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Android phonemaker refocuses on playing defense to try to avoid more painful bans

As far as the U.S. International Trade Commission is concerned, the fight between Taiwanese Android phonemaker HTC Corp. (TPE:2498) and U.S. phonemaker Apple, Inc. (AAPL) is now officially a one-sided scrap, with Apple looking to pick on its smaller rival.

I. HTC Abandons Offense, Focuses on Defense

HTC completed its acquisition of S3 Graphics, which it bought largely due to hope of gaining leverage against Apple (S3 Graphics briefly won a complaint against Apple, but later saw its victory evaporate post-acquisition). HTC is now essentially entirely on the defensive after it decided to drop its appeal of the ITC's decision to reject its own complaint against Apple (parallel to S3 Graphics', but also rejected) in February.  Initially, HTC indicated it might appeal, but it now has decided to focus on playing defense.

Apple, which is much more profitable and reportedly employs a much larger legal team, convinced the ITC to rule in its favor last December, finding that certain HTC handsets infringed upon U.S. Patent No. 5,946,647 on a "System and Method for Performing an Action on a Structure Computer-Generated Data".

The patent is commonly shortened to the '647 patent or referred to as the "data-tapping" patent, given that it covers converting text to actionable links.  Apple’s Advanced Technology Group developed the patent in the mid-1990s.  At the time smartphones weren't even on the drawing board -- the patent was on how to make text into links that could be launched in multiple browsers.

Data tapping
"Data tapping" in its original form -- this is the technology Android handsets are being banned for. [Image Source: Apple Insider]

But over a decade later Apple realized it could potentially flex the patent to cover its processing of converting text into links so that you can, say, click on a phone number to call it.  Last month it briefly scored a ban on several of HTC's top handsets, despite the fact that the infringing feature appeared to have been removed from them.

II. More Bans In Store?

Google Inc. (GOOG) implemented a workaround, in part to try to protect HTC.  The new "App Associations" feature, auto-launches apps when a certain type of link is clicked, which differs slightly from the technology described in Apple's patent, in which the initial action of a click is to open a menu of options (with no auto-launch).

Still Apple is claiming the Android feature is within its broad interpretation of its patent's scope.  It's looking to hurt HTC with more anticompetitive import delays, filing its third complaint with the ITC earlier this month.  In that complaint it claims that 29 of HTC's Android handsets -- virtually all its smartphone lineup -- are in infringement of the '647 patent.

ITC Building
HTC hopes to defend itself from a third complaint by Apple who is looking to legally bully it.
[Image Source: Flickr/Freedom for Aardvarks]

It remains to be seen whether the ITC favors Apple yet again and buys into this refreshed effort to bully the smaller rival.  Apple has been dealt key losses in recent weeks, seeing its efforts to stop Samsung Electronic Comp., Ltd.'s (KSC:005930) Galaxy S III launch sink and seeing its case against Google subsidiary Motorola Mobility be thrown out of court "with prejudice".

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In my Opinion
By matty123 on 6/14/2012 2:48:29 PM , Rating: 2
Apple are just wasting their money, even if they succeed in banning every HTC handset in the US, another android vendor {samsung} will just take their place.

While their are certain people who are loyal to brands most of the androids fans I have seen are loyal to the platform not a specific OEM and will happily move around from brand to brand as long as it is a android phone.

Apple will never succeed in banning all android phones {at least I believe so} so in a sense they are helping out their main rival {samsung} with this action. A ban for the iPhone would be far more catastrophic for the apple eco system than a ban on an individual android OEM.

RE: In my Opinion
By JasonMick on 6/14/2012 4:21:23 PM , Rating: 4
Scene 1

(In silicon valley.)

It's been more than 30 years since the wolf and the winter cold. / And now, as then, a beast approaches.

Patient and confident, savoring the meal to come. But this beast is made of men... swords and [lawyers]. Ready to snuff out the world's one hope for reason and justice.

Scene 2
(ITC Court)

Apple Lawyer:
[Apple] conquers and controls everything [it] rests [its] eyes upon.

[We] lead an army so massive, it shakes the ground with its march. So vast, it drinks the rivers dry.

All the God-King [Jobs] requires is this. A simple offering of [giving up Android]...

HTC Lawyer:
A simple offering of [giving up Android]...a token of [HTC]'s submission to the will of Jobs.


Now, that's a bit of a problem.

See, rumor has it...[Motorola has] already turned you down...And if those philosophers and [feature phone]-lovers
have found that kind of nerve, then...

Apple Lawyer:
Choose your next words carefully, [HTC].

...You threaten my people with slavery and death.

Oh, I've chosen my words carefully, [Apple]. Perhaps you should have done the same.

This is blasphemy. This is madness!


This is [Android]!


Final Scene
(In stores across the U.S.)

Now, here on this rugged patch of earth called [America] [Apple's] hordes face obliteration!

Just there the barbarians huddle, sheer terror gripping tight their hearts with icy fingers knowing full well
what merciless horrors they suffered at the swords and spears of 3 [Android phonemakers].

Yet they stare now across the plain at 10,000 [Android] [millions of] free [Android owners]!

The enemy outnumber us a paltry three to one.

Good odds for any [Android].

This day, we rescue a world from mysticism and tyranny and usher in a future brighter than anything we can imagine.

RE: In my Opinion
By bug77 on 6/14/2012 4:26:51 PM , Rating: 2
Now the truth is, the Persian army wreaked havoc throughout Greece for about two years after Thermopile, before they were finally driven out. Hopefully this is were the stories diverge ;-)

RE: In my Opinion
By testerguy on 6/15/12, Rating: -1
RE: In my Opinion
By nikon133 on 6/14/2012 5:13:35 PM , Rating: 2
And even if they do, millions of pi*sed off Android users will go to Windows Phone. Simple act of defiance.

"Nowadays, security guys break the Mac every single day. Every single day, they come out with a total exploit, your machine can be taken over totally. I dare anybody to do that once a month on the Windows machine." -- Bill Gates

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