HTC One X and EVO 4G LTE Delayed at Customs over Potentially Infringing Apple Patent

16 May 2012, 6:09 pm EDT By Alexandra Burlacu Mobile & Apps

The HTC One X and HTC EVO 4G LTE have become the first devices to face an import delay at U.S. Customs, over claims of infringing an Apple patent. As the agency investigates patent issues with the Cupertino, California-based tech giant, the two HTC flagship phones are indefinitely delayed at Customs. The HTC One X is also out of stock at AT&T's online store and most AT&T retail stores, and most of them had little or no information on when they would receive more units.

ITC Exclusion Order

Last December, Apple won an International Trade Commission (ITC) wide-ranging exclusion order banning the importation of HTC Android phones. The ITC, a federal agency with the power to enforce bans on products shipping to the United States, found that HTC's Android messaging app and browser infringed upon Apple's patent for data detection. Apple's patent #5,946,647 covers the process allowing a mobile device to recognize email addresses, phone numbers, and addresses in texts and automatically convert them into actionable links, moving them to a calendar, dialer or mapping application.

The ITC ruled that it would impose an import ban on some of HTC's products if the feature was not removed by April 19, 2012. HTC claimed the issue was a "small UI experience" and it would remove the feature from all of its Android devices. The ban went into effect on April 19, and Customs is now reviewing the new HTC One X and HTC EVO 4G LTE.

Extensive Ban

The ITC exclusion order was issued before HTC even announced the One X at Mobile World Congress (MWC), but the ITC broadly banned the importation of HTC "personal data and mobile communications devices" that infringe on Apple's '647 patent, as The Verge points out. There are no formal rules on how exclusion orders are enforced or interpreted, therefore Customs and Borders Protection, the authority in charge of executing the order, has great freedom in handling things. Customs delivered the final enforcement instructions to its officers, but such information is classified and not even Freedom of Information Act requests can get access to them, adds The Verge. Meanwhile, HTC has its hands tied as it waits for Customs to finish reviewing the devices and issue a decision.

HTC Working Closely with the ITC to Get Approval

"The US availability of the HTC One X and HTC EVO 4G LTE has been delayed due to a standard U.S. Customs review of shipment that is required after an ITC exclusion order," HTC said in a statement to The Inquirer. "We believe we are in compliance with the ruling and HTC is working closely with Customs to secure approval. The HTC One X and HTC Evo 4G LTE have been received enthusiastically by customers and we appreciate their patience as we work to get these products into their hands as soon as possible."

HTC Shares Decline

HTC shares dropped more than six percent after word got out that shipments of the phones are indefinitely delayed at Customs. According to analysts, the delay in the shipment of the HTC One X and HTC EVO 4G LTE was a setback for HTC and was likely to hurt sales in one of its key markets. Meanwhile, the competition would also gain more ground.

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