Android infringes Apple iPhone Patents, What happens Next

Apple had been fighting with almost all Android phone OEMs including Motorola, HTC, and Samsung for more than a year now.

Apple has won against the HTC in a lawsuit where ITC has identified that HTC had infringed two of its patents. It was found to have infringed two of 10 Apple patents originally asserted in the case. However, HTC will “vigorously fight these two remaining patents through an appeal before the ITC commissioners who make the final decision,”

However, the point worth noting here is that this brings almost whole of android platform into trouble as Patents appear to be at the core of Android and are likely infringed by all Android devices.

The Patents:

The 2 patents are:

  • U.S. Patent No. 5,946,647 on a “system and method for performing an action on a structure in computer-generated data” (in its complaint, Apple provides examples such as the recognition of “phone numbers, post-office addresses and dates” and the ability to perform “related actions with that data”; one example is that “the system may receive data that includes a phone number, highlight it for a user, and then, in response to a user’s interaction with the highlighted text, offer the user the choice of making a phone call to the number”)
  • 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; in its complaint, Apple said that this patent “relates generally to providing programming abstraction layers for real-time processing applications”)

Ground Reality

All of the patents are actually ridiculous. Where Open source encourages an innovative way, these patents are actually granted for ridiculously small and easy things in software engineering. e.g. If you see a phone number, automatic hyperlinking has a patent. Its ridiculous! Come on Apple.

But violating patent is a serious offense, at the end of the day either Google or all hardware OEMs will end up paying royalty to Apple for using their patented technology.

The whole software patent system needs to be rethought to suit modern world. Open Source projects like Linux and Android contribute a lot to world but actually endup being sued over stupid little patents of something that has been done before several times, unknowingly.

What happens Next

In worst-case there would be a import ban against many or even all Android-based HTC products in the U.S. market. Alternatively, HTC might have to remove certain functionality from its products, and that could result in a significant degradation of the quality of those devices.

Since those patents actually don’t relate to HTC’s own extensions of Android but to Android itself, they may affect all of the other makers of Android-based devices. Apple could soon be in a strong position to obtain import bans against dozens of device makers including Samsung, motorola, and all other big players of android.

Apple can grant HTC a license just like Microsoft did and let HTC pay royalty on every android phone they sell, but Apple might claim damages claim and ban imports.

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  • Fred Lauer

    To defeat Apple’s claims, it (in principle at least) need be shown only that there exists “prior art,” i.e., that anyone, anywhere, previous to Apple’s patent application, employed the same discovery/invention.  This behoves the Android community to identify and publicize such occurances. 

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  • trumpet444

    Apple is finding it hard to compete with android so instead of improving their products by giving the consumer more choice, they decide to just sue the crap out of the competition.

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