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Patent Rejections and iPhone Clones: Apple's No Good, Very Bad Day

The news of impending antitrust charges might have put a damper on Samsung's Thursday, but it follows a Wednesday that was just as bad for Apple. To start the day off, Apple learned that another company has begun legally selling Android-based handsets under the iPhone name in Brazil. That's bad, but the day ended even worse, with the U.S. Patent Office tentatively rejecting the company's key single-finger scrolling patent, which was wielded to great effect in the Apple vs. Samsung case.

First, let's deal with the Android iPhone, which is actually a fairly simple affair. A company called Gradiente first applied for the "iPhone" brand in Brazil all the way back in 2000, long before Steve Jobs and co. dreamed of the first smartphone. As such, it has the rights to the name in that country until 2018, the Associated Press reports. The newly launched Gradiente iPhone sports a 3.7-inch screen, Android 2.3, and a striking resemblance to its more popular namesake.

Apple ran into iPad trademark issues with a Chinese company earlier this year, though that spat ended up in a settlement that gave Apple the rights to the name.

More crucially, the USPTO rejected patent 7,844,915 in a preliminary ruling, The Verge reports. Frequently called the "Pinch-to-zoom" patent though it more accurately distinguishes between single-finger scrolling and multi-touch gestures, 7,844,915's rejection could make a huge difference in the Apple vs. Samsung proceedings… if it holds up. The rejection is in its early stages and Apple still has the chance to work with the USPTO to either keep the patent valid as-is or amend its wording. The patent has not been invalidated yet.

The rejection comes mere months after the USPTO tentatively rejected Apple's "rubber-band" patent—another so-called crown jewel—and mere days after Judge Lucy Koh denied Apple's request for an injunction against Samsung's products in the U.S.

All the body blows have sent Apple's stock price reeling from the $705 per share high-water mark reached just before the launch of the iPhone 5. It currently stands at $523—not shabby, but far from what it was.