Good and EVO

How HTC has side-stepped Apple’s patent in the HTC EVO 4G LTE

Apple-patent

The delay of the HTC EVO 4G LTE is due to one, single, tiny patent held by Apple: #5,946,647. According to Google's patent database, this particular patent was filed all the way back in 1996, and the full text is as follows:

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.

Apple claims that since HTC's and Android's messaging and email apps recognize information such as phone numbers, web links, and addresses, and since a user is presented with a list of possible applications that can handle that information when selected, HTC is therefore in violation of this patent.

On the other hand, HTC claims that this is already fixed in a custom user interface that it designed specifically for the EVO 4G LTE and the US version of the HTC One X. But what exactly did HTC do to fix this?

It's quite simple, really. Instead of stripping functionality from the stock messaging and email apps, HTC decided to create a new option in the Settings menu: we now have an App associations option.

App-associations

When selected, this opens a list of various activities that the phone can handle, along with the apps that will deal with them. For example, I have Chrome beta set up to handle all URLs.

App-associations-2

This is really a simple solution, and I actually prefer this method over the old one. Previously, if I wanted to change an app association, I'd have to go into my app settings, find the app in question, and clear all of its defaults. Now, I have everything in one place, which makes customization much easier in the long run.

I'm confident that it's only a matter of time before the silliness of this "infringement" is realized by either US Customs or a court. So sit tight; your shiny new EVOs will be here before you know it.

[The Verge | Google Patents]
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John F

John was the editor-in-chief at Pocketables. His articles generally focus on all things Google, including Chrome and Android, although his love of new gadgets and technology doesn't stop there. His current arsenal includes the Nexus 6 by Motorola, the 2013 Nexus 7 by ASUS, the Nexus 9 by HTC, the LG G Watch, and the Chromebook Pixel, among others.

Avatar of John F

58 thoughts on “How HTC has side-stepped Apple’s patent in the HTC EVO 4G LTE

  • How is this different than what Android has already been doing for 2 years? I don’t understand. I downloaded an extra browser, and anytime I click on a link, that thing pops up asking which browser I want to open the link in. However, it has an option to choose to use that program as the default program from now on (and I can go into manager applications and wipe the defaults for those apps, as stated in the article). So, if it has already been doing that, and there have already been hundreds of phones using Android, what makes these HTC phones unique that they are even in question of violating this patent, when none of the other Android phones are?

    Reply
  • Oh, is it the Apps association menu in settings that is new to these phones that Apple is fighting against, since it is similar to the settings menu that is in iOS?

    Reply
  • Avatar of Carl Depeine

    Because of the stupid delay, Radioshack will offer an additional $25 off the upgrade price of the EVO, only if you preordered through them.

    Reply
  • Not to play devil’s advocate at all, but I really don’t understand how this satisfies the patent argument. This is still turning a number into a hyperlink to execute a function. I don’t understand how putting a ‘bridge’ such as choosing which app executes the hyperlink trumps the patent fringe. Kinda like when a teacher would tell a kid to sit down in and they sit in the floor and say “I am sitting down”. And the teacher replies, “I meant in your seat”. HTC is the kid- “I did fix it”. No, not technically. Am I wrong? This could be stetched out to where the devices cannot be delivered until this link function is completely 100% removed from the device’s software. Just my thoughts.

    Reply
  • No, I think the problem is that it offers you a pop-up choice initially (or if you don’t select a default). Them taking out the pop-up choice and putting it in the settings gets around the patent.

    Reply
  • The real question is how can there even be a patent for this which is simple functionality.

    I can imagine it now… Ford files suit against Chevy for having the gas pedal on the same side as they do.

    Either way I thought Palm had the patent for things like this. My Palm Treos were doing this since the early 2000’s.

    Reply
  • Release my phone NOW,Damit!

    Reply
  • Yes, I agree. But if that were the case, then no Android phone that currently exists should have been allowed to exist. Because Android has already been doing this for years.

    Reply
  • If HTC already had a work around… then why were these phones stopped in the first place. Why only these two phones and why wasn’t the One X stopped right out of the gate instead of just this latest shipment and what about the One S is this being stopped as well?

