Tuesday, July 31, 2012

HTC withdraws another patent from second ITC case against Apple -- down from 8 to 2

On Monday (July 30, HTC filed a motion to withdraw U.S. Patent No. 7,765,414 on a "circuit and operating method for integrated interface of PDA and wireless communication system" from the investigation of its against Apple. As a result, the case is down from temporarily eight patents to only two allegedly standard-essential patents.

HTC originally brought a second ITC complaint complaint over three patents, including the '414 patent, in August 2011. A few weeks later, already in September 2001, HTC "amended" its complaint in order to add five patents on loan from Google. In June 2012, Judge Thomas Pender threw out those five Google patents due to lack of standing. HTC appealed, but the Commission, the six-member decision-making body at the top of the ITC, denied its petition for review.

Still in June 2012, Apple brought (and, in accordance with the ITC's procedural rules, immediately removed to a United States district court) its counterclaims against HTC over two allegedly standard-essential patents acquired from a company named ADT. Apple makes serious allegations of FRAND abuse. If Apple prevails on any of those counterclaims or its related FRAND defenses, then HTC's second ITc complaint will have failed in its entirety. Apart from FRAND, Apple could also prevail on its non-infringement and/or invalidity contentions, of course.

The '414 patent was the only "homegrown" HTC patent at issue in this investigation. All of the other patents were obtained from other companies (five from Google, two from ADT).

The case will go to trial in about a month.

HTC's first ITC complaint against Apple (filed in May 2010) was symbolic, not substantive. The ITC dismissed it in February 2012. HTC filed an appeal with the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit but withdrew it in June 2012.

Besides HTC's assertions against Apple in its own name, its subsidiary S3 Graphics is still pursuing two ITC complaints against Apple (in one case, this means an ongoing appeal of a dismissal). Its affiliate VIA Technologies also brought an ITC complaint against Apple last year, and the related trial will start today.

Apple and HTC (including S3 Graphics) also have litigatio pending in Europe.

In other news involving patent infringement lawsuits against Apple and Taiwan (HTC's home country), a lawsuit over two patents allegedly infringed by Siri's speech recognition technology was just brought in the Eastern District of Texas (the preferred venue of non-practicing entities) by Taiwan's National Cheng Kung University (NCKU). The Taiwanese government has previously shown a strong interest in Apple's patent lawsuits against HTC and potential future assertions against other Taiwanese companies. Should this university actually obtain an injunction against Apple (though this is a long shot for NPEs in U.S. district courts these days), it's quite possible that it would try to leverage its position in ways that benefit HTC and other Taiwanese companies.

If you'd like to be updated on the smartphone patent disputes and other intellectual property matters I cover, please subscribe to my RSS feed (in the right-hand column) and/or follow me on Twitter @FOSSpatents and Google+.

Share with other professionals via LinkedIn: