ITC Rules HTC Android Smartphones Violate Apple Patents

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Apple vs. HTC
HTC’s Android smartphones infringe on two patents owned by Apple Inc., according to a preliminary ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission. Apple had accused HTC of violating ten of its patents, but the ITC rejected those claims on the other eight. The ruling could lead to a ban on HTC’s Android smartphones from entering the U.S.

The two patents being violated are for a “System and method for performing an action on a structure in computer,” and a “Real-time signal processing system for serially transmitted data.”

In a statement, HTC has said that it, “will vigorously fight these two remaining patents through an appeal before the ITC commissioners who make the final decision. This is only one step of many in these legal proceedings.”

The company is referring to the ITC’s process which involve multiple procedures, each of which is checked over by some other portion of the ITC. For instance, ITC staff had recommended earlier this year that the agency side with HTC (and Nokia) in the various infringement complaints most of the smartphone vendors have lodged against one another.

Today’s ruling in favor of Apple was handed down by Administrative Law Judge Carl Charneski, according to Bloomberg, but his ruling is subject to review by the full six-member panel that comprises the ITC. Any decision handed down as part of that review can then be appealed.

FOSS Patents reported that a target date of December 6, 2011, has been set for the final decision from the full commission. The patent site also said that the two patents HTC was found to have violated “appear to be at the core of Android.” If so, all Android devices are likely to violate them. As it is, Apple’s patent complaints against Android device maker Motorola also include these two patents.

For Apple’s part, the company declined to comment to several mainstream publications about the ruling, but did point CNet to its initial statement when the patent infringement complaints first began flying. At that time Apple CEO Steve Jobs was quoted as saying, “We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.”

None of which worries Google, the provider of the Android operating system at the heart of the battles between Apple, HTC, and other smartphone makers. Google chose to focus on the total of eight patents that have been dropped from the complaint, rather than the two that were found to have infringed.

In a statement, the company said, “We’re pleased that the ITC ruled against all of Apple’s operating system patent claims. We are confident the Commission will ultimately agree with the ITC staff’s finding that HTC does not violate any of Apple’s patents. Litigation that attacks open-source products limits consumer choice, hurts the economy, and discourages innovation.”

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Comments

xmattingly

BAM!

“We invented a new technology called multi-touch… and boy have we patented it!” - Steve Jobs

————————

“Litigation that attacks open-source products limits consumer choice, hurts the economy, and discourages innovation.?

Did they mean the part where they sourced Apple’s choice of UI and technology - the result of years of development and millions of dollars in research, then dumped a lesser version on the open market?

I think it’s completely ludicrous that these rip-off artists complain about Apple hurting innovation, yet all other smart phones after 2007 are essentially knock-off’s of the iPhone.

John Molloy

Waiting for Bosco to chime in.

Jamie

You took the words right out of mouth, xmattingly. At the time of the unveiling I thought it was a little silly they had the prototype behind glass at that particular developer’s conference, now I wonder if it wasn’t a very smart thing, after all. wink

Given their history of secrecy surrounding their own proprietary stuff (and company ethics aside, for this conversation), I have always found Google’s attitude in particular (i.e., innovation is riding on the backs of people who innovate) very distasteful. It’s pretty well documented that the original Android prototype was essentially a BlackBerry (if things had gone that way, you better believe RIM would have been up in arms) and that Eric was on Apple’s board during the development of iOS.

It’s like Bill Gates’ giant, disembodied head all over again. I hope Apple gets a fair shake this time.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

The patents that went in Apple’s favor are (1) for data detectors (circa 1999) and (2) for audio streaming (circa 1994). No multitouch patents, nothing they did for phones or tablets.

The data detectors patent is essentially about picking a phone number or a street address out of arbitrary text. I’d actually bet money on this finding not holding up, now that it’s subject to even more scrutiny. I think it would also be fairly easy for HTC or Google to code around. It’s specific in part of the process for getting the data detection done.

DamenS

I thought there were a total of 20 patent claims in this particular case, not10 - and that Apple had further filed another 5.  Did they reduce that original 20 down to 10 to strengthen their case ?

