December 19, 2011, 6:03 PM — Apple has won a minor victory in the ongoing patent wars today, after the International Trade Commission ruled that Taiwan hardware maker HTC violated two of Apple's patents.
The win may be short lived, as the formal import ban does not go into effect until April 19, which could give HTC enough time to circumvent the technology covered in the patents and side-step the ban altogether.
HTC is expected to appeal the ruling, and the decision is also subject to a review by the Obama Administration, according to a Bloomberg story this afternoon.
"Among the HTC phones at risk of being blocked from the U.S. are the Nexus One, Touch Pro, Diamond, Tilt II, Dream, myTouch, Hero and Droid Eris, according to Apple's original complaint."
No one is very sure what the impact of this decision will be. On the one hand, even patent maven Florian Mueller characterizes this as a "limited victory." Mueller had trouble finding the dark cloud in this silver lining, as he tried really hard to paint his usual picture of usual doom and destruction for Android. You would almost feel sorry for him, lamenting that this win wasn't a stronger one for Apple:
"A much broader and potentially more impactful patent on realtime signal processing was not deemed infringed. That one could have had much more impact on HTC and, more generally, Android than the data tapping patent."
But right now, the ruling stands: under the patent system in which Apple, Google, and HTC are working in, HTC has apparently infringed on two patents, unless another ruling says otherwise. Given the length of time HTC has before the import ban goes into effect, they could be able to circumvent the ban.
The effected technology includes a patent on making up data in one app and using that markup to launch another application. Like tapping a URL in a Tweet and opening up the page in the browser.
One thing one which I will agree with Mueller: we are going to see a lot more of these rulings coming down the pike, with some for Apple and some for Android and its hardware users.
It would be nice if someone would finally notice all this litigious noise and realize how broken the U.S. patent system is and prevent this use of litigation as competition. But, as we've seen in the recent discussions on the SOPA bill, I guess money still makes the loudest noise in Washington.
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