New iPad - Safari - Pinch to Zoom

Throughout Apple’s many trials and patent disputes with Samsung and a host of other Android OEMs, Cupertino’s claim to the “pinch to zoom” UI is generally front and center. Apple claims to hold the patent for the touchscreen control which pretty much every other company freely uses in its own devices. Now, Apple may have lost a major missile in its patent arsenal following a new ruling from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

IDG News reports that the USPTO has rejected 21 claims from the “pinch to zoom” patent, leaving Apple with several possible responses. The company now has two months to defend its interests by appealing the decision directly or seeking review from the justice system. The USPTO rejected the same patent back in December, but Apple was able to temporarily fight the decision.

Claim number eight is particularly important to Apple, as it figured heavily in its trial against Samsung in which the South Korean company was forced to pay $1 billion in damages for patent infringement. The fine, which Samsung has yet to pay off, is subject to change in certain cases, and will likely be seriously reduced if Apple is unable to protect its patent.

Apple will very likely file for an appeal, and we’ll let you know if it does.