Apple Wins Small Victory In Patent Battle Against Android Smartphones

There are so many patent battles going on around the globe between Apple and various smartphone companies, it can be hard to keep track of all the suits and countersuits. In one small but important battle decided recently, Apple has come out on top of HTC, in a ruling that could also affect the way Google’s Android operating system works.

The New York Times says the United States International Trade Commission ruled yesterday that certain technology in use on other smartphones, namely HTC in this case, is protected by an Apple patent.

The technology involved allows a user to tap your finger once on a phone number written in an email or text message to call it, or to touch a date and schedule a calendar appointment. HTC says they will adapt their features to comply with the ruling, calling the components “small” parts of the user experience.

While Apple won this bout, the commission also overruled another decision that they had won, with a patent that deals with how software is organized on phones. That one, experts say, would’ve been a big bite for HTC to swallow in changing its devices.

“It’s an important victory for Apple, but it’s just one of many battles,” said Alexander Poltorak, chief executive of the General Patent Corporation, an intellectual property strategy firm, adding that the ruling will pressure other Android phone makers to license the technology from Apple or make changes to avoid patent infringement issues.

HTC is prohibited from releasing any phones with such technology as of April 19, but the larger picture is still a very even battleground between Apple and Google. Apple CEO and co-founder Steve Jobs was intent on fighting to destroy Google’s Android, which he saw as stolen technology.

Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman, told the NYT, “We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.”

U.S. Backs Apple in Patent Ruling That Hits Google [New York Times]

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  1. Cat says:

    “We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.”

    Pot, meet kettle.

  2. McRib wants to know if you've been saved by the Holy Clown says:

    Ah yes, apple won in the battle to claim they invented dynamic hyperlinks.

    Good lord, software patents are for trolls.

    When will the billy goat come and kick the trolls ass?

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      I was thinking the same thing… we need to do away with some of these silly patents…

      • DariusC says:

        Second. Patents are complete BS, they give people a reason to sue strangers for using ideas that you probably took from someone else or would have eventually been designed anyways.

        • Rachacha says:

          While this issue is about software patents, I have an example of a technology patent owner that essentially shut himself out of the market.

          I know of a company that developed a wonderful technology that could save a lot of lives or significantly reduce injury to many people. The inventers of this technology wrote essentially a bulletproof patent application that was approved, they then took this technology to several manufacturers to try to license the technology to, however, they set the licensing fees way to high, and the cost to integrate the technology into the product was too high…about $100 on a $200 product. The patent holders then went to government regulators and pushed them to change the law to require this life saving/injury reducing technology. The regulators were impressed by the technology, however, due to the tight patents, they could not pass any new regulations as it would essentially support a monopoly. This inventor began producing products integrating the technology himself, however his products are twice as expensive as the closest competitor, and he does not have the distribution channels of his competitors so he is simply unable to compete

  3. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Wait, so what essentially amounts to a hyperlink is patented?

    • Rachacha says:

      Apple Lawyer: It is not a hyperlink. Hyperlinks are intended for coding pages on an internet website, commonly called a web page. A yyperlink takes you to another section of code, more commonly known as a web page on the internet. Our technology is proprietery and specific to initiating new code within our operating system. This code can be used to take users to other locations within our Operating system code.

      You see, there is a difference, onle links to code on the internet, the other links to code in our operating system. We have simply patented the technology that allows the user to touch one of these links. We purchased the technology that would allow you to access a new link via voice commands as well as a new technology that relies on brain waves. Competitors are free to develop technology where you can taste your way to a new link as long as you don’t touch it.

      • jessjj347 says:

        But what about a hyperlink on a website that will open software on the OS? A very good example of that is a hyperlinked email address on a website. The OS can then open an email client based on that hyperlink. Isn’t that the same thing as what you’re describing in the patent?

        Also, I would argue that a hyperlink is not unique to a webpage. Hyperlinks have been around since before computers. If you need a source on that…do some research.. you claim to be a lawyer after all :)

    • RStormgull says:

      British Telecom tried this in 2000 by filing suit against Prodigy. They too claim to own the hyperlink. They failed pretty hard core, Apple should have failed here but knew the right judge to bribe.

