Apple vs. Android patent war: HTC forced to drop one feature, Motorola may have to drop another; more to come

“Many commentators took at face value HTC’s declaration of ‘an actual victory’ after the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that it had infringed Apple’s patent on software that allowed a user to dial a number embedded in an e-mail simply by clicking on it,” Philip Elmer-DeWitt reports for Fortune. “That particular feature was only one of 10 patents Apple had tried to assert, HTC argued, and the Taiwanese manufacturer of Google Android phones had already found a way to remove it.”

“Now it looks like Motorola may have to do something similar about Apple’s patented method of flipping through pages in a smartphone photo gallery and zooming in on a particular image,” P.E.D. reports. “Another Android phone manufacturer — Samsung — was already forced to drop the feature by a Dutch court’s injunction in August.”

P.E.D. reports, “‘While one or two wins of this kind won’t be enough to change consumer preferences,’ [FOSS Patents’ Florian Mueller] writes, ‘the aggregate effect of the enforcement of half a dozen or more patents of this kind could make an appreciable difference in user experience.'”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: “Thermonuclear” in the cumulative sense.

Related articles:
Apple likely to win German ruling against Motorola in February – December 22, 2011
HTC testing new Android models due to infringing Apple iOS patent – December 21, 2011
U.S. ITC backs Apple in patent ruling against HTC that hits Google – December 19, 2011
Steve Jobs: ‘I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product; I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this’ – October 20, 2011


  1. They’ll just have to come up with some creative solutions.

    Most manufacturers are becoming friendly towards the big custom roms such as cyanogen. Samsung even sends them pre-release phones. Id expect the creative solutions to come from there.

    1. That may be true, but the impact of such custom ROMs is negligible at best. I wouldn’t be surprised if the overall percentage of users of custom ROMs (compared to the stock ROM) doesn’t exceed very low single-digits.

  2. Tech support to customer-‘So you updated the OS and now you’ve lost some features. Seems your problem is due to settlement in a patent infringement case. Those features were ruled as infringing and had to be removed. Two of the features have somewhat clunky work-a-rounds, due to released soon in another update, the others don’t. Sorry about that. In the future, if you don’t want to lose features; don’t update!

  3. So I’m a bit torn about the whole patent system- while I agree that creative and one-of-a-kind ideas should be protected, the system basically allows these patented ideas to be stolen and used at will for a very long time without punishment. This pretty much negates the usefulness of patents, no? Look at this situation- Google, et al have pretty much stolen a whole ecosystems-worth of ideas (IMO), most if not all patented, and made a ton of money off of them, without any meaningful punishment. By the time punishment comes around, we will have moved on to the next big thing(s), and the punishment will likely be a slap on the hand. Am I just not getting it?

    1. No you got it brother.

      I’m totally against the patent system and I’ve been through the meat grinder as someone trying to ‘protect’ my IP.

      I used to be in the telecom industry, and I was part owner of a small company that made switching equipment for the industry. Basically call routing and PBX equipment.

      In the early 90s we started getting units of our most popular product in for warranty repair, more than usual. Upon tearing these open we discovered they were not ours, but instead cheap knockoffs produced in China. Not even copies mind you, these crooks literally made a case mold using one of our original cases. It even said “Patent Pending” on the inside like ours.

      We went to court, and after spending 2.5 million dollars trying to stop these guys we hit a point where we had to drop the case. Our attorneys were telling us it would take another 2 to 5 million to “win” the case. Win the case? At what cost? Our yearly sales on the product were 3 million in a good year. WTF did we send thousands to the USPTO for ???

      Our solution in the end was to forget the patent (it was money wasted) and redesign the product. We upgraded our features and made a new case that had our company logo raised in big letters across the top. We doubled down on advertising to our customers and got the word out that if it didn’t have our name on the top it was a second rate product.

      We actually gained sales over the next 2 years after doing this. We still saw knockoffs, but when we encountered them we used it as an opportunity to educate our customers on the differences in quality and bring them over to us. Our customers in some cases believed they had bought our product when they bought the knockoff. We taught them how to spot our ‘real deal’ and they became loyal since we were always there to answer the phone and take care of them.