A Lipschitz

I have an iphone and an android and currently google has the upper hand. Perhaps undermining these patents is why this is so.

d'monder

As always, a patent is only as good as the legal team behind it.

If the two patents are indeed at the core of Android, expect a very drawn out and very costly legal battle (which Apple has no choice but to fight).

ashiviah

If modern technology followed Steve Jobs logic, we all would still be watching black and white t.v.

Lee Dronick

If modern technology followed Steve Jobs logic, we all would still be watching black and white t.v.

Can you elaborate on your statement? Tell us why you believe that?

John Molloy

If modern technology followed Steve Jobs logic, we all would still be watching black and white t.v.

I just spent the evening trying to set up a Panasonic BluRay player (It turned out that the Blue laser was broken) but even so it was slow and the interface was kludgy. Do people at these companies not bother to actually use the products they make? Frustrating, meaningless errors with no explanation as to what is required to fix things.

No wonder some people say that Apple’s products are “revolutionary” and “magical” as they do use the stuff they make and don’t bother releasing stuff until it is actually ready.

John Molloy

The patents that went in Apple?s favor are (1) for data detectors (circa 1999)

1996 actually, part of the Newton patent portfolio.

Nemo

It is hard to see what relief Google is taking in just two of Apple’s ten patent claims having been found to be infringed, because it only take one to get HTC’s Android products banned from the U.S.  I can assure you that notwithstanding the bravo of Google’s public statement, Google has sounded General Quarters and bracing for incoming torpedo hits.  In fact, the weekends of Larry Page and Google’s legal teams is ruined, as they figured out how to address this looming crisis.

The procedure now is for the ITC’s commissioners (Commission) to review what the Admin. Law Judge (ALJ) has done.  In that review, it is likely that Apple will not only argue that the ALJ’s decision with respect to the two patents should be affirmed but will also argue that his decision with respect to the eight patent claims that he denied was wrong and should be reversed, with the Commission finding that HTC violated all ten of Apple’s patent claims.  We will have to wait to see what Apple will plead and what the Commission will do, but if the Commission finds that HTC infringed on any of the ten patents, its infringing products will be banned from import into the U.S.  At that point, HTC can only appeal to the United States Federal Circuit Court of Appeals (Fed. Cir.) to seek reversal of the Commission’s adverse finding, and once again Apple to as either respondent or petitioner, if the Commission rules for HTC, seek relief from the Fed. Cir. to reverse any adverse finding of the Commission respecting any of its ten claims.

It will be vital for HTC, if it loses at the Commission, to get either a stay of the Commission’s order from the Commission or, failing in that, from the Fed. Cir.

But that is not all, because Apple is asserting all ten of the claims also in the federal district court, I believe, of Delaware.  That Judge can find for or against Apple on any of its ten patent claims and is required to not only grant Apple an award of damages for past infringement but also enjoin the sale and distribution of the infringing Android products in the United States to prevent ongoing and future infringement.  The appeal for that court’s judgment also lies with the Fed. Cir.

So Apple’s other eight patents are still very much at issue, with Apple still able to obtain victory on all or some of its ten patent claims in either the courts or the ITC or both.  But it only take one of Apple’s ten claims for Apple to get an injunction against HTC’s infringing Android products from either the ITC or the courts, and, if that claim or those claims is fundamental to Android, Apple will, if that claim or those claims is sustained on appeal, be able to get an import ban or injunction against all Android products.

And, of course, as TMO reported, Apple has filed a new complaint with the ITC stating new patent claims against HTC.  Apple will almost certainly assert those claims in federal court, if it hasn’t done so already.  Apple has a lot of ways to skin HTC’s cat. 

And why just HTC and not Motorola or Samsung?  Because HTC has virtually no portfolio of patents to assert against Apple, so with HTC, Apple can get a pure decision on the merits of infringement claims without facing counterclaims of infringement that could give HTC some leverage in settlement negotiations.  To prevent Apple getting a precedent-setting judgment against HTC, which Apple would then seek to apply to them, is why both Motorola and Samsung—both of which, especially Samsung, have some patents with which to respond—have proactively sued Apple, rather than wait for Apple to get a judgment against HTC and then come after them.

