updated 09:39 pm EDT, Tue June 4, 2013
One patent key in 2012 Apple versus Samsung trial, other at USITC
An "anonymous party," likely Samsung or one of its affiliates, has requested the US Patent and Trade Office (USPTO) reexamine two design-related patents crucial to the Apple versus Samsung patent battles. One patent being reexamined was responsible for most of the damages in the landmark US Apple versus Samsung patent lawsuit in 2012, and the second is intertwined in an Apple action against Samsung at the US International Trade Commission, due to have a final ruling in August.
The first patent, US Design Patent D618,677. is a design patent often described by Samsung as the "rectangle with rounded corners" patent and is generally applies for the original iPhone and iPhone 3G designs. US design patent 618,678 is similar, but refers more to the iPhone 4 and 5 design.
The filing for re-examination will take years, and final invalidation past "first office" examinations requires significant evidence on the side of the appellant to invalidate an existing patent. Initial invalidations by the "first office" exams rely only on submissions made by those challenging the patent.
These two examination requests will likely have no bearing on current or past court cases, but may have some significance upon appeal of any decision. A "first office" ruling is sometimes enough on appeal to force reconsiderations.