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Patents Court finds Conversant patent invalid in smartphone dispute

Date: 24 January 2020


The device at the centre of this case was developed to solve the problem of user interface constraints due to the small screen size of mobile phones in the late nineties / early noughties. The case concerned a patent entitled “computing device with improved user interface for application”.


Following a debate over whether the invention concerned mobile phones or computers in general or somewhere in-between, the Patents Court confirmed that identity of the person skilled in the art can change where a patentee applies to amend its patent so as to narrow the technical field.


Click here for a related case note on Conversant v Huawei 


The Patents Court held that Apple’s iPhone would have infringed a patent (now owned by Conversant) for an improved user interface for smart phone applications, had the patent been valid.


The patent claims as granted referred to a computing device in general, but Conversant unconditionally applied to limit the claims to a smart phone. However, Mr Justice Birss found that the patent was obvious over a manual for a cutely named, somewhat bulky, IBM device called “Simon”, widely credited as being the world’s first smartphone.


Case link: Conversant Wireless Licensing v Apple Retail


Our Partner James Cross and Dr Janet Strath have authored this article which has been published in the the European Intellectual Property Review:

E.I.P.R. 2020, 42(4), 251-254