Friday folly: HTC changes U. S. Android phones to avoid injunction

Friday folly: HTC changes U. S. Android phones to avoid injunction

Summary: HTC has changed the Android software on its newest US phones to avoid an injunction brought by Apple.

SHARE:

The technology legal system is a mess by anybody's standards, a situation made clear with US Customs seizing shipments of HTC smartphones to make sure they don't violate an injunction on Apple's behalf. Customers were left wondering when (and if) they would get their phones from HTC, with no word from Customs when a decision would be given.

To make matters worse, The Verge confirmed that HTC has changed the behavior of the AT&T One X and Sprint EVO 4G LTE to avoid infringing on Apple's patent # 5,946,647. This patent covers the detection of certain data, e. g. email addresses and phone numbers, in text on the screen and presenting options for dealing with it.

HTC had been determined to infringe on this patent (in the U. S.), and according to tests by The Verge have removed this functionality from the phones in the US. This means HTC is producing two different software sets for these phone models, one in the US. to avoid the injunction and one for the rest of the world where they are free to use that method.

This situation is exactly what triggered my rant against the tech legal system. This functionality is just a new way to do normal things on a smartphone. Why it is protected makes no sense to me, as it is natural evolution of the technology. Instead we have one phone maker now forced to offer different products in one country than in others, to the detriment of customers.

I am in favor of protecting major new products, but not incremental improvements in existing ones. This is forcing companies to concentrate on little improvements instead of making major new things that will benefit everyone.

Related:

Topics: HTC, Android, Google, Hardware, Mobile OS, Mobility, Security, Smartphones, Telcos

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

32 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Apple still has all the legal crap they do, none of the innovation

    Jobs was a jerk, but at least the company was innovating. Now they're just patent squatting.
    Socratesfoot
    • This patent comes from the times without Jobs, but it is real innovation.

      Before Apple's Newton MessagePad, no software had way to analyse freely written, unformatted text to automatically detect, extract specific data such as addresses and phone numbers and channel this data to appropriate use.

      [b]This idea was invented by concrete people at Apple and there is no reason why those people would all of sudden deprived of the rights to their invention.[/b]
      DDERSSS
      • Yes, this has never been done before

        As long as you ignore all the previous times this has been done, you are right, this has never been done before.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regular_expression
        toddbottom3
      • I find it interesting how often NonZealot cites...

        ...Wikipedia, which is generally considered a pretty poor source of accurate information. Perhaps that's why he's so confused by facts.
        msalzberg
      • You have certainlny missed other parts of the patent, which describe

        @toddbottom3: ... whole algorithm, not just the search for specific type of data. Also, there is no single pattern that would apply for many ways to write addresses, phones, et cetera. This all should be taken into account.

        Patent is the method [b]or[/b] application of methods that would bring feature and/or functionality that did not exist before, being implemented specific way. [b]There was no software that could do what Newton could do, ever.[/b]

        Regular expression algorithm consists of simpler procedures that should be iterated, and by your standards, because of that, it is not invention, too. Sorry, but this logic is ridiculous.
        DDERSSS
      • No software had that ability?

        Are you freaking serious?
        techadmin.cc
  • "This functionality is just a new way to do normal things on a smartphone."

    The whole concept of patents is to encourage people to come up with new ways of doing things. They get a limited-time monopoly on it.

    Other people can either license it, steal it, or come up with an even newer, different, perhaps better way of doing things. Then they can patent it. And the cycle of innovation continues. Case in point: Apple has a "slide to unlock" patent. Google came up with a different method, which they patented. Google's is different, and may be better. They were forced by Apple's existing patent to innovate.

    (Side note: My father holds/held a number of US and foreign patents on esoteric yet valuable patents in his field. I feel quite strongly about this.)

    I have a big problem with patent trolls, however.
    msalzberg
    • Me too

      [i]I have a big problem with patent trolls, however.[/i]

      See Apple vs HTC for just one example.
      toddbottom3
      • So you take issue with Googlorla as well?

        Should Moto stop their trolling?
        Bruizer
    • umm

      Data detectors existed long before the iPhone and email addresses were already detected. This patent will be voided eventually and your fanboy rhetoric will be absent I am sure.
      slickjim
      • This is not an iPhone patent.

        You are far too young to remember when ADD came out. But you never have let facts get in the way of your lies have you?
        Bruizer
    • Innovation Is Not Invention

      You refer to Invention not innovation. Innovation, in Jobs' words, is taking invention and productizing it for the market. Like he did with Bell Labs' mouse.......

      Jobs learned to use patents as copyrights failed him in stopping Windows from coming to market. Remember the 'look and feel' lawsuits of the mid eighties? Jobs switched to the patent system as it afforded him more teeth to prevent others from stealing from him the very same technologies he was coopting from others.

      We used to have the same complaints about the Japanese not innovating anything, but it appeared they innovated a great deal, like the model after which Jobs established protections for his products that he "innovated".
      Freddy McGriff
      • From the USPTO:

        "There are three types of patents. Utility patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, article of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any [b]new and useful improvement thereof. [/b]Here is the process for obtaining a utility patent. Design patents may be granted to anyone who invents a new, original, and ornamental design for an article of manufacture. Plant patents may be granted to anyone who invents or discovers and asexually reproduces any distinct and new variety of plant."

        Taking an existing idea or device and improving it is actually a basis for being granted a patent.

        Copyrights didn't fail Apple: Bad lawyers did. Apple's lawsuit against Microsoft was thrown out (quite correctly) because Apple granted the rights to the Macintosh interface to Microsoft. Apple did win a look and feel suit against HP.
        msalzberg
      • Mouse

        I believe the mouse was 'invented' by the Palo Alto Research Labs (PARC) of Xerox
        rattlesnake0407
      • @rattlesnake0407

        The mouse was invented by Douglas Engelbart, while at SRI (Stanford Research Institute). If you go to USPTO.gov, it's patent number 3541541.

        He never worked for Xerox.

        I again find it interesting that factual posts are downrated, but erroneous ones aren't.

        EDIT: Like I said, posting fact gets some people here really upset.
        msalzberg
      • See my reply to rattlesnake0407 below.

        Bell Labs had nothing to do with the mouse. Nothing.

        By the way, if you're interested in Bell Labs, I highly recommend "The Idea Factory: Bell Labs and the Great Age of American Innovation," by Jon Gertner. A fascinating read.

        I expect to be downrated to at least -3 for pointing out your error, and for recommending a book that may interest and enlighten people. Looking forward to it.
        msalzberg
  • Truth!

    Preach it brother!
    capt4chris
  • Apple's innovation

    Apple patented the hyperlink. But its okay because no one ever thought of using hyperlinks on mobile devices. This is magical, revolutionary. Sure, I've had a mail client turn an email address into a clickable link before. Sure, I've had a Skype extension highlight phone numbers in the browser before. The incredible amount of brilliant thinking that must have taken place in order to take these concepts from computers that were plugged into a wall and apply them to a computer that runs off a battery is staggering.

    Listen folks, either iDevices are computing devices, in which case clickable email addresses and phone numbers are nothing new, or iDevices are not computing devices in which case a lot of iFanbois have been lying to us. Take your pick.
    toddbottom3
    • Yep

      And this is exactly why this patent will be nullified when challenged in court.
      slickjim
    • actually...

      I had a Pocket PC 2000 device that did that same thing. Not sure how Apple and not Microsoft ended up with that patent?
      condelirios