Apple patent killed in Germany due to video of Steve Jobs’ original iPhone keynote address

Florian Müller reports for FOSS Patents, “Steve Jobs is a named inventor of more than 300 Apple patents, and when he presented the original iPhone in January 2007, he said, ‘boy have we patented it!'”

“But Apple forgot about an important difference between U.S. patent law at the time and the patent laws of the rest of the world, especially Europe. In the United States in the pre-America Invents Act days, innovators had a twelve-month grace period to file for inventions after making an invention, and during those twelve months nothing that anyone would show publicly or publish would be eligible as prior art,” Müller reports. “In Europe, however, there never was such a grace period for patent applications, and even an inventor’s own public demos could always be held against his own patents if they took place before the filing of an application. Even now, with the AIA in force, U.S. patent law has an exception in place for pre-filing disclosure by the inventor.”

Müller reports, “As a result of this difference between jurisdictions, the Munich-based Bundespatentgericht (Federal Patent Court of Germany) today sided with Samsung and Google’s Motorola Mobility in declaring an Apple iPhone patent, EP2059868 on a ‘portable electronic device for photo management,’ invalid within the borders of Germany because a video of the original January 2007 iPhone presentation already showed the famous bounce-back effect in the photo gallery, which is what this patent is all about… The Steve Jobs video was shown in open court but only on a laptop close to the bench. The critical part must be what you can see around 33:40 in the following YouTube video.”

Read more in the full article here.

Mikey Campbell reports for AppleInsider, “A member of Presiding Judge Vivian Sredl’s panel opened Thursday’s proceedings by outlining the court’s inclination to invalidate the narrowed bounce-back patent based on two cases of prior art. One is a content display property that belongs to AOL/Luigi Lira called ‘Lira,’ while the other is a Microsoft-sponsored study called ‘LaunchTile.'”

“Although Apple’s patent was invalidated, the company’s counsel successfully argued novelty in light of both ‘Lira’ and ‘LaunchTile,’ a win that Mueller said is significant in the grand scheme of the company’s worldwide patent row due to an awarded German utility model covering the same photo bounce-back invention,” Campbell reports. “Unlike European patents, German utility models do have a grace period of six months, meaning the Jobs video plays no role in its validity.”

“Apple could use Thursday’s outcome, specifically the finding that ‘Lira’ and ‘LaunchTile’ don’t invalidate the European photo bounce-back patent, to its advantage in the utility model proceedings,” Campbell reports. “The company can ultimately request the Mannheim court to restart the claim against Samsung and even possibly use that property against other companies until it expires in 2017.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: What purpose does it serve to have a law that invalidates and inventor’s work if he shows it to to world? Did he magically not invent it because he showed it? Of course not. Logically, if the prior art is the inventor’s, the patent should not be invalidated. Right? If not, what are we missing?

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Readers “Fred Mertz” and “Lynn Weiler” for the heads up.]


  1. I’ve heard about this even in the US. It’s wild, but apparently of you tell people about your invention before you file for the patent it’s possible that you can be denied the patent because you’ve already publicly disclosed your idea. (I think that’s how it goes.)

    However in this case it’s especially insane, as they were following USA law, bit it turns out they didn’t follow European law…

    1. What you are missing is the fact that in the UK as well as we now gather in Germany ergo most of the other European countries. If you are an inventor, you are expected not to reveal, disclose or demonstrate your prototype until you have patented it.
      The procedure ‘I think’ is to write an essay of what you are trying to resolve, draw and create a sample/s of what it will look like then patent it to hilt, this then gives you a period in which you can either refine the product or seek capital to mass produce the product.
      That way, it is very difficult for a powerful corporation to steamroller you.
      A good example is that of Dyson’s cyclone vacuum cleaner.
      He demonstrated his prototype to several business’s but couldn’t get funding. Hoover made a bagless vacuum cleaner having seen the demo from Dyson but thought that he did not have the muscle to sue them. Dyson licenced his design to a Japanese firm thus enabling him to sue Hoover.

