Late yesterday an ITC judge ruled that smartphone maker HTC has infringed two Apple patents, and it seems likely that every single Android device out there infringes the same patents.
The two Apple patents that HTC is infringing are as follows:
- U.S. Patent No. 5,946,647 on a "system and method for performing an action on a structure in computer-generated data."
- U.S. Patent No. 6,343,263 on a "real-time signal processing system for serially transmitted data."
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.
But it gets worse. This also has severe implications for all Android products on the market, irrespective of the maker, as Mueller also pointed out:
It's hard to see how any Android device could not infringe them, or how companies could work around them.
Mueller has put together a chart showing how all Android devices infringe the same patents that HTC has been found infringe.
But can those patents really be worked around? Standing in front of the Great Wall of China, you can also vow to walk around it. That doesn't mean it's a viable option.
And it seems that it is going to get worse as Android is at the center of 49 federal and ITC infringement suits.
This is serious stuff.
- HTC: Pressure mounts to develop workaround to avoid Apple patents
- HTC buys S3, gathers patents to fight Apple
- CNET News: ITC says HTC violating two of Apple's patents