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back to article HTC phones held up at US ports after Apple patent ban

US sales of two new HTC smartphones have been held up at customs over the company's patent battle with Apple. The fruity firm bagged a small win against HTC in December last year with the International Trade Commission that covered just two claims on a patent. HTC immediately said it would put workarounds in all its new mobiles …

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Anonymous Coward

I said it before...

...and I'll say it again.

Screw Apple.

That is all.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I said it before...

In fact, screw anyone who uses patents to corner a market.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I said it before...

Here we go here we go here we go......

Here we go here we go here we go......

Here we go here we go here we go....

AGAIN

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FAIL

Re: I said it before...

Indeed, Apple are scumbags... But then didn't we already know that? Using slave labour to make their shiny things.

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WTF?

Re: I said it before...

Indeed Barry. HTC simply wave a wand and their shiny things appear, no slaves required!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I said it before...

In fact, screw anyone who uses corner patents.

There FTFY

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Stop

Re: I said it before...

Given this is mostly about data detectors (highlighting and hot linking telephone numbers in emails, texts etc), and HTC were given a 3 month extension to sort their kit out so that it didn't infringe (just like Apple had to disable push email in Germany), then screw HTC if they can't prove in short order that their kit is compliant.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I said it before...

I will never have an Apple produce in my house because of their immorality.

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Facepalm

Re: I said it before...

If morality in industry stops you buying goods for your house, I suspect you have a very bare house indeed. Well, either that or you have a very full house, and a highly myopic view of industry and the morality of companies that aren't Apple.

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Re: I said it before...

The bare house isn't the big problem, you also have to figure out a way to skirt most of the agricultural industry.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I said it before...

Sorry it's not just sodding Apple, they're all as bad as each other! Like a bunch of flipping kids fighting in a playground. Need a teacher to come in and give a thick earole and 2 hours of detention until they all learn to grow up a bit!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I said it before...

Now, how was it the Westinghouse became such a giant corporation?

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Re: I said it before...

It's not necessarily a HTC prove it is compliant it's more a case of - these foreign phones are doing bad things to a great American company, we might just have to take a look at all of them, that might take a few weeks/months etc.

Back in the day when Japan actually made stuff we would often get this - if there was some sort of issue with a Japanese competitor - our kit would sit on the docks waiting for some paperwork.

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g e
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Megaphone

Don't buy USA goods

There. I said it.

Yeah there's maybe Intel chippery in some stuff, etc, you can't hope to avoid that kind of detail but give your money to Korea, Japan, India, etc ... they make perfectly good stuff.

If you don't support a company's behaviour/actions then stop funding it with purchases cos that's its oxygen, your money.

I'm with @Michelle, patents were meant to PROTECT innovation, not strangle it. I seriously hope Samsung hands Apple their own arse this year.

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Re: Don't buy USA goods

Except Japan's intellectual property laws are highly influenced by the country that dropped two fucking huge bombs on them circa 1945 and totally ruined their shit.

Japanese IP law is as bad as US.

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FAIL

"HTC's first quarter profits dropped 70 per cent this year as its phones failed to drag worshippers away from the Apple and Android altars."

HTC trying to drag people away from Android? That would be an odd move for them.... Methinks the writer was thinking of Samsung.

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Anonymous Coward

HTC's profit dip

is purely down to their lost focus on that Windows Phone turd.

Nothing really do do with Android. If they hadn't been keeping Microsoft happy over their patent agreement, and wasting R&D on the abysmal Windows Phone, they would be right up where Samsung are now.

Seeing the One X, they are clearly back on form, and have the Windows Turd flushed away.

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Devil

They need to be careful they dont get sued again...

Because this looks like a move right out of Apples marketing playbook:

"Quick! There's not many available!! Buy it now whilst you still can!!! In fact, queue round the block for it!!!! Camp out for 3 days even!!!!! But you need this phone now and potentially you wont be able to get it!!1!!!one!!"

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Anonymous Coward

No, screw motorola and samsung.

