ITC staff: HTC Android ban not against public interest

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The legal battle Apple is waging against Android could become one of Steve Jobs’ most influential legacies, and a new statement from the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) might stand as a key victory for Apple in that ongoing fight.

The ITC’s Office of Unfair Import Investigations (OUII) released a report Friday (brought to our attention by FOSS Patents’ Florian Mueller) that dismisses allegations made by Google and T-Mobile that a U.S. ban on the sale of HTC Android devices would be against the public interest. Those two companies made headlines when they came to HTC’s defense in the ongoing ITC review of a decision it rendered earlier this year when it found HTC did infringe on two of 10 Apple patents.

The OUII said in its statement that it is “unaware of any public interest concerns that would preclude issuance of the exclusion order proposed by OUII in this investigation.” The ITC organization claims that since “the public interest favors the protection of U.S. intellectual property rights by excluding infringing imports,” and since “there is no evidence that U.S. demand for the accused products cannot be met by numerous other entities, including [Apple] or its licensees,” any ban on HTC devices found to infringe on Apple patents would indeed not be counter to the public interest.

The OUII’s statement in favor of Apple in this case for the reasons cited above could have far-reaching consequences, according to Mueller, since, he points out, “there are other ITC cases going on with respect to Android, including the investigations of Apple’s and Microsoft’s complaints against Motorola Mobility  and Apple’s complaint against Samsung.”

Both parties await the final decision pending review of the initial decision against HTC, which is tentatively due on Dec. 6, 2011. If the decision goes in Apple’s favor, it will be a major victory for the iPhone maker, and a significant setback for Google as it tries to build up more patent protection for the OS.

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