Ongoing since last year, the International Trade Commission, ITC, has officially put an end to Apple's legal challenge against Taiwanese firm HTC, ruling in Apple's favour, banning the US importation of patent infringing devices. Starting April 19th 2012, the exclusion order includes big sellers such as the Sprint Evo 4G, Verizon Droid Incredible, T-Mobile G2 and AT&T Aria.
The case raised by Apple claimed that HTC and in some instances, more specifically, the Google Android OS running on many of the firm's devices violated ten of Apple's patents. The ruling, however, was not all song and joy for Apple, as only one of the ten patents was recognised as a legitimate claim. The patent that survived the hearing was U.S. patent 5,946,647 which covers the ability for a device to scan and analyse data to display or highlight on the device's UI for selection, essentially this is the feature that highlights phone numbers, web addresses etc. in text messages; two of the four claims of infringement against the surviving patent were also dismissed.
HTC responded to the ruling, "This decision is a win for HTC and we are gratified that the commission affirmed the judge's determination on the '721 and '983 patents, and reversed its decision on the '263 patent and partially on the '647 patent. We are very pleased with the determination and we respect it. The '647 patent is a small UI experience and HTC will completely remove it from all our phones soon."
The statement follows on from a preliminary ruling back in July where HTC was initially deemed to have violated two patents as opposed to just the one. Former ITC vice-chairman, Ron Cass, stated "If I'm HTC - and particularly if I'm Google - I'm feeling a lot better today than if I'm Apple," noting that such a limited judgement leaves plenty of room for Google and Android handset makers to adjust the software accordingly to ensure that Android no longer violates Apple patents. It's likely that by the time the ban comes into force in April, not a single handset will be affected, we can certainly understand why HTC considers this decision a win and perhaps this case will instil some confidence in the legal stability of Google's Android OS for other handset makers. We do hope, however, that some bright-spark can come up with an alternative approach to the violated patent, as automatic highlighting of numbers and other information can be quite useful.