ITC says HTC violating two of Apple’s patents

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    Posted: 15 July 2011 06:27 PM

    Just in time to lift our spirits after a long tough week.

    http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-20079905-94/itc-says-htc-violating-two-of-apples-patents/#ixzz1SDB8tdNi

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    Posted: 15 July 2011 06:35 PM #1

    http://fosspatents.blogspot.com/2011/07/itc-judge-finds-htc-in-infringement-of.html
    (story will be updated as more info becomes available)

    Google’s Android mobile operating system is in serious trouble:

    BusinessInsider.com reports that according to Bloomberg, an ITC judge determined that HTC infringes two of ten Apple patents asserted in investigation no. 337-TA-710.

    Today’s decision is a so-called “initial determination” by an administrative law judge (ALJ). Those determinations are reviewed by the six-member Commission, the highest decision-making body at the ITC. <snip>

    Depending on whether the asserted patents relate to HTC’s own extensions of Android, they may affect only some or theoretically even none of the other makers of Android-based devices. However, should one or both of those patents read on the common Android codebase used by all device makers, then Apple could soon be in a strong position to obtain import bans against dozens of device makers.

    ITC findings are important, because they can order import bans in a matter of months, not years as patent infringement cases take in the Federal Courts.

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    Posted: 15 July 2011 06:38 PM #2

    Gah! you just beat me to the punch grin

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  • Posted: 15 July 2011 07:23 PM #3

    adamthompson3232 - 15 July 2011 09:37 PM

    WOW! what say you, Bosco?

    Ohhhhhhhhhh! Don’t encourage him.

         
  • Posted: 15 July 2011 09:15 PM #4

    adamthompson3232 - 15 July 2011 11:36 PM

    I recommend reading the entire link above. Looks like it could be bye bye, Bosco.

    Oh there’s more…

    http://allthingsd.com/20110715/itc-rules-htc-violated-two-apple-patents/

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  • Posted: 15 July 2011 09:16 PM #5

    adamthompson3232 - 15 July 2011 11:59 PM

    Bosco, will you become an iOS developer when android falters?

    No. I think he’d rather go for the “more open” WP7… That’s where all the Google’s OEMs pay their royalties too, anyway.

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  • Posted: 15 July 2011 09:17 PM #6

    ChicagoBob - 15 July 2011 09:38 PM

    Gah! you just beat me to the punch grin

    Bump

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    Posted: 15 July 2011 09:22 PM #7

    We do have two threads up about this.  Though on the other hand maybe it’s best the “general” conversation stuff get posted over here…

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  • Posted: 15 July 2011 09:37 PM #8

    Mav - 16 July 2011 12:22 AM

    We do have two threads up about this.  Though on the other hand maybe it’s best the “general” conversation stuff get posted over here…

    I think Calibar was the first, as ChicagoBob admitted, hence my bump.

    Mods, could you possibly merge both?

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  • Posted: 15 July 2011 09:50 PM #9

    Look, let’s not blow this out of proportion:

    1) Apple sued HTC precisely because HTC is the weakest link. They have few patents of their own so they can not make an effective counter-claim. Microsoft picked on HTC first when it started attacking Android and HTC was quick to cave in.

    The moral of this little story is that just because this works agains HTC does not mean it will work against everybody else.

    2) This is a preliminary ruling. Apple originally filed 10 patent complaints against HTC. The ITC tossed 6 of them outright and gave strong indications that they were going to rule against Apple on the other four. They dumped two, but agreed with Apple on two. This is significant because the burden is now on HTC. But it’s far from final. I’ve seen these cases reversed and remanded many times by the full panel

    The moral of this little story is that it ain’t over ‘till it’s over.

    3) We don’t even know if this technology is core to Android or HTC specific. And HTC is making noises about abandoning the two patents in question and moving to alternative technology.

    The moral of this little story is that we don’t even know if this is important.

    4) Having said all that, this COULD be important. Nobody really wants to take a chance on losing to the full panel because their one and only recourse is to BAN YOUR PRODUCT. No monetary damages. No patent licensing fees. It’s essentially the death penalty. So obviously, HTC will have a strong incentive to settle.

