A patent dispute over an apparently minor technical trick - the
ability to turn phone numbers and addresses into interactive links
- may wind up preventing HTC from importing its phones to U.S.
) brought its suit against the Taiwan-based smartphone
manufacturer, which builds some of the most popular and advanced
) Android-based models available in
, its biggest market. The
patent infringement suit
in the U.S International Trade Commission named the Nexus One,
Droid Eris, myTouch and Hero, among others, but will now affect
newer models like the Droid Incredible and the T-Mobile G2.
The ITC agreed with Apple that HTC had violated the former's '647
patent, though it affirmed the previous judge's ruling that HTC had
not broken patents labeled '721 and '983. In addition, the ITC
reversed a previous ruling on the '623 patent, so HTC chalked the
whole battle up as a victory.
It could be a pyrrhic victory, however, as the HTC has to stop
selling its phones in the U.S. by April 19. In
to get around the ban, it will have to redesign its UI - tech site
suggested that it will probably rework the feature rather than
remove it entirely, as clicking on phone numbers and addresses has
become an integral part of most smartphone user experiences.
"We are very pleased with the determination and we respect it," the
company wrot ein a press release. "However, the '647 patent is a
small UI experience and HTC will completely remove it from all of
our phones soon."
Apple, whose founder Steve Jobs famously declared that he wanted to
"destroy Android" for copying (as he saw it) the iPhone, can take
some gratification from the fact that it's thrown one of its
on the back foot. Indeed, HTC passed Apple and fellow Android maker
Samsung for total sales in the U.S. last quarter, and the
delay could allow Apple to snatch back the crown.
There's still a long way to go in the great mobile manufacturer
patent war, though. This
from Reuters neatly illustrates what a tangled mess the whole
system has become, with pretty much every player suing each other.