    Reply
  • But Android has already been adding the popup choice for years. Do you get what I’m saying? If that is the problem, then no android phone should have been able to be sold in the US. They all do that.

    Reply
  • They are fighting what android has done all along. They just decided this phone was a big enough threat to push the issue. The app association was supposed to be a side step to this specific feature, because you aren’t asked within the browser.

    Reply
  • Avatar of luis berrios

    Because apple is afraid of the evo 4g lte. They know it will run them down and their precious iPhone 4s sales will plummet to the ground because it is true this has been going on for years now and suddenly when the evo 4g lte hits they sh!t their pants. Sorry G&E for the language at the end.

    Reply
  • Seems to me this is exactly the same thing every PC operating system handles this and has for years, maybe decades. This kind of patent argument is really crazy in that light.

    I remember back in the 80’s Apple sued MS over some functionality in Windows they claimed was stolen from Apple’s OS. Funny thing was it turned out Apple had copied it from stuff created at Bell Labs back in the 70’s. Eventually got laughed out of court.

    The problem now is the Patent Office is allowing this idiot patents and the courts aren’t laughing at the clowns who get them. Only gonna get worse I’m afraid.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Captain Stormy

    That’s the issue with software patents. I work as a computer programmer and I think that software patents are vastly broken.

    I’m not saying that you shouldn’t be able to patent software, but what I am saying is that you shouldn’t be able to patent such simple things.

    Some of the old tech companies like Microsoft, Apple, Xerox, IBM, etc etc hold patents for such stupid simple things like clicking a button to close a program or using a cascading menu to present options.

    These things were ground breaking at some point, but so many years later its just what people expect. Lawsuits over this sort of a software patent would be like McDonald’s (or whoever invented the drive thru) suing Burger King over the use of a drive thru window.

    I think the best/real solution is to vastly shorten software patents. Is a 16 year old software patent still that important today? I would say the answer is basically always no.

    Reply
  • like someone said above apple is now pushing the issue because these phones are real contenders.

    Reply
  • Avatar of Captain Stormy

    I forgot to add, typically in software patents companies usually (in the past anyway) would let things slide because they wanted to do things that might violate patents that they didn’t hold as well.

    Its become popular over the past few years to try and compete in the court rooms instead of at the retail stores though. Especially for apple.

    Reply
  • Avatar of goober 2step

    you’re joking right?

    Reply
  • I am so angry with Apple about this BS. I have been a supporter of Apple, with multiple Macbook Pro machines, upgrading every 2-3 years. Now they are going to be ridiculous about this and keep us from getting our product from a different vendor. The patent is absurd in the first place, so generic I can’t believe it was even granted in the first place.

    Reply
  • Look, I love android, I push it on all my friends but the truth is people who buy iphones don’t know anything about tech. they buy iphones because they are sold on the pr-emus that they are simple and easy to use. Androids will almost always have better hardware because you have many company’s with fast update times, its a given. You will be hard pressed to see an iphone user switch. What you will see is new smartphone users picking android because its full of choices. My favorite thing about android is being able to put stuff on my phone without *$#&ing syncing it. plug and play baby. apple is still using palm technology from the 90s. have fun with that isheep. what Im ultimately saying is iphone users don’t know any better. And for the ones who do but want to be truly different from Microsoft there is a thing called Ubuntu linux not Apple.

    Reply
  • Avatar of goober 2step

    yeah great hardware with an operating system that never gets updated. Where is my ics for my nearly year old evo 3d. At least iphone gets updates across the board while we android users have to beg for ours. What a joke.

    Reply
  • The patent is for how Apple handles the link. Silly as it sounds, if the link activates a process all is good. If clicking the link brings up an options dialog that asks what you want to do (ie, a phone number would ask if you want to call or text) then that is owned by Apple. Make sense? (no pun inended…)

    ScottWo

    Reply
  • Avatar of birddog_61

    Thats not googles fault, ICS has been out for months. If you don’t like that HTC and sprint have yet to push the update through then do what anyone with half a brain does. Root the phone and instal what you want when you want. I have been running ICS for weeks now.

    Reply
  • Avatar of goober 2step

    not a simple one click root is it. Have to go through a fairly lengthy bricking process to get something we already should have had

    Reply
  • The issue with patent disputes is that this case says is specifically does this thing. HTC doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel to be in compliance. By merely adding a bridge, you change the dynamic of the whole thing. Yes its like taking one extra step to do the same thing, but sometimes that’s all you need to be in compliance.