The patent system is (supposedly) there to protect inventors, and it's critical that it does that. Even if it does go too far sometimes, it's better to have it than not - otherwise there's no incentive to innovate. In this case, the court has judged that this is a valid invention, and apple has the right to keep it to itself or to license it - whichever apple decides. Apple wants to keep the stuff it invented to itself so its products have unique features, so HTC has to remove the feature.

The other side of it is this: If HTC were seriously innovative too, they would have a big bank of patents - some of which apple would no doubt need. HTC could threaten Apple, and force Apple to remove some nice features. But they haven't, and so the innovating company gets to keep lots of nice features, and the company that didn't spend the R+D money gets features cut or products banned.

But that's not a huge issue - HTC can drop these features or change them. Compare that with what Motorola + Samsung are trying: they're demanding insane licensing fees for standard features like 3G, WiFi and H264 video. The fees are unacceptably high so nobody will license them, but you can't build a modern phone/tablet/computer/console/etc. without them. There are no workarounds.

That's clear market abuse, but it's what these two companies are trying to do. Save your hate for them :)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No, screw motorola and samsung.

I believe there was a post on a likewise discussion not long ago, that listed the components within Apple's iPhones and who invented them and, lo and behold, it wasn't Apple.

In FRAND, the R stands for "Reasonable," so the terms have to be reasonable or they would be actionable; and they can't be charged that much or Apple's bank balance wouldn't be so healthy.

But patents like this are stupid beyond belief; a clear attempt to grab at any low hanging fruit that might present itself. It is stuff like this which is utterly detestable, hateful and likely to end up being killed because it is an obvious progression; so obvious that there might have been prior art going back to before this happened.

If Obama really wanted to sort this out, then the US patent system would reject obvious failures rather than letting the courts decide in later litigation; passing the costs down to the consumer.

That is more than tuppence worth, so I'll shut up now.

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FAIL

Re: No, screw motorola and samsung.

'Apple wants to keep the stuff it invented to itself so its products have unique features'

You do know what patent HTC have breached? Apple were as much the inventor of this 'feature' as they were the inventors of the wheel.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No, screw motorola and samsung.

Well done Chris 19 for the most clueless post of the day so far.

Tip: Don't believe everything the fanbois tell you.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No, screw motorola and samsung.

This particular patent is pretty obvious (if there's a phone number in a web-page, it gets automatically recognised and modified so you can tap on it to call the number or whatever). What you have to consider though is that it's an *old* patent, and back when it was patented it wasn't obvious. You have to consider these things based on when they were invented, not now. I mean wheels are pretty obvious to us, but when the first wheel was made it must have been a work of absolute genius :)

And as for the FRAND issues, several courts have declared that 2.4% of the retail price of an entire item is not reasonable for a few patents that cover only video playback in one part of one chip. Put it this way, motorola were demanding 2.25% of the retail price of a PC, just to allow windows to play h264. And presumably another 2.25% for wifi. If the other few hundred patent holders for those technologies demand the same, how much are licensing fees for an average laptop? £1000+?

Several courts have agreed that these demands are unreasonable, and even that motorola made these offers knowing that they were totally unacceptable and that they had no intention of negotiating a reasonable deal. i.e. they didn't want to licence them - they wanted products (like windows and xbox) banned, so they could force MS to hand over all their own patents.

Is it obvious now why the EU is investigating them (and samsung, who are doing the same)?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: No, screw motorola and samsung.

If I'm remembering the right patent, it's the data tapping one. Standard stuff now, but pretty fresh back in the 90s when it was patented.

Besides, the ITC reviewed this and agreed that the patent was valid. They don't do that often (check the rubbish success rates companies have with getting products banned there - it's very low). They would have checked the patent very carefully, and also considered all the evidence of prior art HTC could find (and they would have searched very hard). They still found it valid.

Don't confuse patents after they've been through the courts/ITC review process with the raw, fresh from the patent office variety. Most patents are invalid, or at least mostly invalid, when they're granted. The courts deal with that, and if the patent survives (again, most don't) they're usually much narrower, and they're generally valid. That's the case here.

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Re: No, screw motorola and samsung.

