back to article HTC 'dismayed' by Apple's bizarre patent allegations

HTC has snapped back at Apple's second patent-infringement complaint over the Taiwanese manufacturer's Android-based smartphones and tablets. "HTC is dismayed that Apple has resorted to competition in the courts rather than the market place," HTC general counsel Grace Lei said in a canned statement. The statement notes that …

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  1. Version 1.0 Silver badge
    Coat

    If this patent floats then it's back to tin cans and string.

    "24. A portable computer as in claim 23, further including a sound output device in combination with a radio transceiver whereby cellular or radio telephony networks may be used. "

    No - I have no comment - I'm going to get my coat and head for the pub.

    1. SuccessCase

      Sorry to prick this particular bubble of indignation

      There's plenty else to get indignant about without misinterpreting the case. The claim you have quoted has little bearing on the scope of the patent. You need to look at the independent claims. The process is like a logical "AND". To infringe, a system would need to implement at least all the features in one of the independent claims and the thread of dependent claims up to and including the dependent claim you have quoted.

      Reading the independent claims, the scope of this patent actually sounds, at first, quite narrow. the first independent claims 1-3 would only cover a device like DEC's Itsy - which was demoed only shortly after this application was made.

      http://www.hpl.hp.com/downloads/crl/itsy/index.html

      Scrolling / navigating content by changing the orientation of the device isn't actually that useful (though it might feasibly affect some games and the odd weird app).

      However then we get to the most important claim in the context of iOS/Android; claim 4, which basically describes changing displayed screen orientation in response to changes in the physical orientation of the device. Which of course all iOS and Android devices do. So unfortunately, if this patent is held to be valid, it very much looks as though Android ( and by using Android HTC) will be said to infringe claim 4.

      Be aware this patent has a basis in hardware (e.g. Relates to use of accelerometers to detect physical device orientation). As such it's not a pure software patent. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but hardware patents are generally much stronger and more likely to be found to stand up.

      1. scarshapedstar
        Devil

        Rotating an image based on accelerometer data...

        ...sounds like something the Wiimote did in 2006.

        1. Vic

          Rotating an image based on gravity-detecting devices

          Sounds like something ships' instruments have been doing for centuries. the gimbal is hardly a new device.

          If there's something truly inventive in the way an electronic device simulates a gimbal, then fair dos - that invention could well be patentable. But a patent on *being* a gimbal?

          Vic.

          1. SuccessCase

            Vic, good suggestion, send notice to HTC of that observation

            It's amazing how often patents in when market are invalid because there has been a solution available for years in another market.

            If the interface is a physical display, it probably won't count. Nor if it is purely an indicator of orientation rather than the UI itself rotating.

            The problem is patent authorities are reluctant to invalidate patents on the grounds of obviousness. It is generally taken as a weak argument. This is because many good inventions appear obvious after the event. A good example is the Black and Decker workmate, which essentially combined a work-top with a clamp. The guy who came up with the invention spent quite some time and effort trialling it.

            1. SuccessCase

              Oh and also...

              The original filing date was '98 not '99, so the art has to be prior to that.

            2. Fresnel
              Stop

              Obviousness

              "The problem is patent authorities are reluctant to invalidate patents on the grounds of obviousness. It is generally taken as a weak argument. This is because many good inventions appear obvious after the event. A good example is the Black and Decker workmate, which essentially combined a work-top with a clamp. The guy who came up with the invention spent quite some time and effort trialling it."

              The workmate example is often cited, but workbenches and clamps have been around for thousands of years. If no example of a workmate could be found - give the man his patent.

              The problem with the sort of patent at issue is that new technologies are entering the market all the time and a whole legal industry to devoted to filing patents that imagines uses for these. In reality, 99.99% of the worthwhile ideas are truly obvious - multiple development teams would independently think of the same idea. These patents then become anti-competitive corporate weapons, rather than protecting true innovators.

              In my opinion the burden of proof should be on the defense. The fact that someone thought of a feature before handheld displays were common should be a strong point against it. Someone unware of the patent, independently having the same idea should also score against it. For instance, I would bet that the Apple team who introduced the feature tried to patent it and ran up against the BT patent - which they then brought.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Devil

        Not just Android

        Add Symbian and WinMo to the same list. They both change the orientation.

        This however puts selective litigation against a specific Android manufacturer on "interesting" grounds with regards to competition law. Apple has big enough market share to pass the "significant market power" competition test. So it has to behave in a manner which will not put it on the receiving end of antitrust authorities.

        So if it is to litigate at all on this one it has to litigate against _EVERYONE_ indiscriminately or offer it for licensing similarly on non-discriminatory terms. So the fact that the patent is probably good and applies to _ALL_ current mobile devices is actually against Apple in the long term.

        My guess is that it will end up having to license this one.

        1. SuccessCase

          So that will be Apple and Microsoft

          Getting licensing fees from Android device manufacturers. They will end up bennefitting more than Google who currently make nothing from Android itself and only charge licensing fees for key apps like the AppStore and maps. Both of which are replaceable.

          Google are currently getting badly mauled by analysts in their earning calls over their complete lack of diversified revenues (basically, as near as damnit all their revenues are down to advertising, even Android revenues, which are fir the most part simply ad revenue classified as due to Android. On the same reasoning they could have a category in their annual report "revenues due to iPhone").

          I seriously predict Google will soon back-peddle (further than they already are by delaying Honycombe release) on their commitment to keep Android Open Source. Of course it will be difficult for them to do, and the developer community will have a right to be annoyed, but the raw economic facts are clear. Google are a hugely significant number two in the tablet OS space. A market that is exploding with growth. Apple are making billions from it. Meanwhile Google are making near as dammit big fat zero. The market analysts, bless their moral cotton socks, are starting to see Google's stance as stupidly and beligerently Hippy. The development community doesn't agree and sees a longer term strategy, with OS an assurance of longer term relevancy. But unfortunately the market tends to win out. Brinn hasn't performed well in the Google earning calls. He is on the spot. I predict continuing to go in to them with nothing to say on diversified revenues will no longer be an option after the next one. If there is not significant diversification or at least indication diversification is happening, Google's share price will be hit hard after the next call.

          Let's face it. There won't be a change. Google don't suddenly have new revenue earning sources. If there is a small increase in licensing revenues, it will simply highlight the current approach doesn't properly (as the moneymen will see it) exploit the potential. The realization MS and Apple stand to make more than Google in direct licensing fees will really bring the point home.

          Google+ will provide a welcome diversionary message and will give him something positive to say, but it won't save his arse from the heat that will be applied over revenue diversification. Ergo, Android's "freedom" will be increasingly curtailed so it can be converted into licensing revenue in the hear and now.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Unhappy

            @ So that will be Apple and Microsoft

            @ So that will be Apple and Microsoft

            One day I had a great business idea. I decided to make pies and sell them for zero pounds. Soon my enterprise became very successful. Queues were forming around the corner

            for my amazing pies and was busy every day. But I can't figure out what's wrong, I have so many customers but my bank says I am not keeping up payments.

      3. Fresnel
        Stop

        Obvious!!!!

        "However then we get to the most important claim in the context of iOS/Android; claim 4, which basically describes changing displayed screen orientation in response to changes in the physical orientation of the device. Which of course all iOS and Android devices do. So unfortunately, if this patent is held to be valid, it very much looks as though Android ( and by using Android HTC) will be said to infringe claim 4."

        This 'invention' is too obvious! I remember viewing photographs on my first digital camera (long before smartphones) and wishing it had this feature. Once people start viewing pictures and documents on handheld displays the need for a rotate function is obvious. Making that function automatic is obvious. Patents should not be granted/upheld for such low hanging fruit.

        1. Just Thinking

          EXIF

          Hasn't orientation been part of the EXIF spec for years, cameras have detected orientation and written it to EXIF for ages, and image viewing software uses that to display the image correctly.

          Pretty much the same thing.

        2. peter 45
          Boffin

          not just obvious

          But implimented.

          Back in 1990 I used a word processor that had a WYSIWYG screen. The neat feature was that you set it up for using landscape or portrate paper by swiveling the entire screen.

      4. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        Sorry to prick your Reality Distortion Field

        <quote>...claim 4, which basically describes changing displayed screen orientation in response to changes in the physical orientation of the device.</quote>

        Digital cameras were doing this long before 1999.

        1. SuccessCase

          I'm sorry your brain isn't capable of differentiating me from the patent author

          I have not axe to grind. If digital camera's have been doing this from long before '99 then cite the example, the patent is invalid, case closed and well done.

          Now, having worked as an expert witness on patent cases, I know what it's like when you start actually looking for the prior art. It usually turns out what you were sure was the case, actually wasn't.

          So I challenge you to find an example of a camera that has this function. If you can find one, post back here, or if you prefer and are more mercenary minded, contact HTC and ask for payement, they would be most interested to know. You may well be right, there are plenty of invalid patents out there. But equally not all of them are.

      5. Version 1.0 Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        RFC - I agree.

        On a more detailed re-reading of the patent, I'm inclined to agree with the points that you make.

