Thus far almost everything has gone according to
plan for gadget maker Apple, Inc. (AAPL),
in the company's quest to kill U.S. sales of top Android phone maker HTC Corp. (SEO:066570) with
litigation. Apple has won
a single-judge preliminary ruling from the U.S. International Trade Commission.
If that ruling upheld by the greater six judge panel, HTC's sales to the
U.S. will almost certainly be blocked, pending some sort of action.Many were very disappointed to hear this news. After all, HTC's smart phones like the Thunderbolt and EVO 4G, are some of the most popular and iconic Android models on the market. Many expressed outrage that Apple could remove HTC from the U.S. market, if successful. Clearly this was an emotional issue, as HTC, a cheeky underdog, has endeared itself to many.
But it's far from game over for HTC. The
company still has a variety of viable options -- though some are less appealing
I. First Line of Defense: The Final Ruling
HTC's most desirable spot to make its stand is
when the full ITC panel convenes to make its final determination. The
ITC's staff gave a recommendation
against Apple's infringement allegations in an early April evaluation
of the case, so HTC has to think that at least some at the ITC may be on its
One thing HTC can argue is that the patents are
overly broad and generic.
Patent No. 6,343, 263, one of the two patents that the ITC judge found HTC
to violate, was filed in 2002, but covers virtually every video and music
capable mobile cell phone/tablet in existence, as well as internet television
In 2002, Apple's only devices to use this kind of
real-time processing were its personal computers. Further, three years
earlier in Japan, Kyocera Corp. (TYO: 6971) had deployed the Kyocera
VP-210 "Visual Phone" which used signal processing similar to what
Apple's patent describes to deliver video chats. This may provide
evidence of "prior art" -- even in the mobile sector -- weakening
Apple's claim on this patent.
The patent also makes no mention of
"cellular" or "mobile" applications, meaning that it likely
also covers real-time video and audio coprocessors in personal computers of all
kinds -- something there's a rich history of development of, dating decades
back. It's hard to believe Apple could claim ownership to real time video
processing on PCs, which its patent appears to (attempt to) cover.
The other patent -- U.S.
Patent No. 5,946,647 -- is a software patent covering interpreting
text. Specifically, it covers mechanisms to spot "special"
text, like phone numbers or shipment tracking numbers inside a text
communication, such as an email, text message, or instant message.
Again, this idea is very generic and does not
apply specifically to smartphones. In fact, it was granted in 1999, well
before the first "smart" cell phone hit U.S. shores. Microsoft
and a variety of other companies include features in word processing software
and other utilities to find and automatically add links to content such as
phone numbers. Similarly many web sites automatically link stocks to a
webpage with content.
If Apple had added the language "real
time" or "handheld device" to this patent, it might have been
stronger, but as it is, it merely refers to input -- this makes the patent very
vulnerable in its generic nature.
What is clear from examining these patents is that
they would be prophetic and novel if their cover
systems were explicitly stated to be directed at mobile cellular uses.
They did not make such references, so ultimately you must consider prior
art on systems such as internet-connected PCs and televisions, as well.
This, in theory greatly weakens both of the patents HTC supposedly violated.
One would think there was too much prior art to
validate such a broad claim -- but then again, at least one ITC judge seemed to
II. Second Line of Defense: The Countersuit
HTC is currently suing
Apple back, claiming it violated five of its patents. Apple's IP
library is significantly strong than HTC's, so many doubt that HTC will prevail
in proving Apple infringed on its IP.
If it did defy the odds, though, it could force
Apple into a mutual licensing agreement, similar
to what Finland's Nokia (HEL:NOK1V) did.
Apple is reportedly loath to enter into such an agreement, hoping to
simply block HTC's shipments and remove it from the market outright. But
if it's faced with the prospect of having its own shipments similarly cut off,
it might be forced into an uneasy truce under threat of mutual
destruction à la cold war era U.S. and Soviet Russia.
HTC's recent purchase
of S3 Graphics could help, in that Apple was found by the ITC to have
infringed on two of S3 Graphics' graphics chip patents. However, Apple is
reportedly looking either to purchase chips from someone who's already licensed
the IP in question from S3 Graphics, or to switch to modified chips.
Either way, whatever legal muscle S3 Graphics gives could quickly be
III. Third Line of Defense: Samsung and
Apple is using these patents to try to sue  Motorola
Solutions Inc. (MSI)
and Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (SEO:005930), as
well. Both of these companies have filed countersuits ,
and moved to invalidate Apple's intellectual property involved.