    Reply
  • Logically you’re not wrong, our patent system has little to do with logic tho.

    If MS patented or enforced half the patents they have on this kinda thing withing their OS we’d all still be using DOS because it’d be impossible to build anything new without infringing. Software patents granted over this kind of logical UI behavior are beyond ridiculous.

    Basic text string parsing and data structures are things you learn to do in a first year college programming class… Patenting it is tantamount to patenting algebra or calculus.

    Reply
  • I doubt that’s really the issue, or they would’ve done it last year when they loss market share dominance to Android after the SGS2 and other phones launched. Doing it AFTER the One X was already out in particular is very odd. Chances are Apple put in some kinda request with customs quite while ago and they’re just now getting around to enforcing it.

    Reply
  • You only brick your phone if you a f*cken dumbass!! Quit your nagging, and brick your phone already, you damn noob.

    Reply
  • Once again, I want to jump in to try and clear up some things here. Apple did not hold these phones up. Apple won a lawsuit in December that stated that HTC could not import any phone with the patent infringement on it. It did not give a list of phones, it just said HTC couldn’t import them. This order was then given to U.S. Customs and border patrol to enforce. The decision was then placed on hold until April 19 of this year to give HTC time to work around it. That means that any HTC phone that came in before then was perfectly allowed to use the patent infringement, even though HTC had already placed a work around into their phones. These phones were grabbed because someone at CBP saw a shipment from HTC and remembered the order to bar imports after April 19, so they placed the container or containers on hold until the are satisfied that the order is in fact being followed. Apple did not have a representative at the port screaming at people to stop the phones from arriving. Customs enforcement is not an exact science. It is run by people and some shipments get through, and some don’t. Many times customs grabs random containers to search with absolutely no reason to search them other than just to keep on their toes.

    The point here is unfortunately Apple won the patent infringement case and even though the decision was delayed, it is now in effect and someone at CBP caught this container coming in.

    For the people badmouthing their Android phones and HTC and/or Sprint for whatever reason, you don’t have to own one, please switch to Apple or Windows phones and be happy with them, but please stop whining about every little thing one this site.

    We are all upset by this delay, but coming on an internet site to b*tch and moan is just childish. We will all get these phones after a very short delay, and I am sure those of you complaining will get one too and find some idiotic reason to complain about it as well. But for once, please just keep it to yourself because you are not helping to resolve the matter or even giving valuable information to people who really want or need it.

    Reply
  • They’d either let it slide OR they’d leverage the patents for licensing agreements, MS is making bank off all the licensing agreements they have with every Android OEM. Apple is more litigious (foolish) and would rather fight things in court forever as per Job’s thermonuclear war declaration.

    Dude basically felt betrayed by Schmidt & Google in the same way he thought Gates stabbed him in the back 25 years ago, it’s almost like a Greek tragedy. He basically expected that no one he ever collaborated with would ever dare compete with him. Back then he didn’t have as much clout and Apple eventually fired him, these days his thought process still rules the company.

    I actually expected Tim Cook to back off the legal maneuvers after Job’s passing, it’s a losing strategy in the long run unless you’re seeking licensing fees. Trying to sue your competition out of business over the source of innovation doesn’t work, technically or in the court of public opinion.

    Reply
  • Customs doesn’t have to reveal any details about why/how they’re only inspecting these phones or why now, awesome huh?

    Reply
  • Meh, people have a right to vent, even if it’s ignorant to point the finger at Apple… They did start the whole thing over the patent (frivolous one imo) and the lawsuit, it’s not the first time and it won’t be the last. I’d like to see what happens when this goes down right before a much bigger launch, or even an Apple launch in the US.

    Android manufacturers AND Apple already strip certain functionality from their devices to comply with patents in other countries, this just happens to be the first time it’s happened stateside. It’s happening over much bigger phone features in other countries tho.

    Reply
  • It’s rally simple… The patent states that the front end of your OS is not allowed to reconize and then create a hyperlink for you. HTC’s solution is brilliant… Have the front end of the OS just point to a 2nd party app that will do it. There are apps in Market/Play that ill do this. It appears they probably loaded such an app as bloatware.