      6. meehawl

        1980s Computer Screens Did This

        Sorry to have to be the one to tell you this, but there were honking great big CRT displays in the 1980s that rotated between landscape and portrait mode and adjusted aspect ratio on the fly based "on the physical orientation of the device". I had one, and used it on a Mac and on an Amiga.

      7. Rob Crawford
        WTF?

        One has to shout prior art

        as changing the displayed screen orientation in response to the physical display orientation being changed existed in the late 80s (I should know as I wasted enough of my lie on faulty ones)

        It's a bit like patenting power led because it's on a a newly released device, it's been done before despite the context

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      You owe me .05 cents US for that.

      I've applied for and received a process patent for that as a stress-release technique.

  2. nyelvmark
    Gimp

    Of course

    ...Apple invented the mobile computing device. They just bought that patent from BT because it was cheaper than arguing. Lol, someone will tell us that they didn't invent the mobile phone next.

  3. Peter Murphy
    Alien

    Is it just me?

    Or does anyone else think that Apple's "patented" 'Portable computer' device look like an oversized digital thermometre?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Devil

      Ha..

      Rectal of course.

    2. Miek

      Yep

      Although, I'd be worried if they were trying to check my appointments with that thing

    3. takuhii
      Facepalm

      LOL

      Looks more like something used for a vaginal exam!!

  4. ~mico
    Thumb Down

    Oh my...

    ...Palm Pilot apparently infringes that one... Except it predates the patent by two years. And my Nokia brick phone by further two... and it even had e-mail button (used to read SMS, i presume)

  5. ULTR4VI0LNC3
    WTF?

    Really Apple, Really??

    It's sad to see that instead of competing in the consumer market apple has decided to take the low road by trying to sue it's competitors out of the market, are they really that worried about their future market share and foot hold in the consumer electronics sector. They are playing a dangerous game by basically pissing off their competitors, and I’m not talking about just one but all of them including some that they have working relationships with i.e. Samsung I mean they're acting like a redneck with a shotgun yelling "get off my property" firing wildly into the air. Maybe they should start spending less money on lawyers and more on innovation, but that’s just my opinion dang

    1. lurker

      quite...

      Gotta wonder if, with Jobs not at the helm so much any more due to ill-health, the remaining management team are in some kind of blind-panic death spiral. Lately they just seem to have the delusional attitude that they invented everything, and are therefore due a slice of every pie out there.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      WTF?

      "instead of competing in the consumer market"?

      So Apple have no smartphones or tablets that consumers can choose to buy?

      1. Dave 15 Silver badge

        Tempting to say no

        I mean a phone is supposed to be able to make phone calls....

        And as for a tablet, there creation is pretty but I don't see any real advantage over a proper computer really - only fashion.

        But the guy was suggesting that they should compete, what they appear to have done is turn up at the race track with a machine gun.

  6. mikebartnz

    Pathetic

    Quite frankly the whole USA patent system is pathetic and a lot of USA firms are coming across as childish little bullies. Why the hell they can't just start competing by putting out a better product rather than being a bunch of patent trolls I will never know

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      US Patents

      Yes the US patent system is a mess. What bugs me is that Merkin companies are trying to make their hopelessly screwed patent system apply outside the US.

      I'd like to see a few more foreign companies take the Samsung route and go after US companies in the US using the US patent and legal system. Once a handful have succeeded the the US patent system will be fixed as a priority. If the system starts damaging US interests then the system will be fixed.

  7. roy lovelock
    WTF?

    pathetic

    this is one of the reasons why i would NEVER touch another apple product ever again. control control control is all they are after - if they cant have it they will sue until other companies fold.

    i hope htc (by far a superiour products imho) take them to the cleaners for wasting thier time,

    if apple put as much effort into thier products as they do thier court cases they would have kept android way behind insted of snapping at thier feet (and over taking)

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      Freetard are we?

      So I assume you are writing your reply on a Linux machine with a non-Intel processor? because Microsoft are just as controlling, as are Oracle, BT, Intel and other tech giants.

      1. Ted Treen
        Trollface

        I cannot tell...

        ...what system the esteemed Mr Lovelock is using:- but I CAN tell that its spellchecker does not work.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Anyone get that feeling of deja moo?

    You know, that feeling you've heard this bull before?

  9. Al42
    Megaphone

    Prior Art

    Try Amateur Radio Trancievers, late 1970s They had a synthasizer for setting the channel used radio networks (REPEATERS) and of cource had a speaker

    For early packet radio networks google "aloha" a Packet Radio Network in hawaii

    Then AX25 uk networks

  10. Lyndsay Williams
    Alert

    this patent is 14 years old

    This phone device was invented in 1997, nothing like this back then. Hardware was built and tested in a garage near Milton Keynes.

