The stars are aligning for Apple as Reuters just reported of another legal win in the company’s legal battle with the Taiwanese handset maker HTC. The news gathering organization explains that the U.S. International Trade Commission on Monday ruled in favor of Apple concerning HTC’s patent infringement complaint:
An ITC administrative law judge found “no violation” by Apple of four HTC patents that include technologies for power management and phone dialing.
This will come as a relief to the Cupertino, California company as competitor HTC in May of last year asked ITC to ban the importation of iOS devices into the United States. This doesn’t mean the ruling is a done deal as a full commission is scheduled to rule on whether to uphold the judge’s preliminary decision in February of next year.
The development follows today’s news that Samsung asked the courts to stop sales of the iPhone 4S in both Japanese and Australian markets after Apple last week successfully bared Samsung from selling Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia. Samsung’s chief operating officer Lee Jae-yong – also son of Samsung Electronics Chairman Lee Kun-hee and heir apparent to the group’s leadership – met with Apple CEO Tim Cook following a private memorial service held for Steve Jobs yesterday at Stanford University, to which Kun-hee had been invited.
He told reporters that Samsung should “maintain a healthy partnership with Apple”, adding the two companies should also “compete fiercely but fairly”. Industry sources this morning told Korean Times Apple’s been in talks with Samsung over shipment of its A6 quad-core chip for iPad 3 and iPhone 5, indicating Samsung’s importance in Apple’s supply chain as the South Korean conglomerate remains a critical business partner. As for the Apple vs. HTC saga…
Some watchers (yours truly included) were wondering whether Apple made a grave mistake messing with HTC, which is owned by the powerful Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa Plastics Group. In addition to HTC, Formosa Plastics Group also owns VIA Technologies which sued Apple over three patents related to microprocessors in tablets and smartphones. Formosa Plastics Group recently transferred ownership of S3 Graphics from VIA Technologies to HTC, which used those patents in conjunction with the Motorola patents Google transferred to them to countersue Apple.
Both HTC and VIA can draw on the expertise of nearly thirty companies in the Formosa Plastics Group. The bottom line: If either of Taiwanese entities prevail in the court room, Apple could be forced into a pricey settlement – unless Formosa Plastics Group decides to use VIA as a leverage for other ventures and lawsuits. Note that HTC is anything but insignificant. In June, Nielsen ranked them the second-largest smartphone maker in the United States and the nation’s second-best smartphone maker.
In addition, Taiwan’s External Trade Development Council and the Bureau of Foreign Trade named HTC the country’s leading technology brand, ahead of computer makers Acer and Asus. Android handsets, which comprise the biggest chunk of HTC’s sales and device portfolio, achieved Windows-type monopoly thanks to buoyant sales of HTC handsets in Taiwan beating Nokia in both sales volume and value.
Per unaudited third-quarter earnings, HTC’s profits and revenues almost doubled year over year, thanks in large part to strong Android phone shipments. If HTC is a big fish, Apple being the world’s leading smartphone maker is the king of the sea. Despite holding onto a tiny five percent share of the entire handset business, Apple actually controls a massive two-thirds of total operating profits in the handset business.