HTC Getting Desperate?

HTC has countersued Apple over cellphone patents claiming Apple infringes on several patents, including some it managed to acquire from a known patent troll. But a quick look at the documents reveals just how lame the substance of this suit is.

There are five patents involved.

The first patent mentioned (as well as the last, 7716505, which is not yet up on Google) — the only patents HTC created itself — deals with power management in smart phones, specifically HTC claims to have invented some clever new way to manage the power of the “phone” part separately from the power of the “smart” part. My guess is that this is all bleeding obvious and Apple has prior art up the wazoo (as do lots of other companies). Simply from the patent itself they don’t seem to be doing anything more sophisticated or different from what any halfway decent laptop manufacturer does when deciding whether to dim a screen, spin down a hard disk, or put the system to sleep.

The other three patents (5541988, 6058183, and 6320957) all have to do with representing a user telephone directory in a convenient form and allowing people to dial by clicking on things. HTC even claims Apple is forcing third parties to infringe on the patent with its human interface guidelines. Not only is all this stuff bleeding obvious — we’re basically talking about someone trying to patent the idea of a database, but only if it consists of phone book entries — but the earliest of the three patents was issued in 1996, several years after Apple shipped several products with non-trivial telephony support (i.e. the Newton, which had a dynamic phone directory and a tone dialer built in; and the AV Macs, which could function as PABXs and fax machines via the GeoPort). How do you think Apple displayed user phone directories and let people dial numbers? Also bear in mind that PIMs (such as ACT! and Now Contact!) were one of the hot product categories in the early 90s, and the idea that this patent added anything none of these other (shipping) products thought of is pretty far-fetched.

It seems to me that the Patent Office ought to be able to fine people for wasting its time.