Apple Delivers a Legal Blow to Android. Can It Recover?

I was always under the impression that lawsuits only had one winner, but then again I'm no lawyer.

Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) has been suing Google (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) Android players left and right, up and down, and generally anywhere you can think of. While the biggest commotion is with frenemy Samsung, since the South Korean gadget maker's devices physically copy Apple's designs, the Mac maker has also sued HTC and Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI  ) , among others, over Android-related patent infringement.

Well, the U.S. International Trade Commission has now mostly sided with Apple in its ongoing legal battle with Android vendor HTC and has ordered an import ban on the Taiwanese smartphone vendor, covering devices that infringe on Apple patents. The ban will become effective on April 19. Meanwhile, HTC said, "This decision is a win for HTC."

Come again? A ban on HTC products is a win for HTC?

The reason HTC is so enthused about the decision is that while the ITC ruled that HTC infringed on some of Apple's patents, it did not infringe on others, partially reversing a previous ITC judge's ruling. The injunction covers devices that infringe on two of Apple's patents related to "data tapping," where tapping phone numbers, addresses, and other types of data become actionable links. For most smartphone users, this simple functionality is a requisite mainstay of any touchscreen device.

Apple's victory gives it some ammo to lob in the general direction of other Android players, but the injunction is actually easily avoidable. HTC said the patent in question "is a small UI experience, and HTC will completely remove it from all of our phones soon." On top of that, Google can simply implement the feature in a different way that doesn't infringe on Apple's specific methodology, push out a software update, and go about its business, since then the import ban would be meaningless.

In the boxing match of iOS vs. Android, this is more like iOS landing a well-placed jab as opposed to a knockout uppercut. On the surface, it seems like a big win, but its ultimate effectiveness is dubious, and the Android army will regroup and recover without missing a beat.

What's next
The steady stream of lawsuits between players in the mobile arena shows how high the stakes are to win the mobile batter. This area is poised to undergo incredible growth over the next decade and beyond, and investors need to know which stocks will fare the best. Fortunately, The Motley Fool recently compiled a research report detailing 3 Hidden Winners of the iPhone, iPad, and Android Revolution, and made it totally free to our readers. The mobile boom, much like the Internet revolution before it, will usher in an entirely new set of big-time winners. I invite you to grab your free copy of this report today.

Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Check out his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Apple and Google and creating a bull call spread position in Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.


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