You've identified the key problem. It's not that patents are intrinsically bad (although rounded corners is... Well I don't know how that one got through so we may need to take a look at who is actually working in the patent office). The issue is that very large companies build up patent warchests and rather than licencing the patents, they are used as mutual non-aggression pacts with other big patent holders. And the net effect of that is to create barriers to entry for new players who don't have a big patent warchest.

Barriers to entry are where we have the problems occur. When new players cannot enter the market, existing players divvy up the market between them and keep prices high (and progress slow).

Here is a solution: patents should require enforcement. So two big corporate behemoths can't just sit on their patents and use them to squash smaller players. If you have Patent X and Apple are infringing it, you have to either defend it (and grant them a licence in some set of conditions) or lose it. Then when someone else wants to use the patent, they know how much it will cost. And if the big players don't like paying for a particular patent (which they often wont as many patents are bogus), then they will undertake to challenge it (or often merely threaten to challenge it, or even ignore it and wait to be challenged on it which they wont be), and then the patent is gone for the little players too.

A simplish change in the law with a large positive outcome in reducing patents as a barrier to entry.

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Re: No, screw motorola and samsung.

Seriously..... you just blamed this on Obama? seriously?

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Re: No, screw motorola and samsung.

At last...

If we look at how the patent system is being used rather than the purpose for it was intended, it is clearly broken. Large companies accumulate banks of patents with two main aims:

1) Create a large barrier to entry for competitors

2) Defend themselves against competitor patent infringement claims on a tit-for-tat basis.

Neither of these actual usages correlate very closely with the original idea of preserving the market for a creative inventor in exchange for sharing their invention.

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FAIL

Re: No, screw motorola and samsung.

Eh?

Put it this way, motorola were demanding 2.25% of the retail price of a PC, just to allow windows to play h264.

Think you'll find it's MPEG-LA that own that one.

And you're confusing PC with Windows, ironically MS are part of MPEG-LA so I doubt they were demanding money from themselves.

Still fact's who needs them.

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@h4rm0ny: rather than licencing the patents

No, Alcatel/Lucent/Motorola/Rockwell/Qualcomm/TI/Broadcom/etc do cross-license each other's patents (sometimes this happens after expensive court battles. Typical scenario: if number/value of company X's relavant patents is less than Y's, then after cross-licensing the relevant patents X pays some royalties or fixed sum to Y).

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Errrm...

"customs still have to check the phones to make sure they don't contain the illicit features."

- how exactly do they do that without opening up each one, bunging in a sim card, and firing the thing up?

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Bronze badge

Re: Errrm...

I think they open them up, bung in a SIM card and turn it on.

Hence the delay.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Errrm...

They have to fire one up, yes. The patent covers automatic recognition of phone numbers etc. in things like web pages (so you can tap to call), so they'll have to check if anything like that exists in the phone.

If not, I guess they'll clear it fairly quickly (by beaurocratic standards). If it does, and HTC have some workaround, they'll have to check that the workaround doesn't infringe the patent - which could take a long time. HTC should know that, so I assume they've just removed the feature. If they have a workaround they'll want to implement it in some minor model that won't sell much, so they can afford the delay (once the workaround is 'approved' it shouldn't delay future models I think).

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Re: Errrm...

"The patent covers automatic recognition of phone numbers etc. in things like web pages (so you can tap to call)"

Given that Skype have been doing this on various platforms for about a gajillion years, is this another patent that only made it through because it's Apple?

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Stop

Re: Errrm...

Skype started in 2003. This patent dates back to 1996, so no, that doesn't count as prior art.

http://www.google.com/patents/US5946647?printsec=abstract#v=onepage&q&f=false

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Re: Errrm...

Funny, back in the days of dialing up a BBS, I'm pretty sure there was functionality in that which did essentially this and automatically tagged phone numbers.

I'd be interested to check it, but can I remember any of the terminal apps I used in the early 90s?!

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Holmes

Re: Errrm...

Imagine all the unsafe electrical gear that's getting through while Customs is busy checking tablets.

