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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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RE: Apple are making fools of themselves
By testerguy on 6/15/2012 1:35:43 AM , Rating: -1
Let's see here, Apple invented the smartphone, the rectangle, a thin piece of plastic, swiping your finger from left to right, clicking on links... Noone (not even Pirks or the most die-hard of fanboys) can seriously believe Apple invented everything and that all these patent claims are legitimate.

Talk about spouting complete drivel which couldn't really be more disconnected from reality? If that's honestly the deluded way in which you view the world, of course nobody would agree it was all valid. The error of course, lies with your grasp on reality:

Apple invented the smartphone

Don't see this being claimed anywhere, certainly not by Apple and certainly not in any lawsuits.

Apple invented the rectangle

I can only assume you are referring to the Galaxy Tab which was banned for being a blatant rip off of the iPad so much so that their lawyers couldn't tell them apart. The judge noted SEVERAL factors on both which were identical as EXAMPLES of why it was a copy. Size, shape, colour, layout, even boxing were cited as examples. It was the combination of all of these elements being copies which led to the device being banned, not any one individually. Samsung went away and modified the Galaxy Tab, the newer one still having the same shape - and this one was found not to be infringing. Therefore, your 'invented the rectangle' quote is simply idiotic.

Apple invented a thin piece of plastic

Don't even know which lawsuit you believe this is from, it's that far from reality.

Apple invented swiping your finger from left

About the closest one to reality, of course still massively wrong. Specifically, Apple was the first to use SOFTWARE on SMARTPHONE which detected swiping on a 'predefined path' (not necessarily left to right) as a method of accessing a locked device, with visual feedback to show the user responses. There is debate not over whether this should be patentable, but whether Neonode came up with it first. Thus, your implication that it can't be patented is a nonsense not argued by anyone. The Neonode implementation doesn't function the same way (it is used for forward/back), it is limited to left-to-right, (whereas the Apple patent is for 'predefined path'), and it doesn't show visual feedback.

Apple invented clicking on links

Again, completely false and misleading simplistic interpretation of reality. I'll quote you the reality:

The patent in question is US Patent 5,946,647, "System and method for performing an action on a structure in computer-generated data." The patent was applied for by Apple engineers in 1996 and awarded in 1999. It relates to a feature that first appeared in Mac OS 8. Applications could, using a system-wide service, automatically detect certain types of data, such as dates, names, addresses, and more. A contextual "tool-tip" would pop up if the mouse was hovered over any recognized data, offering certain actions that could be performed with it

Note that offering a context menu after automatically detecting the type of said information has nothing to do with 'links' and indeed the data in question isn't a link at all. Note also that unlike links, the patent covers a context menu offering actions on said detected data. Yet you so ridiculously describe it as 'links'.

In summary, every single one of your claims is fundamentally understating the technical merits of these patents. If you want to be credible, you shouldn't have to change the reality to argue against it. Now, lets be clear that whilst I have cleared up your gross misunderstanding, that isn't the same thing as me saying all these patents should be valid (in my opinion) - for me that's down to the courts and the patent system to regulate. If a company shouldn't have a patent, its case will fail - it's a self regulating industry. We as consumers don't get to decide on patent law - particularly as you clearly demonstrate some of us have such an epic failure to grasp the technical nuances. For me, the court decision defines the success or failure of patents and that's how it should be.

I think your post highlights the failing of biased bloggers like Jason Mick who overstate and exaggerate patents to try and buy gullible supports such as yourself. It also highlights why someone more accurate needs to step in and clear the reality up (my role).

By Bateluer on 6/15/2012 2:15:51 PM , Rating: 1
Samsung's poor lawyers not withstanding, only a complete fool would mistake any Galaxy Tab model for an iPad. I have a Tab 8.9 and a Tab 2 7" and they're nothing like an iPad model. Even the TouchWiz UX used on them is very distinct from iOS.

"A politician stumbles over himself... Then they pick it out. They edit it. He runs the clip, and then he makes a funny face, and the whole audience has a Pavlovian response." -- Joe Scarborough on John Stewart over Jim Cramer

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