HTC fights ‘slide-to-unlock’ in London as Samsung continues patent war with Apple ahead of settlement talks

With court moderated settlement talks between Apple and Samsung executives set to take place within the next 90 days, Samsung has now filed a counterclaim in a California federal court alleging Apple’s iOS devices are infringing eight patents. The counterclaim is part of an original patent infringement lawsuit initiated by Apple in February. Foss Patents reported:

It comes as no surprise that Samsung retaliated with infringement claims. Samsung owns roughly 30,000 U.S. patents. It has from the outset of its dispute with Apple demonstrated its belief that a good offense is the best defense. So far, none of Samsung’s infringement claims against Apple has succeeded anywhere on Earth, despite efforts in nine different countries, but Samsung keeps on fighting.

Apple is also in the middle of patent infringement cases with HTC, which just told a court in London that its touchscreen devices, specifically its “slide-to-unlock” functionality, do not infringe on Apple’s patents. Bloomberg reported today that HTC’s lawyers described the functionality in question as “extremely simple implementations of commonly known techniques.” Apple’s lawyer Simon Thorley argued HTC is “attacking the validity of four patents” and claimed, “It is clear the inventions make the requisite contributions.”

If HTC is successful, it could have an impact in ongoing patent infringement related cases with Apple in Dutch and German courts. The report described the functionality Apple claims is covered in the patents:

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MOG unlimited music hits the iPad ahead of Spotify

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MOG is a Spotify-like service that streams 14 million songs to your devices and allows you to download music for offline viewing. The free version allows you to stream music against advertising. Meanwhile, the $4.99 version allows you to not only listen to ad-free music but also download music. The $9.99/month version allows unlimited downloads on mobile devices. Today, MOG added one new big device to its list: The iPad.

The iPad version (not universal?) hit the App Store today joining the earlier iPhone version. Perhaps, if you like your music on a native iPad-sized app, it is time to move to MOG (14-day free trial here with unlimited downloads).

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Apple becomes the top smartphone vendor in US as Siri helps iPhone 4S outsell iPhone 4 by 75 percent

We saw the Android-iOS duopoly coming last summer. Now, the effects of this incredibly tight chokehold are becoming painfully evident to virtually every handset maker sans Apple and Samsung. According to a fresh NPD survey from this morning, during the fourth quarter of 2011 Android and Apple together accounted for over 90 percent of smartphone sales in the United States. No wonder RIM is sliding fast. The remaining 10 percent is up for grabs.

Apple, which seized the No. 1 crown from Samsung last quarter, and leapt past Samsung and LG to become the best-selling U.S. handset brand, according to NPD. The iPhone maker grabbed 43 percent of all U.S. smartphone sales, while Android devices accounted for 48 percent of devices. First-time buyers prefer Android (57 percent) to iPhone (34 percent). Smartphones in Q4 represented 68 percent of all cell phones in the U.S., up from 50 percent in the year-ago quarter.

Some perspective: HTC today reported fourth-quarter results and blamed Samsung and Apple for a 26 percent income drop. What’s more, HTC devices are nowhere to be seen on NPD’s list of the top five best-selling devices in the U.S.

Read below for more highlights…

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Apple spends hundreds of millions to sue Android makers, is it working?

Newsweek‘s Dan Lyons reported today that Apple’s “thermonuclear war” on Android smartphone manufacturers is fading fast, while a new rumor surfaced among the suits’ lawyers claiming the company spent $100 million on its initial set of claims against HTC.

Imagine how much Apple spent on other Android makers, such as Motorola (who is near locking Apple products out of Germany in retaliation) or Samsung (the biggest Mobile Communications patent holder in the world), if it spent so much on just HTC.

“Who knows if it’s true, but if so, Apple didn’t get a lot for its money,” wrote Lyons on his RealDanLyons’ blog Jan. 23.

Apple’s legal claims are abruptly junked left and right, and its only minor victories to date are so inconsequential that Android device makers can dance around the momentary obstacles with just a few minor tweaks to products, explained the Newsweek reporter.

