​The word is out that Apple’s popular iPad Pro® may soon be getting a stylus upgrade. Apple’s U.S. patent application titled “touch-based input for stylus” (U.S. Patent Application No. 16/029,489) put the world on notice that improvements may be on the horizon when it was published on January 9, 2020. The underlying invention, although not unfamiliar to iPad® users, could open up an entirely new way of interacting with devices.

Originally filed on July 6, 2018, the patent application addresses the problem inherent in most stylus designs, which is that a “user may be limited to the input options provided thereby.” This issue is illustrated by Apple’s current stylus version, which allows users to double tap on a panel on the stylus’s body for limited actions. Apple acknowledges that “additional input capabilities that are integrated into [a stylus] would provide the user with expanded input capabilities without the need to simultaneously operate additional input devices.” Accordingly, should Apple decide to integrate its proposed technology into future versions of its stylus, users may be able to interact with their devices through a swiping gesture along the body of the stylus or through other currently unavailable tactile inputs.

The State of Patent Prosecution

As it currently stands, Apple’s pending patent application received a non-final office action on October 16, 2019, which included a novelty rejection (35 USC § 102 ) based on a previously filed patent application for a “haptic stylus” (see Evreinov, U.S. Patent Application No. 2016/0282970). Apple’s assigned patent examiner’s prosecution statistics show that he is one of the more difficult patent examiners within his art unit, yet he has historically granted 52.5% of the patent applications he reviewed and is only a moderately difficult patent examiner when compared to the rest of the USPTO. Although Apple has obstacles to overcome, it will rely on its prosecution experience and legal team to hopefully overcome the rejection it has received.

Apple’s Legal Team and Past Prosecution

​While many may cringe at the sight of a novelty rejection, Apple is no stranger to arguing around 35 USC § 102. In fact, after having prosecuted tens of thousands of patent applications with the USPTO, 55.68% of the first office actions received by Apple contain a Section 102 rejection. Apple has still managed to maintain an allowance rate of 86.2%, and, having successfully prosecuted over 17,000 U.S. patent applications, may not be sweating its current situation. Additionally, Apple’s legal team on this matter is comprised of attorneys from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP—a law firm that has handled nearly 32,000 U.S. patent applications with a 73.7% allowance rate; so the technology giant’s application is in pretty reliable hands.

All USPTO patent data and statistics have been provided using the LexisNexis PatentAdvisor® patent prosecution platform. PatentAdvisor™ provides users with access to USPTO patent data and proprietary patent metrics that provide valuable patent prosecution insights. Patent practitioners who use PatentAdvisor leverage technology to develop strategies for better patent prosecution outcomes.