    Further, the infringing patents could be core to Android. Nobody seems to know. And if they are, it could spell big trouble for Android.

    The moral of this little story is that we’re going to have to wait and see. There’s simply no way to know exactly how big this may be until the next shoe drops…

    ...and even then we might not know.

         
  • Posted: 15 July 2011 10:15 PM #10

    adamthompson3232 - 16 July 2011 01:00 AM

    Read the Foss link. It suggests these patents are core to Android.

    I have looked at those patents before and they appear to be very fundamental. They are very likely to be infringed by code that is at the core of Android.

    One man’s opinion. And it contains words like “appear”  and “very likely”.

    I stand by my original comment. We’re just going to have to wait and see.

         
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    Posted: 15 July 2011 10:28 PM #11

    FalKirk - 16 July 2011 12:50 AM

    Look, let’s not blow this out of proportion <snip>

    The moral of this little story is that it ain’t over ‘till it’s over. <snip>

    The moral of this little story is that we don’t even know if this is important.

    Yes.  I believe, don’t count your chickens until they’re hatched, but please read the article I linked to at FOSS.

    He’s a really really sharp patent attorney, and in his opinion *if* the patents are valid then as they stand today they are core to all of Android, and not just HTC.

    While I agree I don’t know what’s important, FOSS has been very accurate in his analysis and predictions of the parties next steps and likely direction and flavor of numerous court rulings in many cases in the news today. And, in his opinion, today, things just took a bad turn for HTC (and all Android vendors).

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    Posted: 15 July 2011 11:02 PM #12

    Doing some research on the patents.  The first one appears related to some old work on data detectors.  this work came out of Apple’s research lab a great article from the patent holders.

    Collaborative, programmable intelligent agents

    Patent 5946647

    A quick look at http://sree.cc/google/android-linkify-advanced-url-and-content-linking shows Andriod provides similar functionality to the Apple patent called android:autoLink

    [ Edited: 15 July 2011 11:18 PM by pats ]      
  • Posted: 15 July 2011 11:28 PM #13

    Sigh. (was kind of hoping both threads would be co-joined, but hey)

    Niley Patel is in the “it’s not over until it’s over” camp too:

    Preliminary ruling finds that HTC infringes two Apple patents, but it?s not over yet
    Posted by: Nilay Patel on July 15, 2011 7:29 pm

    Some semi-big news in the HTC / Apple patent fight today: an ITC administrative law judge has ruled that HTC devices infringe two of the 10 patents Apple asserted back in March of 2010. That?s a notable upswing in the case for Apple, which only last month was told the ITC staff didn?t think any of its patent claims were valid, and it?s bound to put more pressure on HTC to either pay up or use different technologies in the future. And? that?s about it. Contrary to what you may have read elsewhere, this ruling isn?t final, and Apple?s victory isn?t terribly meaningful in the long term. The decision is still set to be reviewed by the full six-member ITC panel, and it?s only then we?ll find out whether HTC will have to stop importing and / or selling infringing products. That?s quite a ways off from now.

    As for the patents themselves, they appear to describe fairly deep system-level technologies, but it?s hard to know exactly which elements of HTC?s products the judge found infringing ? whether it?s an Android problem or an HTC problem, as it were. The first patent, #5,946,647, describes a system of data detectors that can parse data, recognize known structures, and take action upon them. The second, #6,343,263, is a super-wonky technical patent that describes a modular system that enables different types of data to be processed in real time. It?s a pretty big deal if these patents are infringed by Android itself and not by something specific to HTC devices, but we?re still waiting for the ITC to release the actual order before we?ll know the answer to that question. Apple?s case against Motorola also includes these two patents, so there?s a chance this could affect a large swath of the Android ecosystem ? although for its part, Google says it?s ?pleased the ITC ruled against all of Apple?s operating system claims,? so take that however you like.

