Update: After this story was posted, the ITC announced it would delay the date of the hearing by eight days, to December 14, to give it more time to complete its investigation of the four patents in question in the case.
Update 2: One more delay for HTC at the ITC: the decision has now been postponed once more until December 19, according to this report in Reuters and citing HTC itself. The ITC has not yet posted a notice about this second extension. Meanwhile, HTC has also looking to go to court elsewhere, in a suit against investment bank Citi in Taiwan for a breach of securities law, contributing to a fall in its stock; that suit was first filed back in August. [original post follows]
Last Friday Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) saw a setback in its multinational fight against alleged patent infringements by Android when it was denied an injunction on Samsung’s Android devices in a U.S. Federal Court; this week will see one more big case that will once again test how watertight Apple’s claims are in a legal sphere. The International Trade Commission is due to rule
tomorrow, December 6, next week on a case between Apple and Android device-maker HTC over more patent infringements — making it the first of Apple’s many ongoing cases to reach a final verdict.
If the ITC rules in Apple’s favor, we could see a ban on the import of smartphones and tablets from HTC into the U.S. That would be a huge setback for the company, considering that HTC in Q3 was the largest smartphone company in the U.S. in terms of smartphone sales, according to Canalys.
That would be in contrast to the decision from last week, in which Apple was denied its request for an injunction on Samsung tablets in the U.S. Although Samsung ranks as the biggest overall mobile device company in the U.S., its tablets have made little headway into a market largely dominated by Apple’s iPad — meaning an injunction would have likely been more of a public relations disaster rather than have an immediate affect on Samsung’s bottom line for tablet sales.
HTC last year made about $5 billion in sales in the U.S., more than half of its overall revenue, according to statements it filed in relation to another patent complaint, and reported by Bloomberg.
Bloomberg also notes that if an injunction does get put in place, it might not apply to 4G devices: currently HTC accounts for more than half of the 4G phones sold in the U.S.; banning these would have too big an impact on the supply of those devices in the market. That would not be the case for smartphones, with multiple suppliers and platforms serving American consumers with products.
At question in the HTC/Apple case are four patents. One involves the ability to dial numbers directly from emails, while another covers data transmission. An agency judge earlier ruled that the other two patents were not infringed, but it seems that the ITC will still be able to weigh these up in its evaluation.
Ultimately (as with many of the other suits going down worldwide), a ruling in Apple or HTC’s favor will most of all impact the terms of licensing negotiations between the two companies.
The ITC dealt HTC a blow the other week when it ruled that Apple did not infringe on patents owned by S3 Graphics. HTC is in the process of acquiring S3, which it was buying for about $300 million, in part for the patent protection that the company could have given it against Apple. After the ruling, HTC released a statement admitting it was re-evaluating that purchase.
Other Android-related cases being investigated by the ITC at the moment include cases against Motorola (NYSE: MMI) Mobility and Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS) from Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), as well as cases brought by Apple also against Motorola Mobility as well as Samsung.