The technology giant’s case against HTC with the International Trade Commission began in February 2010, when the Cupertino, Calif.-based company wanted the ITC to block HTC from importing products into the United States. The case originally had 84 claims based on 10 patents, but it was dwindled down to only four claims by the time a judge became involved, according to Lyons.

The rulings —for the most part— were a wash for Apple. One patent was invalid as Apple did not have a rightful claim to it, and HTC did not infringe upon two of the other patents due to Apple apparently not implementing them into its products. In other words, Apple did not have a right to seek an injunction, because ITC injunctions can only occur if it is provable that both parties are “practicing” the patent in question, which Apple could not demonstrate against HTC…

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ITC rules: HTC violated Apple patents, some HTC devices banned in US starting April 19 [UPDATED]

UPDATE [Wednesday, December 21, 2011 at 7:46am ET]: The article has been updated with a paragraph added to the bottom with a statement from HTC CEO Peter Chou saying his company is “testing” new devices meant to avoid the sales ban.

The International Trade Commission just ruled in favor of Apple in the Apple vs. HTC patent lawsuit regarding mobile devices [PDF document]. HTC was found guilty of violating Apple patent 5946647 that is described by Google Patent Search:

A system and method causes a computer to detect and perform actions on structures identified in computer data. The system provides an analyzer server, an application program interface, a user interface and an action processor. The analyzer server receives from an application running concurrently data having recognizable structures, uses a pattern analysis unit, such as a parser or fast string search function, to detect structures in the data, and links relevant actions to the detected structures. The application program interface communicates with the application running concurrently, and transmits relevant information to the user interface. Thus, the user interface can present and enable selection of the detected structures, and upon selection of a detected structure, present the linked candidate actions. Upon selection of an action, the action processor performs the action on the detected structure.

HTC has violated products. The ruling involved the phone’s software, and it is subject to an import ban on April 19, 2012. The ITC said HTC could continue to ship replacement devices for currently shipped products. Obviously, a ban on certain HTC products is a major blow to the company, and because this is software-based, other Android device manufactures should not be too pleased. You can read the ITC’s full ruling through the The Verge.

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HTC could drop its planned purchase of S3 Graphics following the ITC ruling favoring Apple

Taiwanese handset maker HTC’s lawsuit against Apple over infringement of S3 Graphics’ patents has suffered a fatal blow (in addition to this one) as the United States International Trade Commission (ITC), which can block the import of products, reversed its earlier decision and ruled in favor of Apple on November 21. The Commission has officially ended its investigation of the case and HTC shares fell 4.9 percent on the news.

And now, Bloomberg reports that HTC “will reevaluate” its planned purchase of S3 Graphics following the ITC ruling.

HTC Corp. will reevaluate its planned purchase of S3 Graphics Co. after the target company lost a U.S. International Trade Commission ruling it brought against Apple Inc. over patent infringement, the Taoyuan, Taiwan-based company said in a statement today.

Just yesterday, HTC’s general counsel Grace Lei told DigiTimes yesterday his company “will consider an appeal”. But after closer inspection of the ITC ruling, the company clearly concluded the best course of action is to consider dropping the $300 million acquisition of graphics maker S3 Graphics announced back in June, which only proves this acquisition may have been planned as a leverage in HTC’s other legal dealings with the iPhone maker.

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HTC boss: College kids don’t want an iPhone ‘because their dad has one’

Martin Fichter, the acting president of HTC America, has a daughter down at Steve Jobs’ alma mater, Reed College, where he conducted the very scientific focus group:

On the iPhone 5 hype: “Apple is innovating. Samsung is innovating. We are innovating. Everybody is innovating. And everybody is doing different things for the end consumers. I brought my daughter back to college — she’s down in Portland at Reed — and I talked to a few of the kids on her floor. And none of them has an iPhone because they told me: ‘My dad has an iPhone.’ There’s an interesting thing that’s going on in the market. The iPhone becomes a little less cool than it was. They were carrying HTCs. They were carrying Samsungs. They were even carrying some Chinese manufacture’s devices. If you look at a college campus, Mac Book Airs are cool. iPhones are not that cool anymore. We here are using iPhones, but our kids don’t find them that cool anymore.”

