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Apple wins ban of HTC smartphones in the US - or maybe not

Written by Rich Fiscus (Google+) @ 20 Dec 2011 1:14 User comments (6)

Apple wins ban of HTC smartphones in the US - or maybe not The International Trade Commission (ITC) has ruled [full text below] in favor of Apple on a single point of their case against HTC in the US. The result is a ban of HTC smartphones which violate one particular patent.
While this is a significant victory in the sense it paves the way for similar judgements against other Android handset vendors, such as Samsung, in reality it is not as big a deal as you might think.

Let's start with the patent itself:

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.

Translated into English, this is the standard smartphone feature which allows you to select a phone number and be presented with an option to dial or select an address and be asked if you want to map it. Although it was HTC who lost the case, it is an Android feature so other vendors have to be paying attention.

However, the ban doesn't go into effect until next April. That gives Google some time to figure out a different method for performing the same operation which doesn't infringe on Apple's patent. Assuming they can do that, there will be no ban.

And of course it only applies to HTC phones right now. On the other hand, it is more or less inevitable Apple will win similar victories against other vendors eventually unless the feature is either disabled or replaced with a non-infringing alternative.

Assuming an alternative is developed, this becomes a hollow victory for Apple. Ultimately it will have cost them millions of dollars to force Google to develop a new piece of code.

On the other hand, it may cost the public plenty. Besides the developer efforts diverted to duplicating a feature that already works, the costs related to pursuing and defending against actions like this will ultimately be passed on to consumers.

Perhaps more notable is the fact Apple's complaint was over 10 patents. While an initial ITC ruling earlier this year found HTC infringed on two of them, the most recent decision narrowed that to just one.

ITC ban of HTC smartphones, December 2011

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6 user comments

120.12.2011 2:56

Yup...they banned one feature that is rarely used, and Google can reintroduce it using a free market app. Google is effectively in the clear from Apple. Now, google needs to go after Apple for all the things that Apple has copied from Android, and Samsung needs to go after them for doctoring the evidence that they submitted to the EU courts.

220.12.2011 14:09

I don't understand why Google has been sitting on the defensive for so long...They have so many products and patents, and are always getting slammed at all sides by other companies. You'd think that they'd be able to get something on someone, hopefully Apple...

320.12.2011 15:26

Apple can suck it!

420.12.2011 20:25

This is what is so dangerous about corporations buying up these huge blocks of patents, monopolization through litigation. Patents were meant to protect the inventor, not put in place so corporations can buy up thousands at a time and sue competitors for violating their newly purchased patents. I'm not saying that apple didn't invent this little feature that they're suing over, but that's what these patent wars will come down to. Someone needs to look into this, but its doubtful the corporate employees (our elected officials) will do anything about it.
Nothing good for the consumer can come out of this, it will only stifle innovation.

This message has been edited since its posting. Latest edit was made on 20 Dec 2011 @ 20:33

If your fish seems sick, put it back in the water.

521.12.2011 18:48
Unverified new user

Really don't understand: is someone sends me an SMS with a phone number in it, and the phone is able to reuse it (as in "call this number") would that be an infringement?
Cause I could do that on any /ancient/ Nokia phone *ages* before Apple knew what a cell phone is.
Am I just dazzled and confused?

623.12.2011 9:13

this sounds so much like a LINK LIST used by IBM systems for many years. I wonder if anyone has done a patent search on IBM (IBM patent info is on the internet).

carried one step further, couldnt it be said to be a passed parameter from one object to another? When the receiving object obtains the parameter it "process it"....duh maybe thought process can be patented....dont worry it wont be, too many people fail to use it anyway.

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