Samsung invokes Alice to challenge two Apple patents

Samsung cites Supreme Court ruling in Alice case to ask a court to hold claims of two Apple patents invalid

Samsung Electronics has asked a court in California to hold invalid claims of two Apple patents in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that tightened standards for patentability.

A jury ordered Samsung in May to pay Apple about US$119 million for infringing the iPhone maker's patents. The two patents whose validity Samsung is now challenging had figured in the trial.

Some Samsung devices were found to infringe the "slide-to-unlock" patent, also known as the '721 patent, which describes the motion on an unlock image on phone home screens to unlock a device.

The jury found Samsung did not infringe in its devices Apple's "universal search" patent, referred to as the '959 patent, which is the second Apple patent that Samsung aims to get the court to declare invalid in view of the standards outlined by the Supreme Court. The '959 patent refers to an universal interface for retrieval of information in a computer system.

Apple has filed for higher damages for the patents Samsung was found to have infringed and a judgment that Samsung infringed other patents in the case including the '959 patent.

In Alice v. CLS Bank, the Supreme Court ruled in June that an abstract idea is not patentable simply because it is tied to a computer system. It said that abstract ideas are not patentable unless the claim contains an 'inventive concept' sufficient to transform the claimed abstract idea into a patent-eligible application.

The claims of the two Apple patents attempt "to claim an abstract idea, implemented with generic computer functions that do not state any technical innovation," Samsung wrote about the two Apple patents in a filing Thursday to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose division.

Regarding the "slide-to-unlock" patent, Samsung has argued in the filing that "simply using a computer to implement the abstract idea of moving a lock from locked to unlocked position does not render the idea patentable."

Claim 8 of the '721 patent describes conventional computer operations such as the display of an image and moving that image on the screen to implement the abstract idea of unlocking a lock on any generic computer, without any special or specific hardware or software involved, according to Samsung.

Referring to the unified search patent, Samsung claimed that Apple's expert had explained at trial that the '959 patent attempts to generally claim the use of a "heuristic" to locate information through a computer. The expert further claimed that a heuristic is "just basically, you know, a good idea," according to Samsung's filing, which added that the description was similar to that used by the Supreme Court to describe unpatentable abstract ideas.

Apple could not be immediately reached for comment.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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