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Stop

Poor HTC

I think patent litigation is downright evil. What really upsets me though is that HTC is struggling. They make great kit and it would be a shame if they folded. They're not perfect, but neither is anyone else. With Apple and Samsung so strong, and Google ready to jump in with hardware, and the software, I think HTC's position is tenuous at best. Still, hopefully people give them a chance. I ditched my iPhone 4s for a One X, and I'm posting from it right now. It's fantastic and I look at my wifes iPhone now and it seems like a tiny,outdated device. So I can tell you that people can leave Apple and be happy with their choice. HTC have won me over. My wife will never use one, she said 'its too big to handle'. Yeah, that's what SHE said!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor HTC

Agreed. I have more and more friends who are leaving Apple for something else. One colleague has wrestled with the choices and has plumped today for the Nokia Lumia. Apple are not the only fruit and need to recognise that they can't use stupid patents to try and ensure they are the only competitor in the market place.

Me, I'm waiting for some twit to file a patent on, "The use of a small bell as a ring tone. Two beats with five beats between so as to ensure maximum irritation and thus attention grabbing to the fact that someone is trying to initiate a voice call." ... come on, somebody file that one ... I double dare you.

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Re: Poor HTC

Bloody ridiculous phones. My brother got just a One X, I couldn't believe the size of the thing. Its like walking around with a telly.

I can't quite put my finger on it but there's something a bit 4x4 about em. I wonder if theres any correlation between Humvee owners and those that have a One X or Samsung's Galaxy Note and the like? Maybe Gartner can give some insight here.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Poor HTC

"Bloody ridiculous phones. My brother got just a One X, I couldn't believe the size of the thing. Its like walking around with a telly.

I can't quite put my finger on it but..."

Can't be that big if you keep missing...

</crapjoke>

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Meh

Re: Poor HTC

The One X is an elegant weapon for a more civilised age...

I have a One X myself. Yes, it is a large screen, but it is also a thin phone, weighs very little and is an absolute pleasure to use. I use mine for the obvious things like phonecalls and text messages, but also for web browsing, social networking, GPS, e-book reading etc. which are all far more practical on a device with a larger screen. Far from wishing the device was smaller, I just wish my One X had been available two years ago, because compared to my HTC Desire from that time, it is a mammoth leap forwards. The screen itself (one of the new Super LCD2 panels) is also incredible. Way better than any other phone screen I have seen, including all the AMOLED screens.

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Re: Poor HTC

Poor HTC me arse they are no better than any of the rest. Don't forget they were the shills who helped M$ screw over Sendo (an innovative british company) in the early years of Win Mob.

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Unhappy

Here's the problem -

...the USPTO actually allow people to patent things that should in reality be covered by trademark or copyright, such as trade dress. This is what they have to stop from happening. Patents are NOT intended to be used to cover packaging, advertising themes, and the shape of a thing, where everyone and their bloody dog already use similar or identical shapes, or where the shape is taken by the majority of consumes to be generic to that specific field of product by many manufacturers..

Until they get their bloody arses in the real world, and do their ******* jobs properly, the USPTO will therefore be a tool for oppressive and vindictive legal actions by companies and/or individuals that can't or won't innovate, or even play fair on a level playing field.

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Boffin

Re: Here's the problem -

Actually, in the US patents ARE designed to protect those things. But they are not the same as regular patents, they are called 'design patents'. In the UK the same things are called 'design rights'. Unfortunately the half-witted media (reg included) call US 'design patents', 'patents', so people get confused.

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For the same reason that companies register patents, they also suffer for them.

It's impossible to check every element of your product against the gargantuan patent pool - even if you wanted to try and license them. The patent pool will only get bigger, and only get harder to navigate.

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American companies protected by the American justice system, everyone is guilt tripped into using their products but never try and compete with them because they hate that.

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Anonymous Coward

A polite request to all software patent holders.

Please take your patents, and work them up your collective dirtboxes.

Thank you.

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HTC woes

My son has had approx 6 HTC one X's in the last WEEK, all had to be taken back to the shop. And that figure doesn't include the ones he had out on the counter in the shop, trying to find a good one, that didn't have bad pixels / yellow stains on kbd / switch itself off randomly / you name it.

HTC = poor show currently

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