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In the increasingly fierce smartphone patent wars, HTC is an underdog, and now that Apple's successfully won a ban on several HTC phones beginning on April 12, 2012, some wonder if the Chinese company can survive another fight. The International Trade Commission (ITC) handed down the ruling on Monday, stating that HTC must either settle or stop selling its device in the United States due to infringing on Apple's patents. HTC quickly issued a statement ensuring the public that its "designers have created alternate solutions" that would avoid the ban. The court paperwork cites the patents in question, noting the the ban applies specifically to patent #5,946,647. HTC said, "the ‘647 patent is a small UI experience and HTC will completely remove it from all of our phones soon." Fortune explains what the patent actually covers in plain English:

When an iPhone receives a message that contains a phone number or an address -- e-mail, Web or street -- those bits of data are automatically highlighted, underlined and turned into clickable links.

Click on the phone number, and the iPhone asks if you want to dial it. Click on the Web address, and it opens in Safari. Click on the street address, and Maps will display it.

As Gizmodo points out, this particular function could apply to a wide range of HTC phones: " Droid Incredible, Evo 4G, T-Mobile G2, Nexus One and a bunch of older Android devices." But again, as HTC gleefully asserted, all it takes is a quick software update and the infringing problem goes away. However, the fact that Apple successfully won a ruling means that the software war will only continue. Everybody has their own idea of what this patent battle means, but the extent to which this latest case flipped from threat to ban to solution -- a span of a few days -- serves as a fresh reminder that the process is a little silly, if not a total waste of time.

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