The U.S. International Trade Commission has granted an Apple motion to dismiss five patents HTC received from Google last year.
Administrative Judge Thomas Pender ruled Friday that the Taiwan handset maker can’t use the patents, which relate to wireless technology, because HTC lacks the rights to file a lawsuit based on the patents. The patents, which are also part of a second ITC complaint issued by HTC against Apple last September, were leant to HTC last summer in an apparent attempt to beef up Android equipment makers without getting directly involved. HTC also filed a federal lawsuit at the same time, accusing Apple of violating those same patents.
Pender’s decision, which is appealable, leaves only three of the original eight patents in HTC’s second lawsuit against Apple, Foss Patents reports. Last week, Apple filed its third ITC complaint against HTC in the past three years, alleging that HTC is still in violation of the same patents that led to a recent import ban of the HTC One X and Evo 4G LTE.
CNET has contacted Apple and HTC for comment and will update this report when we learn more.
HTC filed the lawsuit last September, citing patents Google bought last year that originally came from Palm, Motorola, and Openwave Systems. Google transferred the patents to HTC on September 1, just days before HTC filing.
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A couple of months after the filing, Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt voiced his support for the company’s Android partners, particularly HTC.
“We tell our partners, including the ones here in Taiwan, we will support them,” Schmidt said at the time. “For example we have been supporting HTC in its dispute with Apple because we think that the Apple thing is not correct.”
Florian Muller, a consultant in intellectual property cases and publisher of the Foss Patents blog site, argues that a lack of commitment on Google’s part led to this Apple victory. If Google had truly transferred the patents’ substantial rights to HTC instead of placing limitations and restrictions on them, Apple’s motion would have failed, Muller wrote.
“The decision is an embarrassment for Google, which waited almost a year and a half after Apple’s first patent lawsuits against HTC before it provided this kind of support to HTC, and then apparently failed to do this the right way,” Muller wrote in a blog post. “Too little, too late.”
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