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Summary:

On Monday, Apple won an ITC ruling resulting in an import ban on some HTC smartphones running Android. The patent found to have been violated has to do with a feature for detecting and using data, but HTC says it has already addressed the issue.

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On Monday, Apple won an ITC ruling resulting in an import ban on some HTC smartphone devices running Android. The patent found to have been violated has to do with a feature for detecting data in neutral documents and linking it to related, external apps, but HTC says it’s already addressed the issue (va WSJ), months ahead of a deadline set by the court for doing so.

HTC CEO Peter Chou said on Tuesday the company already has a workaround ready for the feature found to be in violation of Apple’s patent by the U.S. trade regulatory body. According to Chou, the feature has already been removed from its phones following the ruling on Monday. The feature in question is something most smartphone users have come to expect — for example, the ability to recognize phone numbers or addresses in a note or email, then open the relevant application when that data is tapped — so while working around the issue has immediate benefits for HTC, it might also have negative lasting impact.

Google Mobile SVP Andy Rubin said during a news conference with Chou that the ruling was actually a good one for Android, since it dealt with a feature that wasn’t necessarily instrumental to the OS, but was instead a “user interface feature of an application,” leading him to believe “patent peace on the overall platform” is still an achievable goal.

While it appears true that in this case HTC will be able to continue selling its devices in the U.S. after the April 19, 2012 deadline set by the ITC for the import ban, Apple’s win still isn’t exactly as inconsequential as Rubin and Chou would like to make it out to be. The average user might not take immediate notice of the feature’s absence, but if Apple continues to win these concessions (and should competing manufacturers be forced to use its suggested design guidelines through patent cases like the recent one in Australia, for example), user experience on platforms like Android could degrade considerably.

  1. I don’t know, I’ve been able to click on “information” and have it open the appropriate application on my computer for decades. Seems to be that this is more about how apple is implementing it not that you won’t be able to click/tap on information and have it open the appropriate application. . . but we will see what Android & HTC come up with.

    If it is in fact a patent that totally covers what is hinted at in this article then I’m shocked that there wasn’t enough prior art to invalidate it–I’m going with the former on this one though.

    Nonetheless, as apple & MS take their shots at Android we are seeing about 90% of their patents being shot down. That’s actually pretty good in this day and age where apple, MS, and others have patented anything and everything they can think of software wise.

    Lucky for those companies that software patents weren’t really awarded when they started, thus they were able to rip off other company’s software ideas left and right–bet Xerox is more than a little pissed right about now.

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    1. The intellectual property in question was the OS contextually recognizing a phone number or an address within a random string of text (in an email or a web page, for example) and then turning that plain text into a link that would open the phone app or the maps app. It’s an idea that is so simple that perhaps you would argue that it shouldn’t be patentable, but then again there’s a lot of simple ideas that no one thought of before that deserve patents. At least this one doesn’t make a mobile OS unusable if it isn’t implemented. It’s just a convenient feature that potentially helps to differentiate Apple’s phones.

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      1. Hasn’t my BlackBerry done that for ages? I’ve often been amused at it “Recognising” other random 9 or 10-digit numbers as phone numbers and offering to phone, say, a parcel tracking number.

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  2. Apple is tech fascism.

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