For people familiar with intellectual property, the real issue at stake is the growing danger of design patents in the first place.
The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals had an opportunity to reconsider its earlier ruling.
In the meantime, the original verdict against Samsung (which is based on the ‘677 patent and other design and utility patents) stays in place.
As such, the Patent Office’s decision to knock out this particular rounded rectangle patent (there are others) is just a sideshow.
The Apple invention in question is US Patent D618,677, which covers design elements of the front face of the i Phone, including its curved corners. Here’s a screenshot showing some of the prior art evidence pre-dating the i Phone that the examiners cited to knock down the patent: But this finding, stemming from an “ex parte re-examination,” is not final.
At the time of the 2012 trial, Samsung blasted Apple for trying to own rounded rectangles, but the ‘677 patent has so far held up and formed part of the massive jury award that is still in dispute. Apple can appeal the finding to other divisions of the Patent Office, and then to the federal court system too – a process that can tie up the outcome for years.