Next-generation iPhones likely to focus on internal improvements.
Steve Jobs iPhone Keynote Invalidates Apple's Rubber-Banding Patent in Germany
In the United States, inventors are allowed a twelve-month grace period between any public demonstrations of a new technology and the filing of a patent. However, Europe has no such grace period and public demonstrations prior to the filing of a patent -- even by the inventor of the technology being patented -- can be used as prior art to invalidate a patent. A subtle demonstration of the rubber-banding technology is barely noticeable at 33:40 in this video.
In this case, Steve Jobs demonstrated the rubber-banding technology at the launch of the iPhone in January of 2007 and Apple applied for the German patent on the technology after that date. As a result, Apple's patent was dismissed because of its own prior art.
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 court also rejected various amended claims proposed by Apple, which were an attempt to distinguish the patent from what was shown in the video, because it found them to be, at best, obvious over the Steve Jobs video, which Google's lawyers from the Quinn Emanuel firm submitted to the court in April 2013. In other words, even an amended version of the patent would be trivial, but not over what others created before -- only over Apple's own public demo.Apple can appeal the decision, and FOSS Patents has much more on the patent and some related lawsuits and claims.
Another rubber-banding patent was used extensively in the billion-dollar jury trial between Apple and Samsung, though that trial is still going through a lengthy appeals process.