The U.S. International Trade Commission has decided to take a look at Apple’s complaints against HTC for patent infringement. As announced today on the agency’s website, the ITC will examine five alleged infractions which have to do with scrolling operations, another for programmable tactile touch-screen displays, and one for a double-sided touch-sensitive panel. Though Apple filed ten complaints against HTC in March 2010, the ITC will only be looking into five of them spurred after Apple filed a second complaint in July this year. HTC is known as a leading manufacturer of Android phones and tablets, including the (sorta) successful Flyer tablet. CNET had a few things to say on the subject:
A loss carries the threat that HTC’s products would be banned from coming into the U.S., and Apple only needs to get a favorable decision on one of the patents. HTC is considered the most vulnerable legally of the Android partners because it lacks a robust portfolio of patents that act as a potential shield. Earlier this month, HTC purchased S3 Graphics, largely because of a collection of patents that the ITC administrative law judge recently determined were used illegally by Apple.
Though it’s unlikely that HTC will be subject to bans from US soil any time soon (or permanently, if they did), it’s fair to say with certainty that the loss of the American market could potentially break the back of the company. NeilsonWire projects that 50% of all Americans will own smartphones by Christmas of this year, and there is no doubt that if HTC isn’t able to sell their Android phones and devices in the US that another Android monger will quickly take their place.
As the history of smartphones over the last ten years is unfolding, it seems that Google, Android, and many parties associated with Android are getting caught up in patent infringement problems (Florian Mueller of Foss Patent boldly claims, “the Android team basically says ‘let’s just infringe’ whenever an intellectual property issue comes up”). Of course, in the modern corporate climate, patent infringement lawsuits are bandied about with regularity and often appear less as a quest for justice and more to see how many cash grabs have to be thrown against the wall before something sticks.