Google's Android Operating System is in serious trouble with the ITC ruling which says Android-run HTC devices infringe two of ten Apple patents in an initial determination by an administrative law judge (ALJ). These determinations will undergo review by the six-member Commission, the highest decision-making body at the ITC, to reach the final decision, with the target date of the final Commission decision set for December 6, 2011.
What exactly did HTC copy from Apple?
What does an iPhone do when it receives a message? If it includes phone numbers or email, web or street addresses, they are automatically underlined, highlighted and turned into clickable links, which enables you to place a call, or access the digital addresses or display the street in Maps. And guess what, Android also does the same (Android's Linkify functionality), which amounts to Apple's patent infringement!
Apple filed for a patent on the underlying system and method that performs these actions in 1996. The patent - U.S. Patent No. 5,946,647- was one of 20 that, in March 2010, Apple used against HTC which has been found valid now by the ITC ALJ.
The second patent titled real-time signal processing system is an API patent. For instance, HTC Nexus One is based on the Qualcomm QSD 8250 chip which provides a variety of real-time services such as audio and video processing. According to the infringement suit a signal processing system for providing a plurality of real-time services to and from a number of independent client applications and devices, has an Apple patent.
Competition is healthy, but competitors should not steal, Steve Jobs said during the filing of lawsuit against HTC.
The patents in question apparently are built into the basics of Android OS and also form the basis of patent dispute between Apple and Motorola. One of the two disputed patents was used by Apple against Nokia too, which means the latest ITC ruling goes way beyond HTC. The patent battle Apple has indulged in with Android OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer) can have extremely grave consequences including ban on the disputed Android products which could mean anything, between a complete wipeout to decreased US market share, to the Google's mobile OS.
Why Apple is less likely to give HTC a license
Theoretically speaking, Apple could grant HTC a license. But Apple is less likely to do so, because license deals are signed generally to milk each other mutually when both parties involved have something valuable to offer. This means HTC has to either own or effectively control any patents that Apple needs, in which case the two companies would cross-license.
As of now HTC isn't possessing anything which has the potential to lure Apple into signing a license deal, unless HTC acquires the company named S3 Graphics. S3 graphics recently obtained an ALJ determination against Apple and HTC is in the process of acquiring that company, but that is an entirely different story altogether and it is mere speculation that Apple would sign a license deal with HTC if the latter acquire it.
About ITC: US International Trade Commission (ITC) is an authority in patent enforcement, focusing more, but not exclusively, on smartphones, and also bears the powers to order import bans against products infringing intellectual property rights.