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Android Patents

HTC Infringed Apple Patents, Says ITC's Initial Determination 230

Posted by timothy
from the why-rent-seekers-do-it dept.
CWmike writes "A judge at the U.S. International Trade Commission has made an initial determination that HTC infringed two Apple patents, HTC said late Friday. If the judgment is made final, HTC could be banned from importing phones to the U.S. It's the latest blow to Google's Android operating system, which is being attacked by competitors including Apple, Microsoft and Oracle. The initial determination will now be reviewed by a larger panel of ITC judges, who can uphold or reject it. The two patents appear to be fundamental to Android, according to Florian Mueller, a patent expert. 'They are very likely to be infringed by code that is at the core of Android,' he wrote in a blog post. The same patents are also at the heart of a dispute between Apple and Motorola, he said."
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HTC Infringed Apple Patents, Says ITC's Initial Determination

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  • by sconeu (64226) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @12:12AM (#36783138) Homepage Journal

    That is all.

    • by makomk (752139)

      A dick head who's full of crap, too. 5,946,647 at the very least is infringed upon by pretty much all decent phones. (It covers detecting things like phone numbers in text, offering up a choice of actions to carry out on said items, and acting on user instructions to carry them out.) Not just smartphones either - I just checked and my old Samsung dumbphone seems to meet all the required elements of Claim 1. Android might actually be better off than the dumbphones here: they have copy-and-paste, which means

      • Gosh, if you follow through the claim ("a method for causing the computer to perform an action on a structure identified in computer data...enabling selection of the structure and a linked action; and executing the selected action linked to the selected structure"), every email MUA in existence does that. Receive an email, look for the From: (or Reply-to:) header, allow the user to reply to the address in the header...

        6,343,263 is so broad and vague as to be meaningless. It's just talking about creating a
      • 5,946,647, every email MUA in existence does this - look for the From: (or Reply-to:) header, and let the user send an email to the address found there.

        6,343,263 just describes creating a hardware abstraction layer, something else which has been done for a long, long time.

        This illustrates one of the big problems with the patent system - inventor are supposed to get exclusive rights for a limited time in exchange for describing their inventions so the public can benefit from them. But, patents are written
    • by gtall (79522)

      The author put in the blurb about Florian Mueller simply as a troll for hits. Give it a rest. We all know Florian's just another dim blogger.

    • by spectro (80839)

      Let's RTFR, or wait for Groklaw to dissect the ruling and publish their findings. So far Groklaw have shown Florian Muller tends to sensationalize these issues in a way they look really bad for Android while the opposite is true.

  • Patents (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bazald (886779) <bazald@NOsPaM.zenipex.com> on Saturday July 16, 2011 @12:20AM (#36783160) Homepage

    And the patents (from http://fosspatents.blogspot.com/2011/07/itc-judge-finds-htc-in-infringement-of.html [blogspot.com]) 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")

    I think I violated these patents just reading this article.

    • by afidel (530433)
      Hahaha, that first one won't stand up to scrutiny, the Blackberry was doing auto phone number recognition before the first iPhone was even conceived.
      • Re:Patents (Score:4, Informative)

        by cdrudge (68377) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @12:29AM (#36783198) Homepage

        The first Blackberry phone came out in 1999. The patent was filed in 1996 and issued in 1999. I don't think it really matters when the first iPhone was conceived.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          My WWIV BBS was auto recognizing and highlighting FIDO net addresses in 1991. My telix client auto recognized certain dowload types and could auto zmodem download with a simple keystroke, also 1991-1992ish.

        • by amiga3D (567632)

          So it looks like the Blackberry infringes as well. Imagine that.

        • by rossjudson (97786)

          Note that the patent has nothing to do with mobile devices. It's just a very general "recognize a pattern in data" patent. Seems to me that any syntax-aware programming editor from before 1996 would be prior art.

          • by digitig (1056110)
            It's more than "recognise a pattern in data" (otherwise it would be a patent on regexps, and the patent recogises regexps as a pre-existing technology). It's a patent on recognising the patterns in real time and presenting the user with the option of taking an action based on that pattern.
        • The first Blackberry phone came out in 1999. The patent was filed in 1996 and issued in 1999.

          Did RIM license this patent? If not then this is a clear case of Laches (equity) [wikipedia.org] and the judge should tell Apple to STFU and stop acting like a scumbag.

      • Yeah, and the Newton was doing auto phone number recognition before that.

        See? It's a good thing Apple didn't spin off Newton...

        • by dslbrian (318993)

          It's a good thing Apple didn't spin off Newton...