  4. Rachacha says:

    I own the patent on the exchange of oxygen molecules and carbon dioxide molecules inside a respritory cavity whereby carbon dioxide is released from blood entering the respritory cavity, and oxygen is attached to the blood molecule as it exits the respritory cavity.

    Pay up suckers!

  5. Megalomania says:

    touching a phone number to call it is not a goddamn “technology”, let alone “original”. Pretty sure Skype had a plugin that did effectively this (with a click instead of a tap) years ago, and that the inspiration for that came from mailto: hyperlinks.

    • chemmy says:

      My Blackberry did it easily and it annoys the hell out of me that my Samsung Droid doesn’t do it.

    • micahdg says:

      Yeah I don’t understand how Apple can have the patent for this… I was tapping on phone numbers in webpages and txt msgs and emails on my Palm Treo six years ago…

  6. Nobody can say "Teehee" with a straight face says:

    Oh boy, I can’t wait for SOPA to get here so they can ramp up the copyright trolling even more! Just what we all need, more litigation! Just think about how fast consumerist will get shut down by vengeful companies…

  7. neilb says:

    “Should create their own original technology, not steal ours” no longer applies. What applies is whether a large legal team is willing to invest in defending a patent that they never should have gotten. The fact that a hyperlink is considered novel and unobvious is hard to believe.
    ——
    Are algorithms or computer software patentable?
    If one has invented a novel and unobvious algorithm or piece of computer software, and wishes to obtain patent protection, then one’s next step should be to consult one or more patent attorneys or patent agents who are experienced in getting patents on inventions having algorithms or software in them. The law (in the U.S.) is settled that the mere presence of software in an invention does not automatically render it unpatentable. It is commonplace for inventors to obtain patents in inventions composed largely or nearly entirely of software.
    ——–
    RESULT: “Users will no longer get a menu giving them the choice to save the phone number in their contact lists, dial the number or send a text message to it. Instead, HTC said it will only give them the option of dialing the number.”
    Whew, I am glad Apple got that taken care of! Anger users and throw away R&D money so you can attempt to stifle competition in meaningless ways! This is pathetic.

  8. JHDarkLeg says:

    I’m pretty sure Blackberry does that too with phone numbers. Not sure about dates. One would think it was an obvious feature.

  9. milty45654 says:

    Apple can steal stuff(cough mouse driven UI from xerox) but nobody else can do what they do…/sigh someone call the waaaambulance

    • proliance says:

      Saying that Apple stole the idea of the mouse from Xerox is one of those stories that when told enough becomes the truth.

      But the fact is that Xerox showcased its mouse and other technologies to Steve Jobs in exchange for stock options prior to Apple’s IPO.

  10. damicatz says:

    And this is why the entire patent system needs to be eliminated. Not just software patents but everything.

    The only kind of property that people have a natural right to is that which is tangible. If I own a car, I can touch it. I can use it. If I own land, I can touch it, I can set foot on it. If someone takes my car, I am deprived of the ability to use it and therefore enjoy the rights as the owner of a chattel. If someone takes an idea, or any other form of “intellectual property”, I am not deprived of the enjoyment of my property because “intellectual property” is not property at all.

    The entire notion of patents is based on the absurd idea that inventors are “entitled” to profit from their inventions and that the profit should not come from being competitive and selling a better product but through government intervention and use of force against those that might compete against you.

    There is no “right” to profit nor is there an entitlement. No one has the natural right to use force against another person or people to ensure their own profit simply because they lack competitiveness. What people do have the right to do is to sell their product on the open market and let the free market decide if they should have profit. If there is a demand for your product it will sell. If it is superior to the competitor’s product, it will sell even better.

    Patent apologists often argue that patents encourage innovation. Nothing could be farther from the truth. COMPETITION encourages innovation. The need to continuously one-up your competitors. With patents, one can merely patent a major line of technological development and hold an entire industry hostage. They can sit and produce the same products, year after year, with no innovations, because they have an illegitimate government created monopoly.