You know how serious this is because Google is actually spending some money to defend it Android OEMs.  Google has deployed its best outside patent litigator to HTC, so now that gentleman has to take on Oracle and Apple’s top flight counsel in two different cases.

daemon

Frustrating, meaningless errors with no explanation as to what is required to fix things.

Rattyuk,

I have a feeling that if it was an Apple TV with a broken network interface card, you’d have just as much trouble.

Errors are easy to figure out, if you bother to look them up.

daemon

Apple will not only argue that the ALJ?s decision with respect to the two patents should be affirmed but will also argue that his decision with respect to the eight patent claims that he denied was wrong and should be reversed

LoL! The ALJ was so right that he ruled 80% the wrong way!

What it comes down to is the ALJ’s ruling will have little effect on this case, seeing that even the patents that clearly aren’t being infringed upon are still being litigated by Apple…

John Molloy

I have a feeling that if it was an Apple TV with a broken network interface card, you?d have just as much trouble.

I disagree. But assuming you are right, if an Apple box fails you have people to turn to, if needed. Trying to work out what SET 3 means on a flashing LED, not so much. What if we didn’t have access to the Internet? You are assuming that good enough is good enough.
Also an Apple TV with a broken network interface card? It’s an appliance. If part of it is broken that’s all the customer needs to know.

“Errors are easy to figure out, if you bother to look them up.”

A large percentage of the population do not have the wherewithal to do that. The guys who make this stuff are so clever that they cannot see that. They are the sort of people who think flashing SET 3 at you is meaningful.

Lee Dronick

Errors. Last week I was prepping my MacBook Pro for Lion and needed to update the Canon EOS Utility apps. After going through a number of hoops on Canon’s website I finally found the link. However, it didn’t work, it didn’t download the file, it didn’t do anything. Examining the code I saw that it was script of some kind, I tried on my Windows computer and didn’t work their either. Email to tech support remained unanswered.

Looking at the code again I got the file name and did a web search which resulted in hits on a number of non USA Canon websites. I chose one and not only easily found the correct dmg file, but the link was correctly coded and I am now ready for Lion.

daemon

I chose one and not only easily found the correct dmg file, but the link was correctly coded and I am now ready for Lion.

Why can’t everyone be like you?

amergin

Very very sad that Apple is joining the patent trolls. In their affluent and powerful position they could just innovate and stay ahead and use their ‘patent portfolio’ to work towards the undoing of the patent system for the benefit of us all. However, this is not the ‘american way’ whatever the hell that means. Live by the sword, die by the sword. This, mark my words, will eventually be Apple’s undoing if they do not change tacks and start working with everyone.

Nemo

Dear Daemon:  It is not a matter of percentages; it is whether the ALJ was correct on the merits of his decision with respect to each of Apple’s ten patent claims.  So the ALJ was not 100% right or 80% right or 20% right or 20% wrong or any other percentage of right or wrong.  He was simply independently right or wrong with respect to each of the claims that he decided, which is why the Commission and the judge who is deciding these claims looks at each patent claim independently and individually, unless the a patent is an compound patent that incorporates the other patents at issue, which does not appear to be the case for any of the ten patents at issue.

So look up your basic stats, because the percentage likelihood only applies to the probability of a particular event, not ten independent events, each of which has its own distinct and independent probability distribution.  So the question is what is the probability that the ALJ was correct for each of his independent decisions on each of Apple’s ten patent claims. 

And talk to your lawyer parent about the basics of the law, where each claim or defense is independently decided on its own merits, unless a claim is somehow related to other claims or a defense is somehow related to other defenses.  Hell, you can even plead inconsistent claims and inconsistent defenses and can prevail on all claims and all defenses that the evidence proves.

Nemo

Dear Amergin:  There is no such thing as a patent troll, because patents are property rights that can lawfully be asserted by any party lawfully holding those rights.  The term patent troll is simply polemics used by those who disagree with the either the patent being asserted or the party asserting it or who disagrees with the very idea of patents in general. 

