Los Angeles – Last week, three ex parte requests were filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) challenging patents held by tech giants Apple and Facebook. One of the challenges concerned Apple’s Patent for touchscreen interfacing (patent number 7,479,949). A second challenge against Apple was related to the document presentation on a touchscreen display (patent number 7,469,381). The challenge against Facebook was in regard to a dynamic news feed about users of social networks (patent number 7,669,123). The parties filing all three challenges are unknown at this point.
Some have speculated that Yahoo is involved in the challenge for the Facebook patent because of a counter suit filed by Facebook against Yahoo in March 2012. Patent 7,479,949 was recently involved in ongoing litigation between Motorola and Apple. The second Apple patent is involved in the Apple versus Samsung lawsuit which is still in process. However, due to their absorption of Motorola and pending litigation, many people believe that Google is the third party filing both Apple challenges. The same Apple patents have been challenged in the past, when they were most likely requested by Nokia.
An ex parte reexamination can be requested when a third party has evidence or examples of previous use of a patented invention. The holder of the challenged patent has 30 days to respond to any action for reexamination filed with the USPTO. Unless the delay was unintentional or unavoidable, the patent is automatically invalidated if the holder fails to respond to the challenge in a timely manner. There are many potential reasons for a patent challenge, but many times patent holders request a reexamination to confirm the validity of their own patent. This self-ordered reexamination may seem strange, but it is often used as a strategic method in anticipation of an upcoming lawsuit. Alternatively, the USPTO can decide to issue an ex parte challenge independent of a third party filer.