Print 25 comment(s) - last by nolisi.. on Jun 16 at 7:05 PM

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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RE: Apple are making fools of themselves
By elleehswon on 6/14/2012 2:51:13 PM , Rating: 4
someone said it best in another thread, regarding to how Samsung and HTC should market their smartphones.

"Such great devices, that apple tried to ban the sale of them."

I, personally, don't see why Apple doesn't just try to build/sell a better product.

RE: Apple are making fools of themselves
By bug77 on 6/14/2012 3:21:46 PM , Rating: 5
I, personally, don't see why Apple doesn't just try to build/sell a better product.

Because if Apple had their way, there wouldn't be a better product. There would simply be THE product. And we'd be supposed to pay whatever Apple feels like charging.

By spread on 6/14/2012 6:29:04 PM , Rating: 1
I find your lack of faith disturbing. Apple will conquer and rule over all. Soon the rebellion will fall and remaining will be Apple. Bow down before it's too late, rebel scum.

By Natch on 6/14/2012 3:23:14 PM , Rating: 2
That would require effort, innovation, and progressive thinking, all of which Apple only doles out in miniscule amounts, and only when they feel they have to do it (not when their lemmings want it).

I'm hoping that the ITC will someday soon tell Apple, "Enough! You're trolling, and taking advantage of the system, and we've had enough!!" (but I won't hold my breath).

RE: Apple are making fools of themselves
By testerguy on 6/15/12, Rating: -1
RE: Apple are making fools of themselves
By Gondor on 6/15/2012 11:54:45 AM , Rating: 4
Original as in "stealing work of others and patenting it" ? Apple didn't invent context menu yet they somehow managed to patent it. Their neverending quest to rip off existing ideas and peddle them as their own is the only thing "original" about Apple.

By retrospooty on 6/15/2012 1:52:00 PM , Rating: 2
"Their neverending quest to rip off existing ideas and peddle them as their own is the only thing "original" about Apple"

LOL good point. They are very adept at that. They do have good points as well. They do push standards forward, as they are now with higher res screens. We all benefit from that. Kind of nerdy, but their supply chain management is nothing short of amazing. They are absolute masters at it. It's highly overlooked and under-appreciated how difficult it is, and Apple makes it look easy... But invention is not a strong point.

By nolisi on 6/16/2012 7:01:43 PM , Rating: 1
Also - while technically Apple is requesting a ban of the devices, that is not their end goal. The end goal is to force them to be original in areas where they have breached patents. The only way, it seems, that Apple can force them to do this is with the prospect of a ban

Complete BS; Apple has no interest in originality. Apples big moneymaker on the iPhone/iPad is the App Store- yet Apple has zero patents and zero lawsuits pertaining to this.

It's because HTC originally came up with the idea and implementation on the Sidekick in 2005. This is why Apple has to stick with lawsuits on minor gui patents on which they can't prove/quantify that any financial harm was done.

Apple's end goal has nothing to do with originality- their end goal is to monopolize the cell phone market by banning any competitor that has market superiority (Android is in the 60% range) that will have a difficult time fighting back due to limited patent portfolios. It's Apples only business strategy.

By nolisi on 6/16/2012 7:05:29 PM , Rating: 1
PS: You can't play this on an iPhone/iPad.

(Rap battle between Steve Jobs and Bill Gates)

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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