      1. Because Apple’s legal team is a bunch of idiots.

        You only have to take a quick look at everything from the “Look and Feel” lawsuit of over two decades ago to the iBooks lawsuit of today and 90 % of the cases in between.

        Hell, a trained set of monkeys could do better–and that’s insulting the monkeys!

      2. … PDP8 (many of you are too young to remember it) had it’s patents revoked when the agency discovered that DEC (Digital Equipment Corp.) sold a couple of copies before applying for the patents. Ken Olsen (the CEO and inventor) started to pay more attention to his lawyers after that.

    2. You are completely missing the idea of patent protection.

      Patent protection is the exact opposite of public disclosure.

      Patent protection is NOT about recognizing the inventor. Even a public disclosure does that.

      Patent protection affords the inventor the right to say who can distribute items based on his invention. Nothing more. 0ver 99% of the time the inventor can demand royalties or other compensation for granting this, but patents do not guarantee compensation.

      Think of it this way…
      You publicly disclose a truly new and unique idea. Then 500 companies spend billions upon billions implementing it. All of them claim they are producing the best version if your invention. Each and every one of them names you and your invention in their advertising. THEN you file for the patent because you think you can force most of these companies to pay you royalties.

      This kind of “after the fact” patenting is what short and zero grace periods are all about.

      If you REALLY want to control your invention file the patent first!

    1. To be fair, the verdict as such is logical, as it simply reflects the law how it is. It’s not up to the judge to change the law, he has no choice really.

      We the electorate must push for change, for example by not voting for buffoons in our parliaments. A nigh impossible task I agree…..cause where to find good politicians? (Hard not to laugh or cry when typing those two last words next to each other )))

      Obviously it is a silly law, so to me MDN’s take is right on the mark.

  2. Following this reasoning, ANY patent granted in USA becomes public and so becomes invalid in Germany because of this very fact, as it becomes prior art. Unless you get the patent granted FIRST in Germany and then in USA. How stupid.

    1. Not so. There are rules associated with international filings for patents. Just filing in the U.S. first does not automatically invalidate filing in Europe later.

      The rules are a bit convoluted (at least as I see them), but it is quite possible to navigate through them.

    2. This is why people are advised to employ patent lawyers. Their role apart from investigating whether you have a genuine patent or not is to file your patent for you globally if indeed you can afford to do so and most important if you instruct them to do so.

  3. ELAINE: This was my idea you stole my idea.

    MR. LIPPMAN: Elaine these ideas are all in the air. They’re in the air.

    ELAINE: Well if that air is comming out of this face then it is my air and my idea.

  4. With regards to patents I was taught, keep it secret, don’t tell a soul about your idea until it’s filed, not even your mates down the pub. It’s unfortunate that the US and Europe have different rules, but there are rules nonetheless that need to be followed and not even Apple is immune, unfortunate as it is. Personally I prefer the European system as there can be no doubt as to the ownership, assuming the patent gets granted ofc.

  5. The thinking is that if it is important enough to protect, you wouln’t tell the world about it until you have secured that protection.

    There has never been a better example of why this is so. This was just an artistic decision that was later protected as an “innovation.”

  6. I can only guess that the reason for this is that, let’s say you and I are both inventing a new type of lightbulb. You complete a working model before I do, but I do a presentation showing how mine works before you unveil one that actually works. This protects you from being denied your patent, since you were the first to actually invent it.

    Just a guess.

  7. The law may be stupid but Samsung and Google’s Motorola Mobility acutely arguing that Apple’s patent should be invalid because Apple thought of it first is just down right scummy!

  8. I find it interesting, that a single event, showing the video, prevents a patent somewhere in the world or all of world. However you would have to patent something in every country, many events if you will, before you show that video, in order to protect the patent.

  9. A patent is secret till the patent office is the first person to see it (aside from private contracted people).

    Any public view is an invitation to openness that thus makes a sceret not a secret.

    Australia holds a similar law.

    A air conditioner engineer made the split systen for friends first and lost billions because he gave the idea away without first patenting it!

    Sorry Apple look first before jumping into traffic! Thats the law!

    So much for secreacy Apple!

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