They also have no interest in dad’s Porsche. Read more

Apple awarded sixth consecutive J.D. Power and Associates Award for top smartphone manufacturer

J.D. Power and Associates has just announced the results of their annual 2011 U.S. Wireless Handset Customer Satisfaction Study. Apple has earned the top-spot on the list for the sixth consecutive time. Apple scored a 838 on a 1,000-point scale with the iPhone, while the runner-up HTC scored a relatively close score of 801. 6,898 smartphone owners took part in the study. As if we already didn’t know, customers are pretty satisfied with Apple’s iPhone, and its 5-star rating for “Ease of Operation”. (via BGR)

Press release after the break:

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Apple to ship 86.4 million iPhones in 2011, blow past Nokia –report

We knew in July that Apple had passed the imploding Nokia for the global smartphone unit lead by manufacturer. However, today Digitimes forecasts that by year end Apple will have sold 86.4 million iPhones by year which will easily best Nokia’s once insurmountable lead (Nokia had over double Apple’s share just last year).

Apple’s smartphone shipments are projected to top 86.4 million units in 2011, up 82% from 47.5 million units in 2010. In contrast, Nokia’s smartphone shipments in 2011 will decline to 74.4 million units from over 100 million in 2010, said Luke Lin, analyst for Digitimes Research.

Just because it almost doubled its unit shipment, doesn’t mean it is game over for Apple, however. Android makers Samsung, HTC, LG, Huawei and ZTE all showed better percentage gains though they shipped relatively few smartphones in 2010. Read more

WSJ: Apple’s Board members mulling replacement for Jobs. Jobs: “It’s hogwash”

Just hours before today’s earnings call, the well-connected Yukari Kane, Joann S. Lublin and Nick Wingfield of the WSJ report:

Since Steve Jobs went on medical leave this winter, some members of Apple Inc.’s board have discussed CEO succession with executive recruiters and at least one head of a high-profile technology company, according to people familiar with the matter.

The conversations weren’t explicitly aimed at recruiting a new chief executive and were more of an informal exploration of the company’s options, said these people. The directors don’t appear to have been acting on behalf of the full board, some of these people said. Apple has seven directors, including Mr. Jobs. It is also unclear whether Mr. Jobs was aware

Interestingly, the WSJ actually got a response from Jobs. “I think it’s hogwash.” he said.

According to the report, Board members have even held talks about the company’s leadership with some search firms after those recruiters informally approached them, said three of these people. (…or at least according to voicemails left on their machines?)

It would be shocking if Apple had to look outside its own walls for a successor, at least outside of interviewing for due diligence purposes.  Full article available through Google Plus.
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HTC shares bleed red amid import ban fears

Shares of the Taiwanese Android phone maker HTC fell 6.5 percent this morning following the ruling by the International Trade Commission (ITC) that the company violated two patents held by Apple. The company’s shares had been pretty much in a free-fall throughout last week as well. The agency’s commissioners still have to support the ruling, but investors are already panicking over fears that the ruling will favor Apple. This, in turn, would open doors to ITC’s ban on imports of HTC’s phones into the United States. In response to the crisis, HTC announced a share buy back program worth up to $760 million in an attempt to stabilize its share price and restore investor confidence, reports Financial Times:

The attempt to prop up HTC’s share price appeared to have little effect as the stock fell below HTC’s minimum purchase price of T$900 to close down 3.9 per cent at T$871. The sell-off highlights investor fears that the legal battle could have wider implications for the competitive balance between Apple and Google Android-based phonemakers like HTC, Samsung and Motorola.

HTC is thought to have recently acquired S3 Graphics for $300 million in a bid to secure a stronger ground in its legal dealings with Apple, which filed its patent infringement complaint against the Taiwanese company back in March 2010. That’s not all HTC’s been doing lately in order to buy its way out of this mess…

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