    A good example of this is the patents for the breast cancer genes. The “method” for isolating those genes is patented by Myriad Genetics. What this means is the only people who can do research on these genes are those that are approved by Myriad Genetics. Since there is only one way to isolate the genes, no one may access the genes without their approval. They are holding entire lines of research hostage and holding back technological advancement in furtherance of their own greed. How many people are being denied life-saving screening because they can’t afford it due to Myriad’s monopoly and their ability to set any price they want?

    Software patents are another example. Starting a software company in the US is nigh impossible now because even the most basic aspects of software design have been patented by patent trolls. In order to start a software company, you either have to be prepared to pay over protection money to the sundry patent trolls (including the likes of Microsoft and Apple) or you have to acquire a sufficiently large patent portfolio of your own to act as “protection”. A tit-for-tat scenario with mutually assured destruction. In what way does this “encourage” innovation? I’d love to start a software company but in order to do so, I have to expatriate myself to a country that isn’t run by a bunch of corporofascists.

    The most troubling aspect of patents is the notion that an individual should be able to use force, through the actions of the state, to restrict the free exchange of information and innovation. If two people independently invent the same thing, but only one can afford a patent (which are expensive), then the other person is denied access to use their own ideas through the threat of government violence.

    • incident_man says:

      unfortunately, you’re describing capitalism at its core.

      • damicatz says:

        True capitalism dictates a free market. Patents are not rooted in capitalism but in royal privilege handed down to those who were in the monarch’s favor.

  11. One-Eyed Jack says:

    That’s seriously what the lawsuit is about? I can do that with GoogleVoice on my laptop — phone numbers in emails and on webpages are highlighted and GV will call them with one click or tap. Does that infringe Apple, too?

  12. Costner says:

    “Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman, told the NYT, “We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.””

    Really Kristin. Really??

    I tell you what Kristen… why don’t you drive right on over to Xerox and apologize for stealing their graphical user interface. You know the one…. the basic core of your entire existence and the only reason anyone even knows a company named after a fruit even exists.

    Yea… that one.

    While you’re at it, you can apologize to Microsoft for silly things like back and forward buttons in your browser, a two button mouse, and the entire concept of minimizing an application to the taskbar among others. Then you can seek out companies like Wild File (who originally created the GoBack app) and tell them you’re sorry you stole the idea for Time Machine from them.

    Hypocrisy is ugly coming from politicians, but it is just silly coming from corporate talking heads.

  13. dush says:

    I don’t see how they are allowed to patent an action, the single pressing action.
    If they want the technological process and coding that relays that action into a function on the device that’s different. But saying you own the “touch of a finger” is ridiculous.

  14. diagoro says:

    It makes you wonder what ridiculous patent suits were thrown out……

    “No sir, you can’t patent a ‘bezel’, not can you patent a ‘screen'”.

  15. Tyanna says:

    Ah, litigation. The final stage of a once good company. The only person at Apple who knew how to innovate is now dead. When you can’t innovate, litigate!

    As for Mrs. Huguet’s comment, “We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours.” Perhaps Apple would like to try that themselves.

  16. Kuri says:

    Apple wins and we lose.

  17. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    How is that even patentable? That’s like saying “We hold a patent on hyperlinking. Stop.”

  18. AllanG54 says:

    Makes me wonder if Apple sued to stop Microsoft from using GUI as Bill Gates first saw that on an Apple computer and used it for Windows. As we recall, DOS was text only.

  19. Eugene says:

    So as I was reading this at work I flipped over to Microsoft Outlook 2007 and hovered my mouse over a phone number in my e-mail and if I tapped on it the viop software would have dialed it for me.
    http, e-mail, phone #, etc URL’s have existed for years, software such smart tags do the same thing by looking for non-hot linked text and make it clickable to perform an action.
    My point is there is plenty of prior art. Apple has been patenting many prior ideas and winning frivolous lawsuits exactly the same way Microsoft killed innovation in the past.
    This is why the patent laws need overhauled.
    This is why I will not buy anything from Apple be it their overrated hardware, stolen software ideas or through their itunes.

  20. HogwartsProfessor says:

    *facepalm* Could everybody stop making all the technology blow before I get a chance to use it? Please? Thank you!