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Apple wins trade agency ruling that HTC infringes 2 patents

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July 15 (Bloomberg) -- Apple Inc. won a U.S. International Trade Commission ruling in a patent-infringement case targeting HTC Corp.’s Android-based mobile telephones.

HTC, Asia’s second-largest maker of smartphones, said today it was found to have infringed two of 10 Apple patents originally asserted in the case. Administrative Law Judge Carl Charneski’s finding, which hasn’t been made public, is subject to review by the full six-member commission in Washington.

HTC will “vigorously fight these two remaining patents through an appeal before the ITC commissioners who make the final decision,” Grace Lei, general counsel for the Taoyuan, Taiwan-based company, said in an e-mail. HTC has “alternate solutions in place” to work around the patents, she said.

Should the commission uphold the finding, the ITC may ban U.S. imports of some HTC phones that run on Google Inc.’s Android, the most popular smartphone operating system in the U.S. The HTC decision may serve as a barometer for other cases Cupertino, California-based Apple has against makers of Android devices, including Samsung Electronics Co. and Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc.

The ITC is a quasi-judicial arbiter of trade complaints that has become the venue of choice for resolving patent disputes. Nokia Oyj, which had been targeted in the same ITC complaint, reached a settlement with Apple last month. Mountain View, California-based Google wasn’t a party in the case.

Patents Infringed

An Apple spokeswoman, Kristin Huguet, declined to comment on the HTC findings.

One of the patents in the HTC case involved data-detection technology used in e-mail and text messages, while another related to a data-transmission system.

Apple earlier this month accused HTC in a separate complaint of infringing five patents related to software architecture and user interfaces, hardware for touch screens and movement sensors. Apple is seeking to block U.S. imports of the Taiwanese company’s new Flyer tablet computers as well as its Droid Incredible, Wildfire, EVO 4G and Desire phones.

HTC in March released the Flyer, its first tablet device in the U.S. to rival Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s Galaxy Tab. The Flyer has a 7-inch screen and uses Android.

Android Popularity

Android is the most popular smartphone operating system in the U.S., accounting for 38 percent of the market in the three months ended in May, according to Reston, Virginia-based researcher ComScore Inc. Apple’s iOS, used in devices including the iPhone, made up 27 percent of the market.

HTC agreed last week to buy S3 Graphics Co. for $300 million after the maker of video-game graphics chips won an infringement ruling at the trade agency against Apple. HTC also has its own patent complaint against Apple at the commission, with findings scheduled to be released Sept. 16.

HTC and Apple more than doubled revenue from mobile phones in the March quarter from a year earlier as they race to offer their products in more markets around the globe. Apple, once best known for its Mac computers, now relies on its iPhone for about 50 percent of sales and the iPad tablet for 12 percent, according to first-quarter figures compiled by Bloomberg.

The case is In the Matter Of Certain Personal Data and Mobile Communications Devices and Related Software, 337-710, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

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