    HTC?s statement in response to the ruling is also somewhat interesting ? you can see the full statement at the end of this post, but check out this line:

    As a leading smartphone innovator for more than a decade, we develop and acquire technology in many areas and strongly believe we have alternative solutions in place for the issues raised by Apple.

    (Emphasis mine.) That?s the first time HTC?s ever acknowledged that it might have to design around any of Apple?s patents if it suffers losses in litigation, and it raises a number of questions about how deeply the company is willing to alter Android if it doesn?t prevail on appeal. That?s the real story here, if you ask me: Apple?s scored a minor tactical win on the way to the last battle, but HTC seems to be saying it?s prepared to lose the war entirely ? and potentially create a new variant of Android in the process. I?ve asked HTC to clarify this line, and I?ll let you know if I hear back.

    In all, the big takeaways are that Apple?s scored a needed victory on the way to winning this particular ITC case outright, but nothing?s settled yet ? and HTC appears to be be prepared both to continue defending itself and for the worst-case scenario. And remember: Apple?s also asserting 16 additional patents against HTC in a separate ITC case along with a pair of pending federal lawsuits from each side, so this whole conflict isn?t over by a long shot. We?d bet there are a lot more twists and turns to come.

    HTC Statement:

    This is only one step of many in these legal proceedings. The ITC?s Staff Attorney independently studied the facts and argued at trial that HTC does not violate any Apple patents. Apple filed suit on 10 of its patents against HTC, but based on the judge?s initial decision today only prevailed on 2 of those patents.  HTC will vigorously fight these 2 remaining patents through an appeal before the ITC Commissioners who make the final decision.

    We are highly confident we have a strong case for the ITC appeals process and are fully prepared to defend ourselves using all means possible.  As a leading smartphone innovator for more than a decade, we develop and acquire technology in many areas and strongly believe we have alternative solutions in place for the issues raised by Apple. We look forward to resolving this case, so we can continue creating the most innovative mobile experiences for consumers.

    EDIT: Damn, I was concentrating so much on the formatting I forgot to put a link to the original article which can be found here.

    [ Edited: 15 July 2011 11:31 PM by John Molloy ]

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  • Posted: 15 July 2011 11:48 PM #14

    Let?s do some speculating.

    If the decision is upheld (greater than a 50% chance, but not a certainty) it probably extends to most Android phones.

    Whatever public stance they take HTC must be very worried.

    What would their contingency plans be?

    My guess would be to continue to fight the decision, while exploring:

    A:  Whether the OS can be modified to get around the problem;

    B:  Look for another OS.  Windows Mobile seems to me to be their best candidate, maybe their only candidate;

    C:  Explore licensing options with Apple.  Not very likely to happen IMHO;

    D:  Since a lawsuit for damages is almost likely to follow they have to weigh what the additional damages would be if they continue to make and sell Android phones;

    E:  Just get out of the business (not very likely).

    They will probably try to bring whatever political pressure they can as well.

    I am sure that they thought about the consequences of losing before the decision was made.  They probably have been in talks with Microsoft and may even be close to a switch.

    They also must have talked to Google about alternatives and forms of support.

    Other cell phone manufacturers must also be worried and looking at the same options.

    Comments?  Additions?

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  • Posted: 15 July 2011 11:57 PM #15

    adamthompson3232 - 16 July 2011 01:21 AM

    On a more serious note, I will take this ruling in favor of Apple over the ruling going in favor of HTC. At a minimum, this has HTC worried. At a maximum, all other Android vendors are starting to get really damn worried.

    Don’t get me wrong. This IS an important decision. It puts tremendous pressure on HTC. They simply cannot allow this to go to a full hearing. The consequences are too stark.

    That said, I wanted to temper the tone of the debate. Nothing is certain. Apple may lose at the next level. Apple and HTC may settle with business going on as usual. Apple and HTC may settle and this may end up never affecting another Android manufacturer.

    This has big potential. But we’re going to have to suffer through a lot of “if”, “or”, “but”, “maybe” and “might-have-been” before we know anything for sure.