Apple's legal case against HTC - in which they allege the smartphone manufacturer impinged on their intellectual property with various Android and Windows Mobile based handsets - has been green-lighted by the US International Trade Commission (ITC). The decision means that, within the next 45 days, the ITC must announce a date by which it expects to have come to a conclusion over whether HTC did, in fact, infringe Apple patents; if it finds in Apple's favor, HTC could be forced to block functionality in their devices or even barred from importing them into the US altogether.
As for the likely timescale of that decision date, given the magnitude of the case it's likely to be measured in months rather than anything more immediate. Once a ruling is made, it must be enacted on within 60 days; however, HTC would likely file an appeal which could further delay things.
Ironically, the news comes after Apple themselves have been made the subject of a legal case for ITC investigation, over allegations that they have impinged on the multitouch patents of another company. Elan Microelectronics are looking to freeze imports of Apple's multitouch-based products - including the iPhone, iPod touch, Magic Mouse and imminent iPad - if they can persuade the ITC that Apple have overstepped onto their intellectual property.
USITC INSTITUTES SECTION 337 INVESTIGATION ON CERTAIN PERSONAL DATA AND MOBILE COMMUNICATIONS DEVICES AND RELATED SOFTWARE
The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) has voted to institute an investigation of certain personal data and mobile communications devices and related software. The products at issue in this investigation relate to hardware and software used in mobile communication devices, including but not limited to cellular phones and smartphones.
The investigation is based on a complaint filed by Apple Inc., f/k/a Apple Computer, Inc. and NeXt Software, Inc. f/k/a NeXt Computer, Inc., both of Cupertino, CA, on March 2, 2010. The complaint alleges violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the importation into the United States and sale of certain personal data and mobile communications devices and related software that infringe patents asserted by the complainants. The complainants request that the USITC issue an exclusion order and a cease and desist order.
The USITC has identified the following as respondents in this investigation:
High Tech Computer Corp. a/k/a HTC Corp. of Taiwan;
HTC America, Inc., of Bellevue, WA; and
Exedea, Inc., of Houston, TX.
By instituting this investigation (337-TA-710), the USITC has not yet made any decision on the merits of the case. The USITC's Chief Administrative Law Judge will assign the case to one of the USITC's six administrative law judges (ALJ), who will schedule and hold an evidentiary hearing. The ALJ will make an initial determination as to whether there is a violation of section 337; that initial determination is subject to review by the Commission.
The USITC will make a final determination in the investigation at the earliest practicable time. Within 45 days after institution of the investigation, the USITC will set a target date for completing the investigation. USITC remedial orders in section 337 cases are effective when issued and become final 60 days after issuance unless disapproved for policy reasons by the U.S. Trade Representative within that 60-day period.