    Reply
  • I need a new keyboard (currently bluetooth) for the two mistakes in my post.
    It’s “really” simple… Market/Play that “will” do this…

    Reply
  • You don’t know that Apple had no part in this! You assume that customs is aware of every patent for every device that comes through there! Apple could very well have reported this, flagged the phones and had customs delay them. They may not have had a person waiting there but I bet it was held because of them making a deal out of it.

    Customs can’t be aware of every phone and shipment down to that detail to know what to hold because of a tiny thing like that. At least I cannot see how that is possible.

    This is not a new order handed down from a judge to halt all HTC phones coming in all of a sudden! If that was the case I could see it not being Apple but in this case customs had to be clued in.

    IMHO this is Apple being nit picky and childish. That patent is a hyperlink! My Treo could do that, Windows has done that for years and years. How is clicking on something and having the OS ask what to launch new? PLEASE! Apple ripped off a lot of its UI from others. Sheesh!
    —————-

    Chris said… “These phones were grabbed because someone at CBP saw a shipment from HTC and remembered the order to bar imports after April 19, so they placed the container or containers on hold until the are satisfied that the order is in fact being followed. Apple did not have a representative at the port screaming at people to stop the phones from arriving.”

    Reply
  • Avatar of goober 2step

    I am hurt by your negative words. Please stop.

    Reply
  • Avatar of goober 2step

    and grab me a burger on your way out of work

    Reply
  • Avatar of birddog_61

    If you don’t want to temp brick your phone(which is very easy to do and has a live cd that does almost all the work for you) then you can always unlock via HTC method.

    Reply
  • @Paladin,

    As I stated yesterday, I work with imports, and because of that I deal with Customs on a regular basis. Customs has specific orders for certain cargo that can not be admitted into the country for multiple reasons. I never made any claims that customs knows every patent out there, but I did say that they aren’t an exact science and that some shipments get through (that maybe shouldn’t) and some get seized (that shouldn’t as well)

    The order on HTC phones was part of the case that Apple won in December of 2011, don’t believe me, look it up. Also, that decision was delayed by the judge and did not take effect until April 19th, so yes, this is a new order handed down by a judge to halt all HTC phones for this exact tiny thing.

    Customs happened to be paying attention this time for whatever reason, but assuming that Apple called or didn’t call is irrelevant. The phones are on hold for a short time, yes Apple is bullying the competition in court rather than the market place, and yes this issue will be worked out.

    As a matter of fact a settlement hearing was just set for August 28 2012 to settle the patent issues that are between HTC and Apple.

    Reply
  • Apple should change their add campaign.
    On off switch? We have a patent for that

    Reply
  • Avatar of PookiePrancer

    I think the critical difference is here:

    ” upon selection of a detected structure, present the linked candidate actions.”

    HTC’s solution doesn’t present linked candidate actions (a menu of possible actions). When you tap a phone number, the app you specified in app associations immediately handles the selected data. I love this solution. When I tap a phone number, I want to make a call (duh)! When I tap an address, I want to go straight to the map. I don’t want to put the damn data in my clipboard; I don’t want to add it to my address book (I’ll copy and paste it if I want to do that).

    Reply
  • To try to answer a couple questions and bring up a few, I post the following.
    First off, and correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the ONE series is the first new HTC line to be imported since the April 19th effective date?
    That part about it just now being handed down isn’t entirely true though. The delay between the Dec. decision and April enforcement was to give time to HTC to develop a solution to the “infringement”.
    As to why JUST THESE DEVICES?? Well, if you research a little you’ll find that Apple has it’s eye on Samsung next. My thoughts… Google itself is too big to bully so Apple can’t take on Android directly. So, it’s going after the Android users one group at a time. First HTC, then Samsung, then Motorola.
    Now here is my big question….. HTC new that with the April 19th effective date the ONE series would be held at Customs as maditory procedures where going to happen. HTC admited they new it would happen. SO…. why didn’t they send the shipments earlier to possibly make the release dates, or tell Sprint to go with a later release date???
    Why did I only mentions Sprint’s release date and not AT&T? Well that leads to the question I would really like answered. HOW DID AT&T GET THE FIRST RUN OF ONE X PHONES?? SPRINT CLAIMS THAT “PICK AND PACK” IS DONE FOR PRE-ORDERS (which is why you can’t cancel) SO WHERE DID THOSE COME FROM?? Why weren’t the first runs held up in customs???