    "hardware patents are generally much stronger and more likely to be found to stand up"

    I agree.

    It was not designed to make lawyers loads of money and stop the sale of HTC devices to customers.

    I will be doing a talk on it's history tomorrow at Oxford University to get the facts straight.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Lyndsay Williams
        Thumb Up

        spelling

        Thank you for correcting my spelling, I started work too early. :-)

        What has William Gates go to do with it however? (Apart from the fact he personally was offered this patent in 1998 for almost nothing and turned it down)

        This article in The Register on the patent has a few mistakes, so I will be telling the true version tomorrow.

        1. Ken Hagan Gold badge
          Coat

          Re: geography

          "What has William Gates go to do with it however?"

          The man himself has nothing to do with it. However, a building named after the man can be found in Cambridge. Of course, if you don't live there, you might not be aware of that.

          I'll just get my coat before I become any further embroiled in this sub-thread.

          1. caffeine addict

            technically, no...

            You can't name buildings at Cambridge Uni after the living - it's named after his father. Or grandfather, maybe...

        2. SuccessCase

          @Lyndsay

          Will a transcript or video be posted anywhere public ? I would be interested to read / hear it.

        3. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Terry 13

        Way to come across as a complete knob!

        Perhaps commenting on the article, rather than a minor grammatical transgression would be a better use of your, obliviously Cambridge educated, time. Or are you too busy doing talks at Cambridge University?

        (Anon as also Cambridge educated)

      3. elsonroa
        Facepalm

        With comprehension skills like that...

        ...I'm amazed that Terry13 was able to find out which bus to take to get to Cambridge in the first place. Lyndsay Williams is the name on the patent in question - which suggests that they are the ideal person to give some historical background on the controversial patent. The fact that the talk happens to be in Oxford is just a statement of geographical fact.

  11. poohbear

    Why not MS too

    If HTC has the guts to stand up to Apple, why don't they stand up to Microsoft too?

    Or is there more to this than meets the eye?

    1. Giles Jones Gold badge

      M$

      Probably because HTC is a "partner" of Microsoft. They make a lot of phones with WP7 on it.

      HTC has no working relationship with Apple.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Also, different scenario

        Assume that the Microsoft licensing is indeed for FAT32.

        You can't deny that MS invented it. You can't deny that there are alternatives to it so it's hardly a monopolistic proposition. At that point, your choice is "use something else or pay up".

        HTC have decided it's cheaper to pay up, obviously.

  12. This post has been deleted by its author

  13. takuhii
    Thumb Down

    Bully Tactics

    Apple can't get what it wants, so it resorts to bully tactics and tries to stamp out the competition. Typical Apple bullshit!! Personally I don't think they have a leg to stand-on, unless they have patents dating back to 2000 or before regarding this...

    1. SuccessCase

      Did you read the article or check the sources?

      That's precisely what they have.

      1. Eponymous Cowherd

        Yes, but not defended.

        Even if there is no prior art before this patent was awarded, there have been plenty of examples of it being "infringed" between that time and now.

        The fact that this patent has never been defended against these historical "infringers" should render it invalid. If you don't reasonably defend your patent, you lose it.

        1. SuccessCase

          @Eponymous Cowherd - that's simply not true

          You are confusing patents with trademarks. Patents don't lapse provided you pay the nominal yearly maintenance fee.

  14. Dave 15 Silver badge

    every radio mouse

    Every radio mouse must be covered by this - a means of detecting movement, converting that to an electrical signal, storing (briefly I admit) and using radio to send it to a unit which will respond by changing pages....

    Frankly prior art for this must abound by the lorry load.

    Time the patent offices started earning the money they take and lobbing a few more of these patents in the bin before litigation starts.

  15. Sarah Davis
    Coat

    toys pram scenario

    this is just another instance of Apple showing it's true colours and embarrasing themselves. HTC phones have out sold iPhones for over 2 years now. Now Jobs is now having a hissy fit - I'm so glad i dumped Apple years ago,

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Invention v Design

    Is there an 'acid test' for distinguishing between invention and design, or is this a judgement made (or not!) by the patent office?

    The majority of IT patents that are reported do not seem to involve what I would consider to be an invention, but merely a design. Clearly this is often US tech companies trying to kill competition - no surprises there - but it does leave the question remaining, for patent non-experts like myself, as to where design ends and invention begins?

  18. Alan Brookland

    Smart Quill

    Here's the original - very iPaddy...

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/26185820/Smart-Quill

  19. William Boyle

    HTC vs MS

    One can only hope that HTC will repudiate their "patent agreement" with Microsoft, and challenge them as well in the courts/media! $15USD per android device is nothing more than highway robbery!

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