HTC tweaks devices in response to Apple patent violation

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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.

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