However, even by the commonly accepted definition of patent troll, Apple would not be a patent troll, because it practices its own patents.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

daemon: What Nemo is really trying to say is that if the Commission uses a fair coin to decide infringement on each of the ten patents, there is slightly less than a 0.1% chance they will agree with each of the decisions of the ALJ. Apparently, some lawyer mistakenly received a copy of Feller from Amazon and decided to apply it to legal analysis.

We can apply this analysis further… Let’s just consider the 8 cases in which the ALJ did not rule in favor of Apple. If the Commnission uses a fair coin to decide infringement on each of those eight poatents, there is a slightly less than 0.4% chance that they will agree with each of the eight decisions against Apple by the ALJ. If for whatever reason they actually do agree with all eight of those, then we’re out of the realm of probability theory and into the realm of Black Swans. Nassim Taleb would suggest that in such a case, we ought to question whether the coin was indeed fair. (EDIT: sorry, I lied, that was Fooled by Randomness) You know, perhaps the ALJ’s reasoning in those eight, which include multitouch stuff, was acceptable to the whole commission.

I look forward to Nemo explaining how there are no losers if the NFL doesn’t play any games this year. Ponder that. It makes more sense that you might imagine at first.

Nemo

Bosco:  Let us begin with this:  I am haven’t given you, Bosco, any authority to speak for me or be my attorney, so whatever you say in your posts, you don’t speak for me and, thus, have no authority to explain or clarify my comments.

What I said, supra, is that the probability that the ALJ was right or wrong for each of his decisions on each of Apple’s ten patent claims was independent and, therefore, can’t be grouped together as an event where he had an 80% probability of being right about eight of Apple’s patent claims.  Or to put it another way, that the ALJ decided one of Apple’s patent claim one way has no effect on how he decided any of the other claims.  Since there isn’t enough information to calculate the probabilities for any of the ALJ’s ten decisions on Apple’s ten patent claims or to calculate the probabilities the Commission’s future decision on any of those claims, the only way to get a sense of whether his decision on any of the claims is likely to be sustained or reversed at the Commission is to evaluate his ruling with the experienced eye of a patent litigator.  That immediately disqualifies you, Bosco, and Daemon, and I have not read the ALJ’s ruling.

The Commission isn’t going to take each of Apple’s claims and flip a coin.  Each Commissioner will decide each of the claims on their respective merits as he or she sees them, based on the law, their respective values, and the research and advice of their staff attorneys. 

This is not a coin flipping experiment, where each outcome of a toss has a constant probability for the same event.  One, the events, that is each of the ten patent claims, are independent, and two, the process for the decision at the Commission is a complex evaluation of law and fact by several independent persons that can’t be modeled by a coin toss.  The factors that would go into a statistical model would be so complex and numerous as to defy the human ability to do such modeling.  The best that I’ve every done and ever seen done is a senior lawyer evaluating a judge’s decision in light of his experience, knowledge of law, and knowledge of the judges on the court or tribunal where he must plead his appeal and coming up with a reasoned judgment of his client’s prospects on appeal, which lawyers sometimes state in terms of percentages, though the decision is not one of math but of experience and training.  None of us here are equipped to do that, not me because I am not involved in the case and not you, Bosco and/or Daemon, because neither of you have the training or experience to do it and, of course, because you also aren’t involved in the case. 

So put your coins back in your pockets or use them to buy yourself a cup of coffee.

Lee Dronick

Sir Harry Flashman said:

I chose one and not only easily found the correct dmg file, but the link was correctly coded and I am now ready for Lion.

Why can?t everyone be like you?

I try to solve problems on my own, unless I know that it is out of my league. I won’t ask for help unless I am in extremis.

Now why can’t some web designers/coders use simple HTML when it is appropriate instead of broken JavaScript or what ever it was.

