ITC judge rules that HTC smartphones infringe upon 2 Apple patents

Google announced this week that it's activating more than 500,000 Android handsets a day. Clearly, user interest for Android isn't a problem for the search giant, but the same can't be said about the court system.

Google announced this week that it's activating more than 500,000 Android handsets a day. Clearly, user interest for Android isn't a problem for the search giant, but the same can't be said about the court system.

In March of 2010, Apple sued Android handset maker HTC for allegedly infringing upon 20 Apple patents. Concurrently, Apple filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission (ITC) looking to ban the import of infringing HTC phones.

HTC meanwhile vowed to vigorously defend itself on all fronts, but with a relatively paltry patent portfolio, HTC was and is going to have a hard time staving off Apple's legal efforts.

Now in what may prove to be a huge blow to Google's efforts to survive a multitude of Android related handsets, or at least the ones initiated by Apple, an ITC judge recently determined that HTC smartphones infringe upon 2 patents Apple asserted in its ITC claim.

While some ITC decisions are subject to further review from within the governing body, the recent HTC decision was reviewed by the ITC's highest decision making body, leaving HTC in an interesting bind. Responding to the decision, HTC general counsel told Bloomberg that the company plans to appeal the decision and that the company has "alternate solutions in place" in case their appeal falls short.

It remains unclear how implementing alternative solutions would effect the design and usability of HTC's handsets, but we can't imagine that it's an avenue HTC feels comfortable pursuing.

As for the the two patents at issue, All Things D claims that they're the following:

  • U.S. Patent No. 6,343,263 on a "real-time signal processing system for serially transmitted data" (while this sounds like a pure hardware patent, there are various references in it to logical connections, drivers, programs...) 

An adverse decision from the ITC is a huge blow to both Google and HTC as the governing body has the authority to prevent the import of devices into the US. And highlighting the seriousness of Apple in this matter, there are still over 15 patents before the ITC that Apple is trying to assert against HTC.

Lastly, it's worth pointing out Google's Android OS is at the heart of over 40 lawsuits at the moment, and many of the companies going after Android are heavy hitters like Oracle, Microsoft, and Apple. While Microsoft, for example, is willing to settle for a licensing scheme (such as in their current suit against Motorola), Apple isn't likely to give HTC any breaks.

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