Whereas HTC is young to world of patent
litigation, Samsung, in particular, is one of the world's most prolific
veterans in terms of IP. Samsung currently holds 28,700 patents in the
U.S., alone -- significantly more patents than Apple.
Even if HTC's own efforts fall flat, it may be
bailed out by these fellow veterans who join it in the trifecta of the world's
top three Android phone makers.
Again, Samsung should make a strong case that the
patents involved were overly generic and covered applications broadly tread in
IV. The Last Resort: Redesign
Ultimately, HTC has one final option for survival
-- redesigning its products. It's unclear exactly how it could escape the
broad reach of Apple's real-time video/audio processing patent, but it's
possible it could carefully craft its chips and firmware to avoid the patents
The text parsing claims would be easier to escape
-- HTC could simply eliminate this code, or put it as part of an API for use on
a per-app basis, which could be protected.
Google Inc. (GOOG),
makers of Android OS, tried to spin the loss at the ITC as merely a loss for
HTC. They stated,
"We're pleased that the ITC ruled against all of Apple’s operating system
The statement refers to the remaining eight
patents in the case, which were invalidated by the ITC. However, Google's
optimism is premature, as the OS is involved in both text parsing and media
playback. In other words, Google spin not only seems to throw HTC under
the bus -- it also is inaccurate. The ITC judge in fact upheld two of
Apple's operating system-related claims.
That means that all Android manufacturers are at
risk. Even if Apple is able to take out these manufacturers one by one,
Google may be able to spring into action, helping its partners modify their
hardware/software, so as to escape Apple's litigious grasp.
Obviously, redesign is the worst-case scenario.
If it gets this far, it likely means the ITC has blocked HTC, Samsung,
and Motorola's imports into the U.S. In that case, Android sales would be
effectively dead until the trio could scrap together new systems that ostensibly don't violate
Apple's IP in the eyes of the ITC.
HTC clearly hopes that things won't get that far.
But the overall message is clear. Apple's
preliminary victory was a serious wound to the company, but it still has ample
opportunity to escape its attacker and survive. If it and its fellow
Android makers can indeed survive, they will have put Apple in a very bad spot,
exhausting their rival’s final desperation attempt at market supremacy.
After all, the market appears to be leaning in favor of selection and
price -- globally Android is outselling the iPhone over
quote: Point out the sheer retardedness of the patents (seriously, they are so asinine and basic, it can be used on any company) and push for patent reform.
quote: HTC needs to find a way in the short term to thwart Apple's plot and keep its product in U.S. stores.
quote: You are so biased and this article is garbage...
quote: FIRST to invent these things and invent the smart phone.
quote: Apple first to invent smartphone. What about Blackberry and winmo before them. They were both classified as smartphones. Not very good ones in my opinion but Apple did not create the first smartphone.
quote: Those aren't smart phones! Half them couldn't even play movies. And good luck trying to surf the web or listen to music.
quote: My old HTC Hermes (2006), and my parents HTC Wizard (2005) were fully capable of browsing the internet (albeit the Wizard was slower compared to the Hermes).
quote: Those aren't smart phones! Half them couldn't even play movies. And good luck trying to surf the web or listen to music. Face it, Apple innovated, the rest have been in a race to see who can copy it the fastest.
quote: Lets hope the ITC decides to take out the trash and sweep the rubbish Android handsets off the market. Thank god for IP.
quote: What I'd like to see is all hardware companies that have contracts with Apple (who may also sell Android devices) blacklist Apple by not providing hardware to them. "Oh...you want screens for your iPad product, go back to your garage and build them yourself!"
quote: Steve Jobs had it exactly right. The Android phonemakers think they can just steal Apple's intellectual property and get away with it. Well, clearly from the ruling, they're wrong.
quote: There are only a small number of was to write a certain operation in an efficient manner
quote: Why would he? Microsoft owns a large chunk of Apple stocks and they have a cross licensing agreement.
quote: icrosoft owns a large chunk of Apple stocks
quote: Small mans disease i call it.
quote: LOL - ever heard of ... International Business Machines? Intel? Google? Oracle? HP? They make Apple look like a dingy in the Atlantic.
quote: hate to shatter your little dream world but Apple are[sic] the biggest tech company in the world :)
quote: It's funny how so many people are or were anti microsoft but apple is hands down far and above a worse company that has done things that actually do deserve the ire of the tech world.
quote: Apple is more like that short little guy in the bar on friday night that wants to pick a fight with everyone to prove he's better. Small mans disease i call it.
quote: Glad I kept my Apple shares
quote: Aha. Ulterior motive. How explanatory.
