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Wednesday, June 06, 2012, 09:04 am PT (12:04 pm ET)

Apple files third ITC complaint against HTC targeting 29 new phones

Apple has filed its third patent infringement complaint in as many years with the U.S. International Trade Commission against rival smartphone maker HTC.

The complaint was filed on Monday against HTC's latest devices, which Apple has alleged infringe on its "data tapping" patent, according to intellectual property litigation expert Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents. The latest complaint seeks an emergency proceeding targeting a total of 29 devices for allegedly infringing on Apple's data detectors patent.

That invention, U.S. Patent No. 5,946,647, previously resulted in an ITC injunction against HTC Android phones in December. The handset maker quickly developed what it said was a workaround to avoid infringement, but the importation of smartphones was still held up at U.S. Customs for review.

Now, Apple has argued that HTC is still infringing upon the '647 patent, entitled "System and Method for Performing an Action on a Structure Computer-Generated Data." The invention outlines technology for automated detection of data such as phone numbers, e-mail addresses and hyperlinks.

Apple's Advanced Technology Group invented "data detectors" in the mid-1990s. The feature fist appeared in the Mac operating system, and allowed the OS to recognized formatted data, like a phone number, within an unstructured document, enabling a user to take action upon the data recognized.



Apple has asked the ITC for an emergency proceeding and enforcement action that would prevent what it believes is further infringement from devices like the HTC One X, Sensation 4G, Evo 4G LTE and Incredible 2.

Apple's complaint also includes two screenshots from HTC's handsets as evidence that the company has not ceased infringement of the '647 patent. They show an HTC One S presenting a user with the options to open a link in a browser, copy the URL, share the link, or send it to Facebook.

Mueller noted that Apple's patented invention relates to certain operations on data structures rather than just a user interface element.

"In other words, there can be a genuine dispute over whether HTC's new implementation of the feature still falls within the scope of the patent," he wrote. "HTC apparently believes that it doesn't, while Apple believes that it does. The ITC will now have to evaluate the technology found in HTC's current products."

Late last month, HTC handsets that were held up at U.S. Customs began trickling in to the U.S. for customers to purchase. HTC said in an announcement that "some models" of its smartphones began arriving in America, but declined to say which models had passed inspection.