Apple has just won a huge victory against HTC, makers of many popular Android handsets, which could see many of HTC’s devices banned from the U.S. unless certain offending features are removed.
The International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled in Apple’s favor on Monday in an ongoing patent dispute, and has issued an import ban on many HTC devices to begin on April 19, 2012. Any HTC Android phones using the offending features will be banned from sale in the U.S. unless the feature is removed before then.
While the decision sounds great for Apple, however, it’s really not as massive of a win as it seems. FOSS Patents’ Florian Mueller reports:
What Apple has won is a formal import ban scheduled to commence on April 19, 2012, but relating only to HTC Android phones implementing one of two claims of a “data tapping patent”: a patent on an invention that marks up phone numbers and other types of formatted data in an unstructured document, such as an email, in order to enable users to bring up other programs (such as a dialer app) that process such data. The import ban won’t relate to HTC Android products that don’t implement that feature, or that implement it in ways not covered by those patent claims.
As it turns out, it may be possible to implement the offending feature in a slightly modified way that doesn’t violate Apple’s patent (thereby avoiding a sales ban), but this will no doubt make it easier for Apple to win further cases against Android manufacturers.
For more information, check out the full decision (PDF), including a detailed explanation of the particular patent involved.
Is this the beginning of a massive legal move by Apple against Android? Will Apple begin attacking every Android handset manufacturer on the planet? My guess is that they will, and I’ll be sure to have some popcorn and a soda ready to watch the epic battle unfold.