HTC alters functionality of US handsets to bypass Apple patents

By , May 17, 2012

If you ever wondered whether Apple’s patent infringement claims against HTC were worth the pain, here’s your answer.

Responding to a recent exclusion order by the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) concerning HTC One X and Evo 4G LTE shipments, the Taiwanese handset maker, once the dominant force in the Android camp, is now pre-loading its U.S. phones with an altered build of Android software.

Designed to bypass Apple patents, it changes the expected behavior of these devices. As a result, flagship HTC phones waiting to be imported into the United States now feature notably different functionality compared to HTC devices shipping elsewhere in the world.

The change is also impacting the uniformity of the Android experience, suggesting Apple was right to sue in the first place…

What’s so different about HTC’s custom Android build?

The Verge explains that HTC’s U.S. devices now include a new App Associations settings screen designed to bypass the offending “data tapping”.

Specifically, the ITC found that HTC’s messaging app, the stock Android messaging app and the stock Android browser all infringed claims 1 and 8 of Apple patent #5,946,647 — but the ITC also specifically found that Apple’s patent claims were limited to the system both detecting data structures like phone numbers and email addresses in text and then presenting a menu of options when those detected structures are clicked.

Tapping on a detected phone number or email on both the AT&T One X and the Sprint Evo 4G LTE now immediately launches the dialer or email client.

On international versions of these handsets a menu pops up, asking users to choose an app to handle these requests, which is the default Android behavior, as seen below.

 

HTC customers in the US will now have to go to a new App Associations settings screen to chose their default apps to handle such actions.

Of course, the ITC still has to verify these changes before it releases the shipments.

The Commission ruled last December that HTC was infringing upon an Apple patent covering the auto-hyperlinking of phone numbers and other data in text.

The injunction went into effect on April 18 of this year. As a result, two flagship HTC handsets are now being held at the customs until an approval is secured.

It’s a small victory for Apple that won’t stop the Android camp from selling a bucketload of devices.

On the other hand, import bans and court rulings in Apple’s favor are now forcing manufacturers to tweak the Android operating system, possibly affecting affect user satisfaction in the process.

Besides, Android backers will think twice before slapping Android builds on devices without making significant changes to avoid Apple patents.

Thoughts?

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  • http://twitter.com/richbz Rich Bz

    Apple diesnt want any competition!

    • Anonymous

      Only an idiot would uphold this patent. Pathetic.

  • http://twitter.com/Chindavon Chindavon

    They don’t fear competition, they just don’t want you to steal what they’ve created. So, if you were the one to invent the next big Tech, and your neighbor copied your patents, and marketed it as his own and make billions off your hard work, blood , sweat, and tears, you’d be okay with that? I think not.

    • John Wilson

      Too bad they never created this. This is so obvious that it should have never been awarded in the first place. The only thing they are accomplishing is hate towards their company.

    • Anonymous

      But what did they invent? I see this line repeated all the time but no one can produce proof.

      There’s prior art for all the tech that exists in the iPhone. Further evidence is that Apple is currently suing Samsung in nine countries. All they have gained up to this point was a temporary injuction awarded in Australia (that Samsung has already worked around). Unless every judge they have a case with is an Android fanboy, it seems as if Apple’s claims aren’t as strong as they thought.

    • Lou D

      My 1st Smartphones were doing this before the word iphone was ever heard of, Apple is the kid that’s always whining in the freakin’ corner about some other kid getting a better toy than him, then throw a tantrum until they get what they want, they need to get over themselves, Next thing they’ll try suing companies that have phones with a button on the top of them that turns them on, but not because they invented it, but because they patented it, retarded!!!!!
      can somebody please slap the hell out this kid???

  • Anonymous

    “On the other hand, import bans and court rulings in Apple’s favor are now forcing manufacturers to tweak the Android operating system, possibly affecting affect user satisfaction in the process.”

    Hardly. Apple’s “thermonuclear” option has so far been more like a firecracker. All that money spent suing their competitors and what do they have to show for it? It took HTC all of 30 seconds to whip up a workaround and I doubt the casual user would even notice.

    But more interesting is, how is Apple getting patents for this stuff?

    My Blackberry had the same functionality described in these patents probably five years before the iPhone even existed. I’m curious.

    • http://twitter.com/iam_IBZ Ibz

      U must think the ITC is run by school kids.

      • thor_molecules

        I feel like school kids would be a step up.


        Sent from my mobile.

    • http://twitter.com/horizonspeaks Diganta Sarkar

      This patent was applied for in 1994. So I am sure your BlackBerry is also in violation of the same. However, it doesn’t compete with Apple right now, so Apple doesn’t bother about them.
      The problem with Apple’s patents are that they are too broad and generic. There should be good prior art database to invalidate these patents.

  • http://twitter.com/richlimme Richard Lim

    Ahh. i was waiting on the htc evo 4g lte.

    The infringement at this level is so low. I find it kind of ridiculous. But hey, law is law.

  • http://twitter.com/biggwiggly8 Abel Barboza

    Pretty soon everyone’s gonna jump on the android bandwagon anyway. Apple sees that and it strikes fear in to there greedy little hearts.

  • http://twitter.com/KM00000 Karan Mehra

    I find this just funny. Apple doesn’t even use this feature. On my iPad when I click an email address it goes straight to the mail app even though I would like to use the Gmail app.

  • http://twitter.com/iKrill Antonio Santos

    These patents lawsuits show that Apple is afraid of the competition.