          It shouldn't matter if they spun it off, the Newton itself constitutes prior art. According to the timeline [wikipedia.org] it was out in 1993. You can't patent something 3 years after it hits the market.

      • Your post won't stand up to scrutiny either -- that patent was filed in 1996 before the first Blackberry was conceived.

        Having said that, it seems like a fairly obvious patent? I can't say I read the whole thing though... I'm also surprised there's no prior art; the only similar thing I could personally think of was Microsoft Smart Tags and they don't seem to have arrived before ~2000.

        • by msauve (701917)
          " I'm also surprised there's no prior art; the only similar thing I could personally think of was Microsoft Smart Tags and they don't seem to have arrived before ~2000."

          None of your pre-2000 email clients allowed you to click "reply" and automatically used the From: (or Reply-to:) header to determine who to reply to?
      • by artor3 (1344997)

        Apparently not. That first patent was filed in February of '96, long before the first BlackBerry came out. It would seem Apple has been planning to screw over the world through patent trolling for a very long time.

        • Or maybe they just wanted to protect the 1996 Newton's features. After all, they do occasionally make a product instead of litigating.

    • by TyFoN (12980)

      WTF..
      The first patent sound like regular expressions.
      If I was making these handsets (or any type of gadget) I might just discard the US market in all an leave them to the patent trolls and focus on the rest of the world.

    • '647
      "A system and method causes a computer to detect and perform actions on structures identified in computer data.
      The system provides an analyzer server, an application program interface, a user interface and an action processor.
      "
      Or in other words - a browser and X.
      Analyser server = netscape
      API = X
      structures in data = html
      UI = X

      "The analyzer server receives from an application running concurrently data having recognizable structures, uses a pattern analysis unit, such as a parser or fast string search func

    • by digitig (1056110)
      Reading the text of the patents, it looks as if the first patent also covers word processors that highlight spelling or grammar errors or automatically detect and hotlink URLs too. That would make MS Office, OpenOffice.org and Libre Office all in breach -- I can't see anything that restricts the patent to mobile devices.
    • by makomk (752139)

      Don't know about reading the article, but submitting that post might have infringed. Notice how Slashdot analyzed your post, found some text that represented a HTML link, and inserted instructions that tell your browser it's one, and that if you right-click said link you'll get a selection of actions. That's very close indeed to claim 1 of the patent; the only catch (though it's a big one) is that the process is split between Slashdot's servers and the user's browser.

  • (Tagged MuellerTroll; Didn't Read.)

  • by Lord Juan (1280214) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @12:37AM (#36783238) Homepage

    WTH?, Didn't we already established in about every single article written by him that he is a paid microsoft shill trying to create FUD around android? Most of what he writes is BS, as has been proven again and again. I am not saying that everything that we writes should be regarded as BS, although I would ignore it because he already lost all credibility to me, he may eventually write something of value, but to call him a patent expert is just, well, it is enough to get me into rant mode and come post in an article that I should be ignoring. /rant

    And I am very sorry for the rant, as I will probably regret it tomorrow, I am off to sleep.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Sometimes it feels like the editors take pleasure in trolling Slashdot.
  • by nzac (1822298) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @12:48AM (#36783266)

    If this actually gets finalised (right now is just a PR thing) and HTC are forced to make changes does mean that the rest of the world will get a crippled android?
    Will they distribute two versions of the software at added cost to them or keep is simpler. (I assume this is legal my internalization patent law knowledge is lacking.)

    Could this be how software patents get overthrown when the general public and politicians realise that US sold phones are inferior to what you can get in the third world or china and everywhere else.

    • by horza (87255) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @02:41AM (#36783644) Homepage

      Not sure why you'd think it only affects android. The Patent 5,946,647 effectively says nobody can scan some text and when a pattern is detected offer options associated with that pattern in the display. First thing that springs to mind is that probably every email client in the world is in violation, as they scan the text and turn email addresses into links.

      It's a pure software patent, and as such not valid in Europe.

      Phillip.

      • and they've been around since the early 90s.
      • It's a pure software patent, and as such not valid in Europe.

        So how do I get out of the United States so as to no longer be subject to this software patent BS?

      • by nzac (1822298)

        Of course it doesn't only apply on android they just picked a politically soft target to use it on because the patent is not likely to hold up indefinitely. I don’t think I assumed that it would be finalised but the on a mobile device wording that allows stuff that was probably to obvious to patented for desktop/server use to get a patent does makes it seem there is a chance that it could be finalised.

