The ITC has ruled that Android manufacturer HTC has infringed on two Apple patents, handing the iPhone maker an early victory that could have large implications on HTC’s business in the U.S. and potential impacts on the overall Android platform. HTC is appealing.


The U.S. International Trade Commission has ruled that Android manufacturer HTC has infringed on two Apple patents, handing the iPhone maker an early victory that could have large implications on HTC’s business in the U.S. in the worst case scenario and potential impacts on the overall Android platform. The ruling issued today by an ITC administrative law judge is an initial determination and is being appealed to the ITC’s six commissioners, HTC said in a statement.

The judgement could lead to a ban of the sale of HTC products in the U.S. if it’s upheld or if HTC is unable to find a way to work around the disputed intellectual property. Or HTC could seek a settlement from Apple — that is, if Apple is willing to provide a license. If Apple does license the IP, it will force HTC to pay more royalties for its use of Android, on top of licensing fees it is paying Microsoft for every Android device it makes.

Apple’s win could deal an even tougher blow to the Android platform because one or both of the patents in the dispute appear to be based on software built into the core of the Android operating system, said Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents. He said they are also at issue in the Apple’s case against Motorola. That could lead to more headaches for other Android manufacturers, who could face similar suits from Apple and the threat of an ITC ban of their products.

The latest ruling comes from Apple’s initial complaint, which the ITC staff had recommended against. But the case has turned around for Apple, which also filed a new case against HTC with the ITC this week on five additional patents that were not part of Friday’s ruling. HTC might have bought some defense for itself by recently acquiring S3 Graphics. The ITC previously determined that Apple infringes on patents owned by S3.

Android continues to be a world beater and is now being activated on 550,000 devices a day, according to Google. But it is increasingly under siege by Apple, Oracle and Microsoft. Oracle is directly suing Google for alleged infringement of its Java patents while Apple has sued Android manufacturers. Microsoft, meanwhile, has lined up licensing deals with manufacturers and seems intent on milking Android’s success.

It’s unlikely that any one action can undo the success of Android but there are growing concerns about the price manufacturers will have to pay for supporting the platform, which is ostensibly free. If Apple can get a ban of Android products in the U.S. or force Google to engage in severe workarounds that hobble the platform, however, it could overturn a lot of the success of Android. Again, there is a lot that still needs to happen but this is another bad sign for Android.

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  1. I’m hoping the patents in question are infringed by HCT’s Sense UI, so they will be forced to drop it and use vanilla android.

  2. So. 550000 per day? just how many of these are high-end smart phones? And before you get all excited: exactly how many will be used by people who will buy apps? It is a relevant question, because that is who Apple is competing against,NOT the 10 bajillion toss-and-forget phones that Google is double/triple counting (yes, the ones that consumers through away every year to replace with a new phone that Google then counts as yet another ‘sale’).

    Oh and before you get your own shuttered opinions out of your butt, am i a fanboi? an apologist or just some one with the brains to ask intelligent questions.

    1. Yes, who is asking the right questions? It would be most revealing if a report was done on phone type breakdown.

  3. Wilhelm Reuch Friday, July 15, 2011

    Since Apple doesn’t license its operating system and having trouble filling demand – this is unrelated to those 550.000.

    This is mostly about IP and Google’s longtime ignorance of it (videos, books … anything). What surprises me most is that the Linux-people is going along … Google forks Linux, makes a joke of the cooperative/anyone-can-join spirit of open source … and no-one protests? The OSS-crowd sold out very cheaply, I doubt OSS will recover and to the level of trust it had for a while.

    1. Actually, there has been quite a lot of discussion and dissent about Android in the Linux and/or Open Source community. You’re obviously following the mainstream tech news media, which only rarely presents viewpoints outside of a business-centric angle. While has Google has always put a lot of resources into Open Source projects and is quite supportive of open development, if you think Open Source advocates as a whole are totally blind to Android’s open core basis, that’s just not the case.

      1. They sure as hell are blind to hypocrisy. Hey! Found this bit of cool code written by some corporate grinds. Let’s make it OPEN SOURCE and nobody will notice, YIPEE! Less work for us!

  4. when microsoft was in up trend, did it suit others to get head?

  5. Two observations:
    1. Android may be a dead horse now after all.
    2. The world has a silly and old system to address patents in high-tec.

  6. While I’m not exactly sure of the two patents in question, they seem to be generalizations. I respect the security in ntellectual properties. However, I question the patent and trademark office’s proceedures as being antiquated in granting science and technological patents to companies. In this case, it almost appears as though Apple was allowed to patent running water.

    If anyone with knowledge on this can clarify this, it would be greatly appreciated.

    John B.

  7. The unrelated illustrations sometimes used to accompany Gigaom stories are just plain stupid. This is one of those times. If you can’t spend the money to hire an artist or photographer to produce interesting and relevant illustrations, don’t bother.

    1. Quite right. They should have tried harder and found a still of the three-handed Mexican stand-off later in the film to represent Apple, HTC/Android and Google. That would have been far more appropriate.

  8. Lucian Armasu Saturday, July 16, 2011

    I hear Apple’s patents are from 1994 and 1996. So this is not about copying iOS at all. It’s simply a legal trick and a way to abuse the patent system to bring Android down at any cost.

  9. ‘Initial victory’

    You mean Apple will eventually lose the war.

    Perhaps you can enlighten us on it.

  10. A few weeks ago,I bought the EVO 3D and traded.in my EVO 4g.This phone is very resourceful,even tho my son plays the 3D games,I’m a HTC fan now.The apps are never ending and I can do everything on this phone,I rarely use my laptop now.If this happens what would happen to the millions of users that purchased these phones?Android is a very useful resource and why try to stop technology?We may as well just go back to using landlines and ditch cell tech altogether.

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