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

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

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.


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