Monday, July 18, 2011

Apple Wins Patent Dispute With HTC: Can Android Survive?

Last week HTC got hammered by a decision by the ITC that says HTC is violating two very important Apple patents. The headlines, more-or-less, say it all, that not only is HTC in big trouble, but more importantly that the entire Android platform is in big, and I mean really, really big trouble.

Some of these include Adrian Kingsley-Hugh's headline: "Apple deals massive patent blow to HTC, Android in serious trouble." Adrian notes that:

"This is a very significant development since these two patents are also in dispute between Apple and Motorola and Apple and Nokia. This decision is also landmark in that it is the first legal judgement that finds Android in infringement of third-party intellectual property rights.

Just how serious is this ruling for HTC? Very serious. The worst-case scenario is that the ITC imposes an US import ban against all of HTC’s Android products. That’s how serious this is for HTC.

According to intellectual property activist Florian Mueller, Apple is unlikely to grant HTC a license for these patents and might make a damages claim."

This news was indeed significant enough that Reuters reported that Taiwanese stocks fell by 0.59%, with HTC taking a direct hit, and losing at one point as much as 6.5% of its value and prompting the company to shore up its shares by buying some of them back.

For many, myself included, Apple's legal abstract of the patents in question seems all rather vague, but Philips Elmer-DeWitt, writing for CNN Money, helps to simplify matters in his article, "Apple vs Google: Inside an Android patent violation", which breaks down in layman's English just what the core of the whole matter is about, and I quote:

"Steve Jobs claimed that Google "stole" this Apple innovation. Last week, the ITC agreed.

When an iPhone receives a message that contains a phone number or an address -- e-mail, Web or street -- those bits of data are automatically highlighted, underlined and turned into clickable links.

Click on the phone number, and the iPhone asks if you want to dial it. Click on the Web address, and it opens in Safari. Click on the street address, and Maps will display it.

Any Android phone will do the same.

Unfortunately for the three dozen companies that make Android devices, Apple (AAPL) filed for a patent on the underlying system and method that performs these actions in 1996. The patent, U.S. Patent No. 5,946,647, was one of 20 that in March 2010 Apple accused HTC, a leading maker of Android phones, of violating."

This certainly, as many are noting, is bad news indeed for Android, as it threatens the very future of Google's so-called open platform. One expert in such matters is Germany's Florian Mueller, an award-winning intellectual property activist with some 25 years of software industry experience, who basically sums up Apple's proxy war against Google and Android, as being a case where "Google's Android mobile operating system is in serious trouble."

In conclusion, this is a pivotal moment for not just HTC, but for the entire Android platform as a whole. Not only because it will increase pressure on HTC to find a work-a-round solution, something that may be impossible according to Florian Mueller, but because it lays at the very heart of Android survival and its future as a viable alternative to the iPhone, and surely that must have anyone working on the Android platform quaking in their boots, despite anything that they might say to the contrary.

And that's my 2 cents 4 this Monday, July 18, 2011

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