The U.S International Trade Commission (ITC) has imposed an official import ban on Android and any other phones which violate Apple’s patent. An ITC Judge was faced with a claim from Apple, accusing Taiwan based handset maker HTC of infringing ten of Apple’s patents. The ITC earlier arrived at a determination that HTC had infringed only two of Apples patents in manufacturing Android smartphones.
Apple’s patent gives them the exclusive right to display phone numbers in a particular way, enabling a mobile phone user to click on phone number on a list and automatically dial it, or to click on data and bring up more information. The patented feature is known as ‘tap to call’
Apple’s ‘647 patent include a ‘data tapping patent’, which relates to how a phone interprets a phone number in emails and texts and renders the text clickable via a link which launches an app phone dialer.
The result could preclude the Droid Incredible, T-Mobile G2 and any other phones utilising this feature from continuing to sell such phones. HTC is likely to be affected by the ruling which will ban them from selling their phones from April 2012. Their response has been to announce that they will simply update their phones and remove this user interface feature from their phones to avoid being in violation of Apple’s patent.
The fact is that this is not software which is unique to the Android phone, but the victory confers upon Apple the legal right to pursue any Android manufacturer under threat of the same patent to try and maintain their dominance in the marketplace for mobile phones.
Having clickable links in texts or emails connected to the phone’s dialler is a desirable feature to the customer experience. There is a question of how innovative this feature is as Skype used to do essentially the same thing on web browsers in 2006 prior to Apple ever putting them into their iPhone’s mobile phone browser.