  • by SKPhoton (683703) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @12:51AM (#36783272) Homepage
    "It's amazing what can be accomplished when we don't care who gets the credit." -(I forget who originally said this, ironically enough...) :)
  • by decora (1710862) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @01:04AM (#36783314) Journal

    The system has become so corrupt and so anathema to everything civilized, decent, and holy, that we make, on our own, in the darkness and safety of the night, purely to remind ourselves that somewhere, the human species has some hope for the future, and that the world is not completely controlled by the greedy and the ignorant.

  • lawyers. Seriously, can we please round these bottom-feeders up and put them at the bottom of Yucca Mountain? Radioactive waste and each other are the only company they're fit to spend eternity with.

    • by 0123456 (636235) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @01:13AM (#36783344)

      lawyers. Seriously, can we please round these bottom-feeders up and put them at the bottom of Yucca Mountain? Radioactive waste and each other are the only company they're fit to spend eternity with.

      Good God, are you insane? Imagine the devastation if ten thousand years from now the storage vessel should spring a leak and the area become flooded with a mass of radioactive mutant lawyers.

    • by mattOzan (165392)

      lawyers. Seriously, can we please round these bottom-feeders up and put them at the bottom of Yucca Mountain?

      I'm all for it, but I think we'll have to wait far too long before any radioactive waste actually ends up there. Let's just go with Chernobyl?

  • by Doctor_Jest (688315) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @01:28AM (#36783406)

    I think Apple's lapping Microsoft in the douche of the Universe Award. I mean, we still have the swimsuit competition... *shudder* Ballmer in a bikini...

    Apple's been getting on my LAST nerve, well, since they went Intel. I'm seriously re-thinking my interest in anything Apple at all. Steve Jobs can sit and spin... The only reason Apple's doing this is because the real threat for their smartphone business is Android phones. I wonder how long it'll take before Apple and Microsoft go toe-to-toe in the smartphone arena...

    This fiasco, folks, is why Software Patents are evil.

  • I suspect that all of these companies infringe on some of another companies patents. This is the beginning of patent wars that may lead to an eventual reform of patent law.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      They have all known this for a long time. That's why all these "defensive patent portfolios" were developed. They were nuclear deterrents. But then patent trolls emerged and destabilized. And things are only now getting started. Now patent litigation is becoming more profitable for some. Microsoft is making more money from Android than from its own mobile OS.

    • by sincewhen (640526)

      an eventual reform of patent law

      Sadly, it won't work out that way.
      Instead, the companies will all cross-licence to reach a stalemate, but with their combined patent portfolios, they will be able to prevent any new competitors arising.

      • Instead, the companies will all cross-licence to reach a stalemate, but with their combined patent portfolios, they will be able to prevent any new competitors arising.

        Sadly, you are correct.

        The Sewing Machine Combination [wikipedia.org] was probably the first example of the patent system going insane, resulting in the failure of anyone to innovate or produce the products the market was demanding, and eventually resulted in a small group of patent holders banding together in a licensing truce until the problematic patents

  • Since when does patent infringement result in a ban on import rather than a fine and order to pay royalties for the patented item? Is it because HTC isn't a US company?

    • Since when does patent infringement result in a ban on import rather than a fine and order to pay royalties for the patented item? Is it because HTC isn't a US company?

      A patent is a Government-granted monopoly. You have the right to license or restrict the use of your patented idea - it is the patent holder's choice, not the Courts or the infringer. You can choose to license company A and not license company B, effectively prohibiting company B from selling in your country.

      If you're like Apple, and losing market share, then your best bet is to probably eliminate the competition than try to get a few bucks for each phone. The big problem for Apple isn't the loss of r

  • by znerk (1162519)

    I know I'm risking my karma with this, but this subject is just screaming for a rant.

    If we can't legally have freedoms anymore, then we'll just have to have them illegally (at least those of us with the backbone to stand up for our rights). Maybe this will be the straw that breaks the patent camel's back. When it becomes obvious that corporations are simply using patents as big sticks to wave at one another and beat down competitors, it becomes just as apparent that patents need to be abolished, not just re

    • by bky1701 (979071)
      Patents are small compared to copyright, which is quite literally locking up and destroying our collective culture at an unprecedented rate. All imaginary property needs abolished. I hope the coming patent wars make this clear - but don't expect the United States to ever realize it.
      • by Nerdfest (867930)
        I think patents are worse. You can always legally create your own content, but progress in technology is made by adding to the work done by others or finding a better way to do it. Software patents are especially bad, as they don't allow you to find a better way to do something. The *idea* is patented and you really can't work around it in most cases.
  • by jamesh (87723) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @03:39AM (#36783888)

    If the software is a problem can't they just sell a blank phone without an OS and leave it up to the user to load an OS (which they can download from HTC's Russian website)?

