ITC Rules HTC Android Smartphones Violate Apple Patents

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.”