FlatEric

Dear Amergin:? There is no such thing as a patent troll, because patents are property rights that can lawfully be asserted by any party lawfully holding those rights.? The term patent troll is simply polemics used by those who disagree with the either the patent being asserted or the party asserting it or who disagrees with the very idea of patents in general.?

I disagree.  The concept of a patent troll, at least to me, is an organization that intends to make its money enforcing the patent rather than selling a product that makes use of the patented design.  They way I’ve heard it happen is that a company buys or generates patents on things they think someone will eventually build and sell.  Later, when some other group that was unaware that the patent existed starts to sell a product that incorporates the patented idea, the patent troll sues the people making a product.  I think its considered trolling because they may not have put much into developing the patent, but are demanding money from some other group that has invested time and effort in turning a patented idea into a functional product.

That being said, Apple is not a patent troll.  When Apple patents something, they generally intend to use the design at some point.  In the case being referenced by this article, Apple is actively making money from the patents with a product they build.

I think the background argument is about software patents.
There are currently a lot of disagreements about the concepts of patenting software.  There are people that feel that unlike a physical design (like mechanical parts or circuit designs), that software should not be patented.  The reason is that there could potentially be many ways to write code that ultimately produces the same output.  While you can’t steal the source code (copyright), you theoretically should be allowed to attempt to figure out your own way to code it.

The argument for software patents says that mathematically/logically only one way to do something, so like physical designs, software methods could be patented.  This would mean the person/group to discover the right algorithm can patent it.

I can see both sides of the argument.  I feel that the problem we have at the moment is that too many software patents appear too broad in what the patent covers.  I feel a secondary issue is that many patents are introduced too late, meaning that the idea was around long before it was patented.

daemon

Now why can?t some web designers/coders use simple HTML when it is appropriate instead of broken JavaScript or what ever it was.

JavaScript is used for interactivity on the client side. “Simple HTML” isn’t all that interactive. Server side interactivity is done with pages like .jsp, .asp, .php, or the wonderful #! we all see now!

Lee Dronick

JavaScript is used for interactivity on the client side. ?Simple HTML? isn?t all that interactive. Server side interactivity is done with pages like .jsp, .asp, .php, or the wonderful #! we all see now!

1. I wasn’t interacting other than clicking on link to download a file

2. The JavaScript used to download the file didn’t work, it didn’t interact, it didn’t even act.

ibuck

Daemon said: “Errors are easy to figure out, if you bother to look them up.” and ” Why can?t everyone be like you?”

Are you saying only tech geeks should be able to own DVD players, cell phones, computers or other mainstream gadgets?

I wonder if these products could ever be brought to market with such a severely reduced potential market. Certainly not at the lower prices the much larger, non-geek market allows.

Given this larger market, sparse or cryptic instructions in the user guide, or broken web links don’t constitute good customer support. That Apple’s products “just work” is a big reason for their popularity, as well as their after purchase support. Other companies could learn from Apple’s customer support example instead of merely trying to steal the intellectual property of their products.

Terrin

Not true. In the classic fairy tales, a troll is an ugly creature who hides in the dark under a bridge for unsuspecting folks to come across the bridge. When the folks successful come to the end of the bridge, the troll will jump out and demands a toll to pass (notice how the words rhyme). The consequence for not paying is to be eaten. 

With patents, the concept is similar. The patent troll sits quietly watching an unsuspecting innovator produce a product that allegedly infringes on the patent. Instead of informing the alleged violator of the potential infringement, the troll lets the violator utilize the alleged patented idea. Upon the products success, the troll will step out and demand a hefty licensing fee or threaten to eat the company via expensive litigation.

A party that has a patent and asserts that right from the get go is not considered a troll.


Apple couldn’t’ be considered a patent troll because it makes no secret it thinks it has the iPhone heavily patented, and it plans to use those patented ideas to defend its creation. Upon release of the iPhone, Jobs proclaimed publicly that the device is protected by hundreds of patents. As such, anybody making a similar device should be put on notice to be careful.

There is no such thing as a patent troll. . . . . . However, even by the commonly accepted definition of patent troll, Apple would not be a patent troll, because it practices its own patents.

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