Monday, December 5, 2011

ITC postpones ruling on Apple's first complaint against HTC to December 14

The ITC ruling on Apple's first complaint against HTC (filed in March 2010) was scheduled for tomorrow (Tuesday, December 6, 2011).

Today the ITC published this official notice, according to which the target date has been extended by eight days, i.e., to Wednesday, December 14, 2011.

The ITC is struggling to cope with a huge caseload. It has recently postponed a number of decisions and hearings. This delay cannot be reasonably interpreted to provide any indication as to what the outcome will be. However, the fact that the delay is relatively short (eight days) indicates that the ITC is very close to a decision and unlikely to postpone it again (though it could).

This weekend I reviewed some pleadings that were filed in October but weren't public until redacted versions became available a few days ago. Simply put, Apple's arguments would likely resonate well with a panel of software developers. Apple's key arguments make a lot of sense in light of technical realities, while HTC's lawyers and the ITC staff (Office of Unfair Import Investigations) use rather rigid, non-technicak approaches to such questions as the interpretation of terms like "realtime [API]" and "linking". Unfortunately for Apple, the Commission, the six-member decision-making body at the top of the ITC, isn't a technical committee. Those are lawyers, and whenever they can't form their own opinion as to what makes technical sense, they'll have to use legal methodology to arrive at a conclusion and rely on testimony. If a court doesn't figure out technical issues itself, a party with a weaker argument can still win thanks to more persuasive witnesses, for example.

Whatever the outcome will be, this is still the early stage of Apple's assertions of intellectual property rights against Android. It's not going to be the end for either party's aspirations. If there is an import ban, the key question will be what implications a possible workaround (which HTC and Google are sure to announce) will have.

The postponement of this ITC decision to Wednesday, December 14, makes the second half of next week even busier on the Android patent litigation front. The next day, there will be three Microsoft v. Motorola Mobility hearings at the Munich I Regional Court (the regional court for the city of Munich, while Munich II is the court for the surroundings). Motorola Mobility is suing Microsoft in Germany, but in another town, Mannheim. And on Friday, December 16, there will be

This week is also going to be reasonably interesting. On Thursday, December 8, the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris will rule on Samsung's request for a preliminary injunction against the iPhone 4S in France (my prediction is that it will be denied) and the ITC will begin its hearing on Motorola's complaint against Apple.

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