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18 July 2011, 13:08

Apple wins preliminary ITC ruling against HTC

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Android vs Apple icon Apple has won a preliminary ruling from the US ITC trade panel that HTC has infringed two of the company's patents. The decision will need to be ratified by the full ITC panel and, if it is, this would open the way for Apple to demand an import ban of infringing HTC products into the US. HTC says it will appeal the ruling and has been buying back shares to shore up its stock price.

The two patents are 6.946.647 System and method for performing an action on a structure in computer-generated data, filed in 1996 and granted in 1999, and 6,343,263 Real-time signal processing system for serially transmitted data, filed in 1994 and granted in 2002. The '647 patent covers examining data structures for identifiable kinds of data and offering actions based on that identification, for example, noting phone numbers in an email and offering the options to call the number or create a contact. Patent analyst Florian Mueller notes that the claim charts in Apple's case point to generic Android functionality as infringing. For the '263 patent, the claims chart says that Apple believes there is an API that couples a real-time signal processing subsystem with applications to offer real-time services.

Apple began its legal action against HTC in March 2010. Subsequently, in April 2010, HTC entered into a patent licensing deal with Microsoft, the first of its kind to refer to Android devices. In recent weeks, Microsoft has been making more patent licence deals with Android device suppliers; recent reports suggest Microsoft is asking $10-$15 per Android device. If Apple were to demand royalties in the same way, the patent licensing costs of Android would cause severe problems for device makers.

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