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Summary:

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.

mex-standoff

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.

  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.

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  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.

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

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  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.

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    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.

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      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!

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

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  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.

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  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.

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  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.

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    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.

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  8. 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.

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  9. ‘Initial victory’

    You mean Apple will eventually lose the war.

    Perhaps you can enlighten us on it.

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  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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  11. I am glad HTC is paying for taking the easy road and copying Apple. I hope this sets a Staple in the electronics industry that we all could learn from.

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  12. Someone needs to hand a copy of the “Art of War” to the young guys heading Google now.
    What should’ve done from the very beginning is stand up for manufacturers and publicly play out their battle with Oracle so that even if Oracle won, it would be a Pyrrhic victory if the public decided Oracle was wrong.
    They go on and on about how many phones are being activated daily…support and protect that base as Apple has and stand up for them – they’ll reciprocate…

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  13. With the continued decline of interest in the iphone, this is a very smart strategic move by apple. If it gets overturned and android comes out on top, it could pose quite an embarressment and hinder the apple name and brand in the cell phone market. If I was in as desperate a situation to make my competitor go away though, I would do the same thing. Apple must be really kicking themselves for not getting on the other wireless networks when they could. If they made the move sooner, the Droid never would have taken off and posed this overwhelming threat. Even if they succeed, Google is large enough and the name Droid is just too powerful, they will make the necessary changes, make a few improvements and lauch a newer stronger OS and that will most likely put an even darker shadow on Apple products and will greatly outway the short term income they might be able to generate. Apple needs to get creative. They havent done anything special since the Ipod and all they did was import that into a phone. They also havent improved the phone in several years. Trying to hinder competition isnt going to save thier dying following, they need to improve the design and launch an Iphone that people just cant resist. If they dont move in this direction soon, and stop trying to delay the innevitable loss of interest in a 5 year old design, the damage may be irreversable.

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  14. not as an android fan but user i don’t thank two patent are going to heart android 505000 phone bought a day or the 100 million sold so far

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  15. WHY DO PEOPLE KEEP SAYING THAT THESE ARE BLOWS TO ANDROID?.THERE ARE ATLEAST 15 TO 20 DEVICE MAKERS WORLDWIDE WHO SELL ANDROID DEVICES AND TWO OR THREE COMPANIES BEING SUED WONT SLOW IT DOWN.ALSO HTC AND EVEN SAMSUNG HAVE DEEP POCKETS AND THEY CAN EASILY PAY ONE TIME SETTLEMENTS OR ROYALTIES.

    ALSO SINCE ORACLE IS SUING GOOGLE DIRECTLY, AND DEMANDING SOME 2 BILLION PLUS, IT WONT BE DIFFICULT FOR GOOGLE TO PAY THAT MUCH EVEN IT LOSES AGAINST ORACLE.

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  16. The approach to patents need to be thought of again and reworked from scratch. It just doesnt seem to work anymore.

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  17. HTC just bought a company whose patents are being violated by Apple. So if HTC gets locked out of US market, they will do the same to Apple using their patents. Without a doubt, this is going to be settled out of court and both HTC and Apple will go about their business.

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