HTC ban on Android imports begins next year

by Kristen Nicole

Android handset maker HTC got some bad news Monday when the International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled in favor of Apple in their ongoing patent battle, ordering an import ban on certain HTC devices. On the bright side, HTC won’t miss out on holiday season sales as the ban doesn’t start until April 19, 2012. HTC will be allowed to import refurbished devices with the infringing patent until Dec. 19, 2013 for replacement purposes, but cannot refer to new devices as refurbished.

To avoid total disruption to its U.S. business, HTC said it would remove the feature found to violate Apple’s patent. It seems HTC won’t have to make too many drastic changes to its current process, as Apple won this round by a narrow margin. The ITC’s decision trimmed down an earlier finding that HTC was infringing multiple claims of two separate patents, instead finding that only some HTC smartphones using Android violated just two claims of one Apple patent. The patent in question is related to extracting information such as phone numbers from emails and taking an action with the information, such as making a phone call.

An industry scrutinized

An HTC spokesman said the company was “gratified” that the ITC did not rule in favor of Apple on all the patents in question and pledged to alter the infringing technology. “We are very pleased with the determination and we respect it. However, the [data tapping] patent is a small UI experience and HTC will completely remove it from all of our phones soon.”

In some ways, HTC is faring better than Samsung, which has received the brunt of Apple’s wrath. Apple and Samsung have battled it out in courts all around the world, taking each other to court over patent infringement, seeking bans on sales country-by-country. Samsung saw a recent victory in Australia, escaping a long term ban on sales down under. Apple’s on a mission to keep an entire industry in check, but Android handset makers certainly aren’t making it easy for Apple.