Did you know there was such a thing as a Steve Jobs patent? I didn't until I read in FOSS Patents, Florian Mueller's software patents blog, that the United States Patent and Trademark Office had found invalid all 20 claims made under what many people have called the Steve Jobs patent, a "touch screen device, method, and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics."

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Source: U.S. Patent and Trade Office


Though not the official name for Apple's multitouch patent (that would be U.S. Patent No. 7,479,949), because the late Apple CEO's name led a list of many inventors on the patent application -- and certainly because of Jobs' almost-mythic status as the company's visionary leader -- it seems a fitting moniker.

What's in a name?
Even Apple's own lawyers have referred to it as "the Steve Jobs patent," wording found objectionable by Judge Richard Posner in an Apple v. Motorola pre-trial ruling he made six months ago.

Judge Posner was concerned that Apple would try to pit the adoration of Apple's iPhone, iPad, and other devices (and the public's admiration of Steve Jobs) against Motorola and its parent company Google . Anything that would confuse and distract the jury from the technical issues of the dispute, he would disallow from being presented in court.

"More broadly, I forbid Apple to insinuate to the jury that this case is a popularity contest and jurors should be predisposed to render a verdict for Apple if they like Apple products or the Apple company or admire Steve Jobs, or if they dislike Motorola or Google," the judge ordered.

But, in the recent conclusion regarding the Steve Jo-- I mean, Patent No. 7,479,949, the USPTO finding was a first Office action, one that is preliminary and non-final. It could be reinstated under reexamination.

This was the second first Office action against an Apple patent in less than two months. In October, the USPTO tentatively found that the 20 claims in Apple's rubber-banding patent (No. 7,469,381) were invalid. That ruling certainly pleased Samsung, which had lost a judgment last summer brought against it by Apple, a ruling that hinged on one of that patent's claims.

There's no doubt that Apple is at the center of technology's largest revolution ever, and that longtime shareholders have been handsomely rewarded with over 1,000% gains. However, there is a debate raging as to whether Apple remains a buy. The Motley Fool's senior technology analyst and managing bureau chief, Eric Bleeker, is prepared to fill you in on both reasons to buy and reasons to sell Apple, and what opportunities are left for the company (and your portfolio) going forward. To get instant access to his latest thinking on Apple, simply click here now.

The article "Steve Jobs Patent" Ruled Invalid -- for Now originally appeared on Fool.com.

Fool contributor Dan Radovsky has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services recommend Apple and Google. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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