HTC Implements Workaround to Apple's Patent for Evo 4G LTE, One X
May 17, 2012 4:35 PM
U.S. Customs has seized HTC's smartphone shipments and have refused to give it a timeline for when its changes will be reviewed.
Customs ban remains in effect, government hasn't revealed when it will bother to review HTC's changes
Apple, Inc.'s (
U.S. Patent No. 5,946,647
covers data-tapping -- creating actionable links in a text document, and displaying a menu of options, such as to call or save a phone number.
While questions of prior art surround the patent, Apple has thus far been successful in convincing the courts of the patent's validity. However, despite Apple suing all the major Android manufacturers and despite the feature being in all stock Android browsers/messaging apps, it's only been able to use the patent to
pick off the smallest and weakest
of Android "big three" -- Android's HTC Corp. (TPE:2948).
Even as Apple's decision to "beat up on the little guy" has drawn ire, HTC has moved to try its best to restore its products.
that its testing of the Evo 4G LTE -- a new handset on preorder at Sprint Nextel Corp. (
) -- and
the One X
-- a handset coming to AT&T, Inc. (
) -- reveals that both devices no longer carry the infringing browser and messaging app bulids.
HTC has developed modified versions of these apps. It cleverly creates a settings menu that allows users to directly associate a data type with a specific app. This allows documents to be marked up in such a way that it skirts Apple's patent description, given that rather than a menu coming up, a click directly launches the app.
The workaround is dubbed "App Associations".
HTC has removed the infringing feature from its smartphones via a new feature dubbed "App Associations". [Image Source: The Verge]
The big question is whether HTC's hard work will do any good. After all, even before
's verification, HTC insisted that all of the handsets that had been held up at Customs featured the modification.
According to HTC, U.S. Customs officials have
refused to inspect its product
or consider lifting the ban after a month of inaction. With the AT&T and Sprint left in a quandary about how to fulfill preorders, HTC is desperate to get the ban lifted.
U.S. International Trade Commission
and Customs have offered no clue that Customs officials might be ready to review HTC's seized shipments. Thus HTC finds itself in the position of a prisoner left forgotten in a holding cell.
Customs does not have clear-cut publicly available rules regarding how and when it bans products, so HTC is at the mercy of these bureaucrats. And right now they seem perfectly content to enforce a ban that benefits Apple, despite compelling and clear-cut evidence that HTC no longer is offering the contended feature.
That questionable policy is certainly not sitting well with Android fans and customers who preordered. But it's a pleasing development to Apple's well-heeled, polished legion of lawyers and the company's most zealous fans.
"If a man really wants to make a million dollars, the best way would be to start his own religion." -- Scientology founder L. Ron. Hubbard
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