      I’ve been against the patent system ever since and from 1992 to when we sold the company in 2004 we never filed a single patent again. I figure we saved half a million at least during that time by not wasting money on the USPTO.

      Software patents are even worse than patents on physical inventions. The physical is pretty easy to compare, software can be very abstract and software patents are usually abstract ideas far from an actual implementation.

      With software you usually end up with companies patenting ‘ideas’ when patents are supposed to protect unique designs and methods, not general “if you click a mouse button” type innovation.

      Screw the patent system. Its a relic of the industrial revolution and needs to be dismantled.

      Apple’s marketing is brilliant at combating copiers. The whole “If you don’t have an iphone…. ” bit… its great. They sell you on the brand and the quality. Any schmuck can make a smartphone but with Apple you know its quality and they’ll be there if and when it breaks.

      US companies need to stop worrying about who took an ‘idea’ and start building real relationships with their customers. That is the one area of innovation that cannot be copied, you either ‘got it’ or you don’t and no amount of cheap factory workers can replicate real customer service and a passion to make a great product.

      Anyway enough of my crap rambling. Have a great xmas!

    2. No the patent system is alright but it’s the court and patent office that were supposed to administer the system that are broken.

      I tell you the US is in shit because the politicians and functionaries are not doing their jobs. So much for the values of democracy and transparency that the US are trying to sell to the whole world. It seems that the politicians and bureaucrats are no better than the tinpot dictators of the third world.

  4. I’m disappointed in how these patent battles are turning out. I thought Apple patented the tar out of the iPhone before the announced it. Seems like Microsoft is making money off of android sales and apple is going no where of any real sugnificants in the courts.

    1. Apple is winning the patent wars.
      they started at the lower level ones, so when they get to the big ones.. they have a better case.

      go after the big guys, and lose… makes those lower level patent fights harder. win all/most of those smaller ones, you have a huge case against the big ones.

  5. ‘Apple’ stands for quality, innovation and service. Once that ethos is ingrained in the mind of the consumer it becomes harder for the ‘knock off’ companies to sell their ‘Crapware’.

  6. Come the New Year & an up and coming AAPL earnings report which will add more $$$$$ to AAPL’s coffers, I speculate that Apples competitors may think twice about filing an IP suit. I mean come on, how strong of a patent portfolio does Google really have? Keep chipping away Apple and in all good time DROP THE BOMB! Merry Christmas Google!

  7. I have a concern about Apple’s tactics with patents.
    I really am in favour of going “thermonuclear” on Android. I hate Google and their “Do no evil” bullshit and the two faced liar and thief Eric “The mole” Schmidt. In fact, I would probably run him over if I saw him. (I am in a wheelchair)

    However, I think Microsoft has the right tactic, in that they are licensing the patents to the manufacturers. Rather than paying money to lawyers for a court trial, big companies tend to fold if they can make the problem go away by paying money. Hitting them in the pocket is where it counts. That way it makes the hardware more expensive, harder to undercut Apple and give BOGO deals.

    Dropping features does not punish the hardware makers, HTC is declaring victory, Samsung changed their designs very slightly and look like they are going to get away with it.
    Apple seems to be paying a lot of money for court trials for very little payoff.

    Also, consider the time when Apple really needs to license a patent or IP needed for a major new feature of iOS. Are the patent holders going to license to Apple or simply tell them to drop the feature?

  8. It’s worth noting that fighting all these legal battles makes the RAZR thin profit margins on Android phones that much thinner, ergo less profitable, ergo less attractive to OEMs.

    Eventually, they may have to pay license fees to Apple to use Apple’s old features, further running up the cost. And eventually maybe raising the price to consumers. Apple is not going to license new features. That will keep Android behind the curve.

    Also, keeping the spotlight on Google makes it harder for them to surreptitiously steal more of Apple’s innovations.

    Apple is winning. Android is toast.

    iCal this: Android will cease to matter in less than one year.

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