Apple scored an incredibly narrow victory over HTC in the ongoing smart phone patent wars yesterday, though you wouldn't know it from some of the more overblown coverage. A ruling from the U.S. International Trade Commission will bar the import of future HTC phones that violate a piece of a patent Apple owns about converting a phone number into a variety of actions - that little menu that comes up with choices like call, text, add to contacts. Three other patent claims were rejected.
Sometimes lost in the fact that hundreds of thousands of patents have been issued which are possibly related to smart phones is the incredible narrowness of many of the filings. Sounds like Apple's victory here will be rendered irrelevant by a minor software change.
HTC just revised its statement on the case, saying that Apple's patent covers only a "small UI experience" and saying it will be completely removed from HTC phones "soon." We'll see how quickly that happens; any changes would have to first be deemed compatible with Android by Google and then approved and pushed to customers by HTC's carrier partners.
-The Verge, December 19, 2011
And that's without even getting into the fact that this is just the kind of software implementation of an obvious feature that should not be patentable in the first place.