Via Engadget I found some very depressing news, The International Trade Commission sided with Apple in a recent patent dispute case. This means that several phones manufactured by HTC are no longer legal to import into the United States:
So what Apple has won is a formal import ban scheduled to commence on April 19, 2012, but relating only to HTC Android phones implementing one of two claims of a “data tapping patent”: a patent on an invention that marks up phone numbers and other types of formatted data in an unstructured document, such as an email, in order to enable users to bring up other programs (such as a dialer app) that process such data. The import ban won’t relate to HTC Android products that don’t implement that feature, or that implement it in ways not covered by those patent claims.
I’m not sure what HTC phones this will affect, but I know this patent describes behavior found in my Evo 4G. Regardless of what phones this affects one thing is for certain, this ruling perfectly demonstrations how businesses use the government to force competition out of their market.
While many HTC fans have been quick to jump on Apple as the culprit here I disagree. Apple simply used tools made available to cause problems for a competitor. The real culprit here is the International Trade Commission (ITC) who hold a monopoly on making such rulings and have the ability to initiate violence in order to enforce the decision. Were it not for these two things the matter would be entirely between Apple and HTC. Unfortunately our federal government maintains monopoly power over what can and can’t be imported into this country so this matter is now between Apple, HTC, and consumers who wish to purchase HTC phones. What should have been a ruling consisting entirely of monetary compensation has turned into a series of devices being added to the verboten list.
Another problem that has lead to this ruling are software patents. Software patents are one of the dumbest ideas our government has ever decided to allow. I’m not sure how algorithms are treated the same as physical inventions but alas I didn’t make the stupid laws. All I know is when a product can be banned from importation because of the way an application link is formatted that something is horribly wrong with our legal system.