quote: To avoid lawsuits, why don't cell phone makers sell them without Android installed?The cell phone would ship with some type of O/S installer that would allow you to download Android from some foreign country that doesn't have patent issues.
quote: 1. Why did they not sue microsoft over WM?2. Why did they not sue BB?3. Why did they not sue palm?
quote: RIM seems to be in decline
quote: RIM is quite healthy and growing
quote: I think that is because SJ's worst nightmare is to see his business taking off so nicely, just to be utterly crushed by competitors.Apple did fine in pre-PC era, just to be annihilated by raise of IBM compatibles.Early Macs did OK for their time, just to be almost pushed to extinction by raise of Windows.iGadgets are doing great and, while I don't think they can be annihilated like previous Apple efforts, they can be limited to very small (albeit extremely profitable) market segment.
quote: 1. A signal processing system for providing a plurality of realtime services to and from a number of independent client applications and devices, said system comprising:a subsystem comprising a host central processing unit (CPU) operating in accordance with at least one application program and a device handler program, said subsystem further comprising an adapter subsystem interoperating with said host CPU and said device;a realtime signal processing subsystem for performing a plurality of data transforms comprising a plurality of realtime signal processing operations; andat least one realtime application program interface (API) coupled between the subsystem and the realtime signal processing subsystem to allow the subsystem to interoperate with said realtime services.2. The signal processing system as set forth in claim 1, wherein said signal processing system receives and transmits a plurality of datatypes over a plurality of different wide area networks (WANs).3. A signal processing system for providing a plurality of realtime services over a wide area network (WAN), said system comprising:a telecommunications subsystem comprising a host central processing unit (CPU) and a wide area network interface, where said wide area network interface is comprised of a hardware interface to the network and driver software which executes on the hosta telecommunications subsystem comprising a host central processing unit (CPU) operating in accordance with at least one application program and a datastream handler program, said telecommunications subsystem further comprising a telecommunications adapter subsystem interoperating with said host CPU and said WAN;a realtime signal processing subsystem for performing a plurality of transforms comprising a plurality of realtime signal processing operations; andat least one realtime application program interface (API) coupled between the telecommunications subsystem and the realtime signal processing subsystem to allow the telecommunications subsystem to interoperate with said realtime services.
quote: 13. A program storage medium storing a computer program for causing a computer to perform the steps of:receiving computer data;detecting a structure in the data;linking at least one action to the detected structure;enabling selection of the structure and a linked action; andexecuting the selected action linked to the selected structure.14. In a computer having a memory storing actions, a system for causing the computer to perform an action on a structure identified in computer data, comprising:means for receiving computer data;means for detecting a structure in the data;means for linking at least one action to the detected structure;means for selecting the structure and a linked action; andmeans for executing the selected action linked to the selected structure.15. In a computer having a memory storing actions, a method for causing the computer to perform an action on a structure identified in computer data, comprising the steps of:receiving computer data;detecting a structure in the data;linking at least one action to the detected structure;enabling selection of the structure and a linked action; andexecuting the selected action linked to the selected structure.16. The method recited in claim 15, wherein the computer data is received from the application running concurrently.17. The method recited in claim 15, wherein the memory contains grammars, and wherein the step of detecting a structure further comprises the steps of retrieving a grammar and parsing the data based on the grammar.18. The method recited in claim 17, wherein the grammar is associated with a particular action, and wherein the step of linking at least one action to the detected structure includes the step of linking the particular action to the detected structure.19. The method recited in claim 15, wherein the memory contains strings, and wherein the step of detecting a structure further comprises the steps of retrieving a string from the memory and scanning the data to identify the string.20. The method recited in claim 15, further comprising after the step of detecting a structure, the step of highlighting the detected structure.21. The method recited in claim 15, further comprising, after the step of linking at least one action to the detected structure, the step of displaying and enabling selection of an action for performance on the detected structure.22. A computer-based method for causing a computer to identify, select and perform an action on a structure in computer data received from a concurrently running application, said application presenting the computer data to the user, the method comprising the steps of:receiving computer data from the application;detecting a structure in the computer data;linking at least one action to the detected structure;communicating with the application to determine the location of the detected structure as presented by the application, to enable selection of the detected structure and a linked action, and to determine if the detected structure and a linked action have been selected; andperforming a selected action linked to the detected pattern.23. The method recited in claim 15, wherein the step of enabling uses sound activation.24. The method recited in claim 15, wherein a first one of the actions may invoke a second one of the actions.
quote: those who think Android is the only thing to save them from Apple
quote: As FOSS Patents points out, http://fosspatents.blogspot.com/2011/07/battlemap-... in the sort of detailed and clear analysis that makes that site so worth visiting