In handing down a massive defeat to Apple in a watershed patent tussle, British Judge Christopher Floyd ruled that HTC’s devices don’t infringe the four patents charged by the Cupertino-based iDevice vendor. The judge found in fact that three of the four patents are actually invalid. This is a huge blow to Apple, which had seen some temporary judgments go its way in other jurisdictions on its patent claims.
Besides the ludicrous “slide to unlock” farce, today’s verdict also affected Apple’s patents for scrolling through images, character set selection, and multi-touch capability. These patents were arguably Apple’s most potentially-damaging weapons in the global IP wars the company started with Android, and by invalidating them, the British court has effectively gutted the iPhone maker’s campaign to litigate its competitors out of the UK market.
Ruling that it found Apple’s photo-management patent to be valid, the Judge nevertheless found that HTC didn’t infringe it. It’s been a long time coming but finally a court has shown more deference to common sense and the rule of law, than to the financial might of Apple and its escalating economic and political implications for a particular jurisdiction.
The significance of this loss to HTC in the UK shouldn’t be understated – Apple cannot now shift its attention to Google, or to its arch enemy Samsung, to make up for the bloody nose it has received; invalidation means that the British legal system will never again recognize Apple’s right to file any action on the basis of those particular patents. And given how the company brazenly sought the patents knowing that they were never entitled to them, Apple’s business ethics must certainly be in question despite its protestations of merely protecting their intellectual property.
In what is a breathtaking example of its utter hubris, an Apple spokesperson stated… “Competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours” – this particularly in light of the fact that the patents were deemed invalid because the tech giant was found to have “appropriated” IP that clearly wasn’t theirs to patent.
An HTC spokesdroid was moved to declare… “we remain disappointed that Apple continues to favor competition in the courtroom over competition in the marketplace,” something that seems to be evident to most, yet manages to elude jurists in various other parts of the world. Those very same patents are in fact about to be fought over by Apple and HTC in Germany.
One can only hope that the courts there have taken notice of Britain’s stance and may be questioning to themselves whether there’s something to be learned from that action. It seems inevitable however that Apple will challenge the verdict. It's increasingly what they do best.