ITC rules in favor of Apple in patent case, hits HTC with import ban [UPDATED]

Alex Wagner
Editorial Director of News and Content from  Omaha, NE
| December 19, 2011

HTC Apple logos

Over the weekend we mentioned that the International Trade Commission was set to hand down a ruling today on a patent case between Apple and HTC, and this afternoon that's precisely what we got. The ITC has decided that HTC is guilty of infringing on two claims of Apple patent #5,946,647, which was issued in 1999 and relates to the way that things such as phone numbers are formatted in unstructured documents like email to allow the user to tap on and interact with them. The ruling means that HTC-made Android devices running Android 1.6 through 2.2 will face an import ban that won't begin until April 19, 2012 in order give HTC time to react to the decision and implement a workaround. In a statement reacting to the ruling, HTC promises that its designers already have a solution in mind:

"We are gratified that the commission affirmed the judge's determination on the ‘721 and ‘983 patents, and reversed its decision on the ‘263 patent and partially on the ‘647 patent. While disappointed that a finding of violation was still found on two claims of the ‘647 patent, we are well prepared for this decision, and our designers have created alternate solutions for the ‘647 patent."

When asked for a response to the ruling, Apple reiterated its previous statement in legal matters like this one, saying that while it thinks that competition is good, its competitors should craft their own original tech rather than "steal" Apple's. The company is likely pleased with its win today, which it could try to use against other Android devices and manufacturers. However, since HTC says that it's already cooked up a workaround for the infringing portions of its devices, Apple may not bother to go after others with these particular claims. It should be interesting to see how HTC ends up patching up this problem, and you can bet that we'll be on the lookout for more details on its fix. Stay tuned! 

UPDATE: It appears that HTC has issued a revised statement on the case and sent it to The Verge. This new response describes Apple's patent as simply a "small UI experience" that HTC plans to "completely remove" from all its handsets soon. Doesn't sound like HTC is sweating today's ruling at all, huh? The new statement from HTC is below.

"We are gratified that the Commission affirmed the judge's initial determination on the ‘721 and ‘983 patents, and reversed its decision on the ‘263 patent and partially on the ‘647 patent. We are very pleased with the determination and we respect it. However, the ‘647 patent is a small UI experience and HTC will completely remove it from all of our phones soon."

Via The Verge, FOSS Patents, ITC (PDF)