HTC Retains Significant Patent Rights in Apple Settlement
Earlier this week, AllThingsD reported that Apple’s patent litigation settlement with HTC was made publicly available, albeit heavily redacted. According to the document, nine of HTC’s US patents are excluded from the settlement, allowing HTC to maintain enforcement rights on these patents.
Envision IP analyzed the patents that HTC was able to carve out of the settlement to understand what technology is covered, and how it may affect Apple and other device manufacturers going forward.
While the financial terms of Apple and HTC’s settlement are unclear, it appears that HTC was able to maintain exclusive rights to some of its more important patents, all of which were assigned to it by Google in 2011. Four of these patents were originally acquired by Motorola and have relatively high forward citations, indicating that these patents may be fairly fundamental technologies. Also, Apple’s iOS appears to use some of the technology claimed in HTC’s patents related to user interfaces.
Below is our analysis of each patent.
(1) US 7,289,772 – “Technique allowing a status bar user response on a portable device graphic user interface”
The ’772 patent was originally assigned to Palmsource, Inc., which was a Palm OS development company spun-off from Palm Computing, Inc. The patent was subsequently transferred to Google, Inc. in 2010 by Palmsource’s parent company, Access Co., Ltd. Approximately one year later, the ’772 patent was assigned to HTC by Google.
The ’772 patent covers a mobile device interface that allows “the user to answer or reject an incoming call, without interruption of applications already operating on the device during the call…the user is able to view caller ID information, in an information window, while using another application.” A screenshot of an embodiment of the invention is shown below in Figure 7:
The ’772 claims are directed to displaying an incoming caller ID, or any other type of status message, and allowing a user to respond to the incoming message, while continuing to use another application on the same interface.
As far as how Apple and others may be affected, this patent may preclude them from showing a notification (SMS, incoming call, or otherwise) on a screen, and allowing the user to both respond to the notification and concurrently use a running application. For example, in Apple’s iOS, a SMS alert pops up over a running application, and the user can either select the alert to view the new message, or ignore the message and continue to use the running application. Users are not able to access the message and continue to use the running application simultaneously. However, this may be a practical feature that Apple may want to offer in the future. The ’772 patent will expire on November 8, 2024.
(2) US 6,868,283 – “Technique allowing a status bar user response on a portable device graphic user interface”
The ’283 patent has a similar history at the ’772 patent described above, as it was originally assigned to Palm, Inc. The’283 patent claims an interface with a “status bar changing in response to an incoming call from said wireless telephone circuit” and “enabling a user selectable response to said incoming call independent of the operation of said application, said application and said status bar operating independently.”
The scope of the ’283 patent is similar to that of the ’772 patent, however the ’283 patent claims are limited specifically to the display of an incoming phone call, and are not as broad as the ’772 patent claims. The ’283 patent will expire on June 8, 2022.
(3) US 7,020,849 – “Dynamic display for communication devices”
The ’849 patent was originally assigned to Openwave Systems, Inc., which was once a developer of software for mobile email and multimedia messaging technology. The patent was transferred to Purple Labs SA in 2008, as part of Purple Labs’ acquisition of Openwave’s mobile phone software business, and subsequently transferred to Myriad France SAS when it acquired Purple Labs. Google acquired the ’849 patent in 2010, and approximately one year later, the ’849 patent was assigned to HTC by Google.
The ’849 patent is directed to, as its title suggest, a dynamic interface where objects are selectively placed on a screen, instead of static area where certain objects are always displayed. The ’849 patent claims, for example, “logically dividing said display into first and second display-portions when said determining determines to display said first data”, and also determining whether soft keys or content should be displayed in particular portions of the screen.
In a practical application, the ’849 patent covers the ability of a mobile interface to optimally display objects and data on a small mobile interface. As far as how Apple and others may be affected, this patent may limit the ability to have a dynamic touch-screen keyboard and a content portion, both of which change orientation, size, and placement as the mobile device is manipulated. The ’849 patent will expire on January 18, 2024.
(4) US 6,708,214 – “Hypermedia identifier input mode for a mobile communication device”
The ’214 patent has a similar history as the ’849 patent above, as it was originally assigned to Openwave Systems, Inc.
The ’214 patent is directed to a mobile interface that allows users “to more easily input hypermedia identifiers, such as Uniform Resource Locators”. The ’214 patent claims a mobile interface that displays a “hypermedia identifier input mode, separate from the number input mode and the alphabetic input mode, in which the user is enabled to input a hypermedia identifier using the set of input keys.” A screenshot of an embodiment of the invention is shown below in Figure 5:
This patent covers quick keys that allow a user to enter the text, for example, “http://” or “.com” with a single touch or selection. As far as how Apple and other may be affected, this patent may limit the ability to display a quick key menu as shown in Figure 5 of the ’214 patent. However, Apple already appears to be using similar technology in its iOS, as shown below. The ’214 patent will expire on April 21, 2020.
