Apple may have failed in its attempts to secure a preliminary injunction against certain Galaxy S and Galaxy Tab devices, but the company's suit against Samsung is not the only legal battle the Cupertino company is engaged in. Yesterday, after two delays, the International Trade Commission handed Apple a small victory in its ongoing suit against HTC. Apple earlier this year claimed that HTC was infringing on several of its mobile patents with its Android smartphones and the ITC this week ruled in favor of Cupertino with regard to two claims relating to a single patent. The result is an import ban on selected HTC smartphones in the United States.
"Notice is hereby given that the U.S. International Trade Commission has found a violation of section 337 in this investigation and has issued a limited exclusion order prohibiting importation of infringing personal data and mobile communications devices and related software," the ITC said in its ruling. "The Commission has determined that exclusion of articles subject to this order shall commence on April 19, 2012."
The patent HTC is guilty of violating relates to a technology the majority of smartphone owners are likely familiar with. Dubbed a "data tapping patent" by FOSS Patents, the patent in question describes a technology that allows users to interact with phone numbers and other types of formatted data in an unstructured document in order to bring up another program. Most of us will recognize an implementation of this technology in the functionality that allows us to tap a phone number in an email or text and immediately bring up the phone's dialer application. The ITC ruling means that any HTC phones with this feature are covered by the import ban.
HTC has until April 19 to comply with the import ban or file an appeal, but the company doesn't seem to bothered by the ITC's decision. The company said in a statement to Boy Genius Report that it plans to remove this 'small UI experience' from its phones soon. The company also highlighted the fact that the ITC had only found it guilty of violating one Apple patent (Apple's initial complaint alleged the violation of many):
"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," HTC told BGR via email. "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."
Google, the company behind the Android operating system, has not yet commented on the news.