HTC LTE patent could be used to block iPhone 5 from U.S. market
Apple may have won its case against Samsung, but that has not changed HTC’s resolve to battle things out with Apple and protect its intellectual property. In one of the many legal spats the two companies are tied up in, HTC is accusing Apple of infringing on one of its patents which they deem is required in order to enable 4G LTE connectivity. HTC has been a global leader in LTE since the launch of the HTC Thunderbolt and was the first to deliver LTE enabled devices on multiple carriers on over a half dozen countries across the globe.
Currently, an LTE enabled Apple iPad is available in the U.S. market, but most believe that the iPhone 5 (expected to be unveiled tomorrow) will be equipped with LTE technology so that it can take advantage of the faster 4G speeds available on AT&T, Verizon and Sprint.
Apple’s legal team is working hard to prove that HTC’s LTE patent is invalid, but U.S. International Trade Commission Judge Thomas Pender has let Apple know that “Clear and convincing means something to me, I have to be pretty darn certain a U.S. patent is invalid.”
So what happens if the ITC rules in HTC’s favor? Since the ITC has the authority to block products from entering into the United States, a victory for HTC would result in a temporary or even permanent ban on the LTE iPad or even the new iPhone 5. The only way an ITC ban can be lifted is by direct order of the U.S. president or if the products are updated so that they no longer infringe on HTC’s patents.
Back in December of last year, the ITC rules that HTC products were infringing on Apple’s #5,946,647 patent, resulting in a widespread HTC import ban which caused the delayed launch of the HTC One X and HTC EVO 4G LTE. Since the Apple patent was related to a small user experience feature, HTC was able to modify the code to work around Apple’s implementation. But Apple may not be so lucky. Since HTC claims that its patent is essential for LTE data transfer, Apple would be forced to settle the case with HTC which could result in a substantial amount of money entering HTC’s bank accounts.
It’s hard to say what the final outcome of this case will be or when the ITC will make its ruling. Hopefully HTC will be the first Android OEM to gain the upper hand on Apple and force them to play purely on their product lineup rather than bully other companies out of the market.