Apple Has Lost Its Way in HTC/Google Patent Lawsuit

07/20/2011 11:00 am ET | Updated Sep 19, 2011

I recently have been reading the plethora of snazzy articles being written by tech journalists about the impending doom of HTC/Google due to the judge's ruling on the two patents. The lack of substance in the articles and in-depth review of what is really going on here has spurred me to write this blog.

First, I will predict that HTC and Google will emerge from this as the victors against Apple. How can I be so confident? The patents granted to Apple, 5,946,647 and 6,343,263, would basically give Apple claim to how every browser/computer works today on the Internet.

In particular, everyone is talking about the alleged infringement on patent 5,946,647 and, even more specifically, claims 1, 8, 15 and 19. These claims are basically about how a computer can recognize "important" data in any data set.

What does this patent mean? If you are looking at a webpage and there is a phone number, an email address or a link to another page, the computer can recognize those pieces of data and make something "special" happen (i.e., call the phone number, email the person or -- don't hold your breath -- link to another webpage!).

Now, you may wonder, how can this be? How could Apple be awarded this patent in 1996 when the Internet had been doing such things for almost a decade before? And why would Apple be flexing this muscle now against lowly HTC and not pursue every Internet-based company for the last decade?

Well the answers are that 1) the patent system has awarded patents for years for obvious inventions in software that the patent office themselves did not understand, and 2) Apple is resorting to this now because they see themselves at 27-percent market share and Android at 38 percent. Don't believe me? Look at Nielsen.

I definitely believe that individuals and companies should be rewarded when they innovate, and patents are the way of protecting those innovations. However, if the future is full of litigation by the second largest company in the world (yes, Apple, measured by market capitalization) because they are losing in a market that they created, then all they are doing is stopping innovation and competition. In the end, it's the consumer who will lose.

Patent 5,946,647

Just for your reading pleasure I have included claims 1, 8, 15 and 19. You can make your own judgment.

1. A computer-based system for detecting structures in data and performing actions on detected structures, comprising:

  • an input device for receiving data;

  • an output device for presenting the data;
  • a memory storing information including program routines including
    • an analyzer server for detecting structures in the data, and for linking actions to the detected structures;

  • a user interface enabling the selection of a detected structure and a linked action; and
  • an action processor for performing the selected action linked to the selected structure; and
  • a processing unit coupled to the input device, the output device, and the memory for controlling the execution of the program routines.
  • 8. The system recited in claim 1, wherein the user interface highlights detected structures.

    15. In a computer having a memory storing actions, a method for causing the computer to perform an action on a structure identified in computer data, comprising the steps of:

    • receiving computer data;

  • detecting a structure in the data;
  • linking at least one action to the detected structure;
  • enabling selection of the structure and a linked action; and
  • executing the selected action linked to the selected structure.
  • 19. The method recited in claim 15, wherein the memory contains strings, and wherein the step of detecting a structure further comprises the steps of retrieving a string from the memory and scanning the data to identify the string.

    Patent 6,343,263

    In case you were wondering, patent 6,343,263 is so general and broad that I think it includes faxes, wireless phones and even Internet-connected refrigerators.

    Alleged violating claims:

    1. A signal processing system for providing a plurality of realtime services to and from a number of independent client applications and devices, said system comprising:

    • a subsystem comprising a host central processing unit (CPU) operating in accordance with at least one application program and a device handler program, said subsystem further comprising an adapter subsystem interoperating with said host CPU and said device;

  • a realtime signal processing subsystem for performing a plurality of data transforms comprising a plurality of realtime signal processing operations; and
  • at least one realtime application program interface (API) coupled between the subsystem and the realtime signal processing subsystem to allow the subsystem to interoperate with said realtime services.
  • 2. The signal processing system as set forth in claim 1, wherein said signal processing system receives and transmits a plurality of datatypes over a plurality of different wide area networks (WANs).

    24. The signal processing system of claim 1, wherein said realtime signal processing subsystem comprises:

    • a realtime processor including an operating system for executing a plurality of realtime functions;

  • a realtime communications module which is independent of said realtime processor and is coupled to receive a plurality of communications commands from said application programs via said device handler program and said realtime API, said realtime communications module operating in response to said communications commands to issue a plurality of requests for realtime services to said realtime processor; and
  • a translation interface program which is specific to said realtime processor and is coupled to receive said requests for realtime services from said communications module and provide said requests to said realtime processor.
  • 29. The signal processing system of claim 24, wherein said realtime processor is embodied in a hardware device and includes realtime function libraries that are embodied in programmable software.