the only potential beneficiary of these developments at the patent office. An ITC judge has scheduled a preliminary ruling on Apple’s second complaint against HTC for November 27. Different claims of the ‘381 patent are at issue in that investigation. A few months ago, Apple actually dropped claim 19 from that investigation, but the non-final Office action rejects all claims of this patent. Last month, the Munich I Regional Court granted Apple an injunction against Google subsidiary Motorola Mobility over the European equivalent of this patent. The European Patent Office, which is re-evaluating its grant of this patent in an opposition proceeding triggered by Samsung, Motorola and HTC, will certainly take note of the state of the U.S. proceedings but is free to decide differently. Should the EPO revoke the patent, Apple’s German injunction becomes unenforceable. In Europe, reexaminations by the patent office are not possible unless someone files an opposition to the issuance of a new patent within nine months of its grant, which happened here.An anonymous reexamination request was discovered in the springIt’s not surprising that the ‘381 patent faces a serious challenge to its validity. I’ve said in a report on a Munich trial that it’s a great achievement in the realm of use interface psychology, but in a strictly technological sense it has extremely little merit, if any. It’s a patent on a great idea and outside-of-the-box thinking (in a patent sense, one can argue that all other scrolling operations disclosed before this one used to “teach away” from it). But it doesn’t take rocket science to make it work. Technically it’s just about drawing rectangles.In late May, Scott Daniels, the author of the WHDA Reexamination Alert blog, discovered some new anonymous attacks on this patent and another famous Apple patent. I reported and commented on these findings. At the time I already listed the prior art references on which that ex parte reexamination request was based. For your convenience, I will now again list the two references that resulted in these preliminary rejections:

  • “Lira”:PCT Publication No. WO 03/081458 on “controlling content display”, by AOL/Luigi Lira, published on October 2, 2003
  • “Ording”:U.S. Patent No. 7,786,975 on a “continuous scrolling list with acceleration”; this is an Apple patent that I’ve never seen asserted in litigation; the named inventors are Bas Ording, Scott Forstall, Greg Christie, Stephen O. Lemay and Imran Chaudhri

A few days after the Apple v. Samsung jury verdict I highlighted the single biggest issue I had with it: it would be statistically implausible for all of the asserted patents to be valid as granted. It’s simply a fact that patent offices the world over, and particularly in the United States, grant large numbers of patents that don’t withstand serious scrutiny. The 15 or so hours spent by a patent examiner on an application (spread out over the course of several years) mean very little. The moment of truth is when a patent gets asserted against deep-pocketed players, such as an Apple or a Samsung, who throw resources behind prior art search (and the development of invalidity theories) for a single patent that are hundreds and sometimes thousands of times greater (more hours and more expensive people) than the cost of the original examination process.The high drop-out rate of the patents-in-suit in all these smartphone actions speaks for itself.Apple’s rubber-banding (overscroll-bounce) patent is still going to go through a lengthy proces before it may or may not be invalidated. There can be more than one non-final Office action by the Central Reexamination Division. Even a “final Office action” is not final at all. It can be reconsidered by the Central Reexamination Division itself, and the last decision by that division can be appealed to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), which used to be called the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) until recently and is like an USPTO-internal appeals court. Remands by the PTAB to the Central Reexamination Division cause further delay. When the USPTO is done with the patent, its decision can be appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. And theoretically, a Federal Circuit decision can be appealed to the Supreme Court, which doesn’t hear many patent validity cases (but does take a look at important issues from time to time).Apple has many patents in play against Android. It doesn’t matter in a strategic sense if some of them, or even many of them, get invalidated. It just needs to enforce enough of them to ensure product differentiation. The ‘381 patent covers a signature element of the iOS touchscreen user interface, and Apple is going to fight hard to keep it alive. But at the end of the day it’s just one of many patents-in-suit.

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