Apple gets first victory in its patent fight against HTC

Apple on Monday won a patent battle against HTC when International Trade Commission found Taiwanese manufacturer infringing one patent held by Apple. This victory could result in the ban of some of HTC’s Android products starting next year unless it comes out with a way around it.

Summary of ITC Ruling:

U.S. International Trade Commission has found a violation of section 337 in this investigation and has issued a limited exclusion order prohibiting importation of infringing personal data and mobile communications devices and related software.  The Commission has determined that exclusion of articles subject to this order shall commence on April 19, 2012.

The patent in question is 5,946,647 (Filed on February 1, 1996)

Patent Abstract: (More on Patent here)

A system and method causes a computer to detect and perform actions on structures identified in computer data. The system provides an analyzer server, an application program interface, a user interface and an action processor. The analyzer server receives from an application running concurrently data having recognizable structures, uses a pattern analysis unit, such as a parser or fast string search function, to detect structures in the data, and links relevant actions to the detected structures. The application program interface communicates with the application running concurrently, and transmits relevant information to the user interface. Thus, the user interface can present and enable selection of the detected structures, and upon selection of a detected structure, present the linked candidate actions. Upon selection of an action, the action processor performs the action on the detected structure.

In layman terms: (via Fortune)

When an iPhone receives a message that contains a phone number or an address — e-mail, Web or street — those bits of data are automatically highlighted, underlined and turned into clickable links.

Click on the phone number, and the iPhone asks if you want to dial it. Click on the Web address, and it opens in Safari. Click on the street address, and Maps will display it.

What can happen now?

  • According to reports, HTC has appealed the decision, best case scenario is that it could be overruled by a six-member panel or it could be vetoed by the President in his review.

Other scenarios:

  • Apple might cross-license the technology to HTC.
  • HTC could find a way around the patent, or completely remove it.

Worst case scenario:

  • Ban on the import of HTC’s Android devices starting April 19, 2012.

What did HTC say?

We are gratified that the Commission affirmed the judge’s initial determination on the ‘721 and ‘983 patents, and reversed its decision on the ‘263 patent and partially on the ‘647 patent. We are very pleased with the determination and we respect it. However, the ‘647 patent is a small UI experience and HTC will completely remove it from all of our phones soon.

So as HTC is looking to remove the infringing part from its devices, there should not be a ban and we will see the rest.

Further Reading: Bloomberg, Foss Patents,  ITC Ruling (PDF)

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