Thursday, July 12, 2012

Apple and HTC agree on mid-December date for ITC trial in new enforcement action

Last week the ITC instituted an enforcement proceeding to investigate Apple's claim that 29 new HTC devices still infringe the '647 "data tapping" patent, but denied temporary emergency relief.

The Commission, the decision-making body at the top of the ITC, assigned the case to Judge Shaw and asked him to set a target date for the investigation. The ITC generally tries to resolve enforcement issues within 12 months of institution of the investigation. Judge Shaw then ordered the parties to jointly propose a schedule.

Apple and HTC agree on all but two target dates. The most important target date on which they agree is the one for the evidentiary hearing (trial): December 19-20, 2012. They are, however, roughly six weeks apart on the target date for Judge Shaw's initial determination (Apple: March 8, 2013; HTC: April 19, 2013) and the final Commission decision (Apple: July 8, 2013; HTC: August 23, 2013). The Office of Unfair Import Investigations (OUII), commonly referred to as "the ITC staff", sides with Apple. Judge Shaw now has to decide. If he sets a target date within 12 months of institution of the investigation, his decision will be final. Otherwise it can be reviewed (and possibly modified) by the Commission.

Considering that this enforcement proceeding has relatively narrow scope and that the '647 patent has previously been held infringed by HTC, it's probably frustrating for Apple to have to wait another year. But I said before that at least some of HTC's arguments against temporary emergency relief -- and in favor of a more elaborate analysis of Apple's infringement allegations -- made sense.

By the way, two English-language Asian newspapers reported today on other developments relating to Apple v. HTC:

  • The Taipei Times quotes HTC's vow to continue its patent assertions against Apple despite the setback it suffered this week with the Commission decision to uphold the dismissal of five Google patents from an HTC v. Apple case.

  • The China Post quotes another HTC statement, according to which HTC "has received the re-examination certificate of S3's [']146 and [']978 patents, which a U.S. trade panel found in an initial ruling last year to have been infringed upon by Apple's Mac computers". S3 Graphics has meanwhile been acquired by HTC. The ITC decision HTC just mentioned cleared Apple of a violation because the Commission determined that the related claims were not infringed by the imported goods at the time of importation. But that's an ITC-specific issue, and potentially different in district court.

    Infringement issues concerning those two patents would be limited to certain Mac computers and not affect Apple's iOS devices. Anyway, HTC will seize every opportunity to enforce patents of its own against any Apple products or services.

There's no doubt that HTC is defending itself vigorously. It scored a defensive win last week in the UK.

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