    Reply
  • Apple is composed of a bunch of Whiny/Lawsuit driven Asses.
    Apple won’t rest until Everyone is Assimilated.
    Resistance IS Futile.
    We ARE Apple.
    YOU Will ALL be Apple.

    Hey Apple, here’s a BIG middle finger to ya.
    I DON’T purchase HP Products, and I sure as Heck DON’T purchase any apple products.

    Reply
  • Avatar of goober 2step

    I purchase a lot of apple products and will continue to do so. But i also choose to purchase android phones for myself also. The main advantage they have is a larger screen. Once apple decides to go to a larger display android phones will lose this advantage also.

    Reply
  • Avatar of goober 2step

    too many alsos also

    Reply
  • …and then Apple will market the hell out of it and act like they invented the 4-inch screen (of course touting that it’s made out of magical unicorn glass and Steve’s love).

    Then they’ll dupe the USPTO into giving them a patent for it.

    Sorry, couldn’t resist.

    Reply
  • Another option is to get a pure google phone. The Samsung Nexus, for example. Those get the updates much earlier, because they don’t have to have a 3rd party company (like HTC) customize it to their special version of Android.

    Reply
  • we are getting it in June. and personally i like gingerbread just fine even if we never got an update. Its not a perfect world.

    Reply
  • Avatar of markbo2000

    It is because their hardware is basically the same across the board. They don’t have many different hardware manufacturers that have conformity issues. Not nearly apples to apples…..pun intended. I have a Xoom nearly 2 years old with no ICS, stop your crying…..

    Reply
  • Avatar of goober 2step

    Lets not speak badly of the father of the modern smartphone. Without him we’d have none of what we have today.

    Reply
  • OMG u gotta be kidding the thief of all thiefs…LMFAO!

    Reply
  • Oh jeeze…..
    Hook, line and sinker.
    The Assimilation has begun.
    We are Apple.
    You Will be Assimilated.
    Resistance IS Futile.

    Jobs is the father of Nothing, unless he has children.
    He didn’t walk on water.
    Doesn’t walk on water.
    And no one owes him Anything.
    The Lemmings are Alive and Well.
    The Only reason that Apple is successful is because it IS Cult Based.
    Apple relies on the Brainwashing of its customers to believe that Apple is IT.
    Nothing Compares.
    All others are Immitators and Haters.
    Apple could put their trademark on a block of rubber. Tell its customers that it protects it’d iphones from the Evilness of Android, and Sell Millions.
    Apple can put out a device which can’t get a signal, tell it’s customers it doesn’t have a reception problem, then tell it’s customers in order to prevent the reception issue, which doesn’t exist, they have to hold the iPhone a certain way, that you’d have to be double jointed to do so, then they would make a bulky case to remedy the non existent reception/antenna problem, that they would Sell to their customers, whom would my them by the Hundreds of Thousands.
    Oh, wait a minute, that has already occurred.
    The Cult Organization is Alive and Well.
    As a Disclaimer, not All Apple Customers are mesmerized by their products, and swayed by their Cultlike Marketing.
    There are those who are not Cult driven, and can make intelligent decisions regarding their purchases of Apple products, based on Apple products inherent values.

    Reply
  • Correction:
    Sprint committed to purchasing 31 Million iphones, which the Wall Street Journal says comes out to about a $$20 BILLION DOLLAR$$ Commitment over the next 4 years!!!!
    Sprint should be Committed.
    Apple played Sprint like a fiddle.
    Hesse must have gotten a nice Payout, and/or a promise to be on Crapple’s Board of Directors if Sprint should Fail.

    Reply
  • I’d like to see someone patent a locked bootloader then not let anyone use it

    Reply
  • Avatar of goober 2step

    2 groups apple and wannabees

    Reply
  • Avatar of goober 2step

    apple is going to save sprint you will see.

    Reply
  • Avatar of goober 2step

    easily one of the most important people of all time We miss you Stevie!!

    Reply

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