(5) US 6,473,006 – “Method and apparatus for zoomed display of characters entered from a telephone keypad”
The ’006 patent was also originally assigned to Phone.com, Inc., which later become Openwave Systems, Inc., and it has a similar history as the ’849 patent above.
The ’006 patent is directed to enlarging characters on a screen to provide visual feedback so that the user can discern and distinguish the enlarged portion from other text on the screen.
The ’006 patent appears fairly broad, and it claims displaying “characters in a highlighting window, thereby causing each of said characters to be displayed in a contrasting format from previously entered data that is displayed, the contrasting format at least comprising an enlargement of the character or characters.” A screenshot of an embodiment of the invention is shown below in Figure 3B:
As far as Apple and other may be affected, this patent may cover the general ability to highlight and enlarge portions of text on a mobile screen. For example, Apple’s iOS already allows zooming of selected text, as shown below. The ’006 patent will expire on December 11, 2015.
(6) US 5,630,152 – “Communication protocol between master and slave device with register information sharing”
The ’152 patent was originally assigned to Motorola, Inc., and subsequently acquired by Google during its acquisition of Motorola Mobility, Inc. In 2011, along with the other nine patents analyzed here, Google assigned the ’152 patent to HTC.
The ’152 patent is direct to a rapid method of data transferring between a slave device and a master device. The patent relates to communication of data between components within a computing device, such as a smartphone or a tablet. The patent has a high number of forward citations (38).
Without understanding how Apple and others currently handle internal signal processing, it is difficult to understand how the ’152 patent will affect HTC’s competitors. The ’152 patent will expire on May 13, 2014.
(7) US 5,630,159 – “Method and apparatus for personal attribute selection having delay management method and apparatus for preference establishment when preferences in a donor device are unavailable”
The ’159 patent was originally assigned to Motorola, Inc., and was acquired by Tudor Empire, LLC. Tudor Empire owned patents related to browser technologies, and was once owned by patent holding company Allied Security Trust. Google acquired the ’159 patent from Tudor Empire in 2010, and subsequently sold assigned the patent to HTC less than a year later.
The ’159 patent is directed to remote software installations and upgrades, where a remote controller accesses preferences stored on a user’s device during an installation or upgrade. If the user preferences are not available, the remote controller utilizes default preferences. The ’159 patent also has a high number of forward citations (33)
The ’159 patent may affect Apple and others ability to provide customized software and application settings during installations and upgrades. Such technology appears to be used currently by iTunes and the Android Marketplace. For example, when either of those applications are updated, the new versions typically include the previous settings, such as search history, previously downloaded content, user settings, playlists, etc. The ’159 patent will expire on December 29, 2014.
(8) US 5,418,524 – “Method and apparatus for over-the-air upgrading of radio modem application software”
The ’524 patent was also originally assigned to Motorola, Inc., and was subsequently acquired by Google during its acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Google assigned the ’152 patent to HTC in 2011.
The ’524 patent is directed to over-the-air application upgrades using a radio modem. The claims of the ’524 patent are fairly broad, as shown by Claim 1 below:
“(a) receiving upgrade information comprising upgrade installation software and upgrade data;
(b) loading the upgrade installation software into the processor;
(c) upgrading the application software in accordance with the upgrade installation software and in response to the upgrade data; and
(d) deleting the upgrade installation software and the upgrade data.”
This patent appears to generally cover upgrading a software application using a smartphone, tablet, or other portable device, using wireless or cellular communications. The ’524 patent also has a high number of forward citations (42).
The ’524 patent expired on July 31, 2012, however, HTC may be able to enforce its patent rights for past infringement that occurred prior to expiration, up to six years prior to the filing of a complaint. Apple and others who offer over-the-air upgrades may be at risk for past damages.
(9) US 5,302,947 – “Method and apparatus for loading a software program from a radio modem into an external computer”
The ’947 was also originally assigned to Motorola, Inc., and was subsequently acquired by Google during its acquisition of Motorola Mobility. Google assigned the ’152 patent to HTC in 2011.
The ’947 patent is similar in scope to the ’524 patent, and is directed to updating software drivers from a remote location, and it has 57 forward citations.
The ’947 patent also expired on July 31, 2012, but with the ’524 patent. Apple and others may be at risk for past damages since if they offer software driver updates via mobile application.