Although Samsung scored a victory against Apple's lawsuits recently, things are looking grim for HTC, and in fact, if things get worse, it could have far reaching consequences for Android in general. In July, an ITC administrative law judge ruled that HTC was in violation of two of Apple's patents. HTC appealed the decision, and that appeal (which was originally scheduled to be heard today, December 6th) will be heard on December 14th. If the judge rules in Apple's favor, it could have dire ramifications.
What makes this situation so important is the particular patents that are being infringed upon. These patents are at the very core of Android OS design. For reference, here are the patents:
- 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")
The problem is, because these patents are so broad and general, if HTC ends up having infringed upon them, then so has every other manufacturer that uses Android. Here's a statement from FOSS Patent's, Florian Mueller that he wrote after last summer's ruling,The worst case scenario for HTC is that their Android products could be banned from import just before the holiday season here in the United States, and Apple could then take HTC to a separate court system to sue for monetary damages. Of course, they could opt to license their patents to HTC , but that hasn't exactly been their behavior in the past. Ultimately, a defeat for HTC could mean Apple would be going after Google directly to halt the Android operating system entirely."Google's Android mobile operating system is in serious trouble. It's hard to see how any Android device could not infringe [the patents], or how companies could work around them."
Thanks to our tipster in the forums, Zathus!
Source: CNNMoney and FossPatents