HTC faces US smartphone ban

HTC has been ordered to withdraw Android phones from the US market, following a ruling from the International Trade Commission that the company’s violating a patent held by Apple.

Still, it could have been much worse for HTC: the initial complaint covered 10 patents, of which only one has been upheld. This relates to a feature known as data tapping, which allows users to grab embedded information such as a phone number and use it, say by making a call.

HTC will now attempt to remove the feature from its phones by the 19 April 2012 deadline, or face having the phones pulled from the shelves.


Rather sweetly, HTC’s claiming the decision was actually a victory, on the grounds that only one patent infringement claim was upheld – and it may have a point.

“This ruling falls far short of anything would force HTC out of the US market in the near term. Also, out of ten patents originally asserted, Apple finally prevailed on only one,” says patent expert Florian Mueller.

“Apple will need a higher ‘hit rate’ in the future, and it will have to enforce patents that are greatly more impactful than this one. Out of ten patents originally asserted, Apple finally managed to enforce one, and it’s one of medium value.”

Some of the other patent infringements originally asserted, says Mueller, would have had a far greater impact on HTC if upheld – one covering real-time signal processing, for example.

“Apple needs to find several more patents of the ‘data tapping’ kind – or, alternatively, one or two fundamental patents for which there’s no viable workaround – in order to really have competitive impact with its many litigations targeting Android.”