    I seem to remember reading that one of the very early 8 bit computers (might have even been the Apple) was having a problem getting it's PSU approved by the FCC or some authority so they sold it without a PSU and the user had to source one themselves.

    OTOH... I believe the iPhone comes without iOS loaded and you have to load it via iTunes, so maybe Apple already has a patent on this concept too ;)

    • by jamesh (87723)

      Replying to myself...

      If the software is a problem can't they just sell a blank phone without an OS and leave it up to the user to load an OS (which they can download from HTC's Russian website)?

      Or do what some games do - release the game without the disputed content then leak a patch (again, via a Russian website :) to put that content back in again.

    • by Sloppy (14984)

      can't they just sell a blank phone without an OS and leave it up to the user to load an OS

      On one hand, that would be truly fucking awesome and probably the second best possible thing to happen for the advancement of phone tech.

      On the other hand, the market does not want that, and the company that does it will not sell many phones. It's a death sentence.

  • Apple is in the process of burning a thousand bridges it would seem. Just as Microsoft set itself up as a company no one should trust, Apple is close in following. Suing its suppliers? No one else in that part of the world will want to do business with them either. If they keep this up, they will have to bring manufacturing back to the U.S. And if you think Apple is overpriced now...

  • by Walkingshark (711886) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @06:21AM (#36784484) Homepage

    If you want to fix the broken patent system, you have to fight people who have a lot of wealth (power) and a lot of interest in the status quo.

    Of course, these same people, wielding their pet corporations, are fighting to keep Government corruption in its current form (the backbone of which is the "campaign contribution" bribery system and it's offshoot, the system of lobbying jobs, speaking engagements, and book deals that serve as a front to pay off cronies at all levels of government), so you can write off using government power as a check against them.

    The only way we'll see things change is if these rich, powerful people get too greedy and use their pet corporations against each other (like the story above), in which case our goal is simply to hunker down as much as possible and hope that in the aftermath we can sneak in a little bit of progress.

    Things won't change as long as our civilization allows for the concentration of wealth at current levels. The hard part, of course, is deciding an allowable maximum threshold. Soviet or Mao style communism are obviously not the answer, and European style socialism is having some problems (though arguably a lot of those were caused by socialists dabbling in hyper-capitalist market manipulation as a result of meme-contamination from the US). The Canadian style hybrid seems to be doing pretty well, though they've got their own contamination problems making trouble, likely due to meddling by powerful interests afraid of a world run like Canada.

    I know, I know, it's an article about patents, but the obvious flaws in the patent system are all simply emergent phenomena, part of a deeper underlying dysfunction that can ultimately be attributed to animals having more power than they can responsibly handle.

    • by nut (19435)

      The other thing you can do is boycott all Apple products and encourage everyone you know to do the same. And do the same for any other company that tries to control the market - and where your dollar goes - using the same broken patent system.

      Ultimately all large companies make their decision based on the balance sheet, and Apple's products are discretionary purchasing. If people can be made to care about the company's behaviour it will affect whether or not they buy their product or a competitors.

  • by John Hasler (414242) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @07:18AM (#36784790) Homepage

    Just to be clear, this guy is not really a judge. He's just a bureaucrat. HTC has the right to contest his decision before a real Federal judge. Unfortunately, their imports will be barred in the meantime, so they might decide to settle even if they think they would prevail in court.

  • Apple Data Detectors (Score:4, Informative)

    by StubNewellsFarm (1084965) on Saturday July 16, 2011 @07:44AM (#36784994)
    Patent 5,946,647 was filed in 1996, when Apple came out with Apple Data Detectors (Mac OS 8). The patent is almost certainly about that.

    This article [miramontes.com] describes ADD, including what its developers considered to be unique and different from other approaches.

    My take on this is that ADD did come up with some clever ideas in implementation that solved the particular problems they were addressing (focusing on simple problems and fast detection). It's clear that what's unique is the particular implementation, not the idea of detecting phone numbers and such. They cite lots of other examples of the idea.

    So, there are two possibilities. Either the patent covers the idea (and thus is inappropriately broad and will be ruled invalid) or the patent is about the particular implementation, in which case it should be simple to implement in a way that avoids violation. In either case, HTC and Android will be fine.

  • HTC clearly infringed those patents; the question is why Apple was awarded those idiotic patents in the first place. The patents should get invalidated. And if we had a saner legal system, Apple and the inventors should be charged with fraud for filing them in the first place.

The bogosity meter just pegged.

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