Apple Looks to Bully HTC With Third ITC Complaint, HTC Abandons Offense
June 14, 2012 2:30 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. (
) and U.S. phonemaker Apple, Inc. (
) is now officially a one-sided scrap, with Apple looking to pick on its smaller rival.
I. HTC Abandons Offense, Focuses on Defense
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
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
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" 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. (
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.
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
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 (
Galaxy S III launch sink
and seeing its case against
Motorola Mobility be
thrown out of court "with prejudice"
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