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Legal news from Tuesday, December 20, 2011




US trade commission rules narrowly for Apple in HTC patent case
Michael Haggerson on December 20, 2011 3:46 PM ET

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[JURIST] The US International Trade Commission (USITC) [official website] ruled [text, PDF] on Monday for Apple [corporate website; Bloomberg backgrounder] on a patent complaint against HTC [corporate website; Bloomberg backgrounder] for infringing its "data tapping" patents. The USITC found that HTC had violated section 337 of the Tarriff Act of 1930 [text, PDF] by infringing on some of the claims of patent nos. 5,946,647, 6,343,263, 5,481,721 and 6,275,983 [texts], all relating to signal processing and the transfer of data across data networks. Despite the victory for Apple, analysts state that this is not a wholesale ban on the importation of HTC Android products [FOSS Patents post]:
[T]his ruling falls far short of anything that would force HTC out of the U.S. market in the near term. Also, out of ten patents originally asserted, Apple finally prevailed on only one. Apple will need a higher "hit rate" in the future, and it will have to enforce patents that are greatly more impactful than this one. Out of ten patents originally asserted, Apple finally managed to enforce one, and it's one of medium value.
To avoid the import ban Google [corporate website; Bloomberg backgrounder], maker of the Android operating system, needs to either remove the feature, which would puts its phones at a competitive disadvantage, or find an alternate way of implementing it. Any HTC Android devices that avoid infringing on Apple's patents will not be subject to the importation ban, which is scheduled to begin April 19, 2012.

In November the USITC found that Apple did not violate [JURIST report] four of HTC's patents. In July USITC ruled that HTC infringed two Apple patents [JURIST report] relating to the Android operating system. This ruling came days after Apple filed a complaint against Samsung [JURIST report] in an effort to bar importation of Samsung's smartphones and tablets. Apple claimed Samsung's "Galaxy" line copies its iPhone and iPad technology. This complaint came just weeks after Samsung filed a similar complaint [JURIST report] seeking to prevent Apple from importing iPads and iPhones. Samsung claimed Apple violated five patents also related to smartphones and tablets. In March 2010, Apple also filed suit against HTC [JURIST report] in the US District Court for the District of Delaware [official website] for 10 patents involving various areas of technology.




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Hungary court strikes down provisions of media law
Michael Haggerson on December 20, 2011 1:47 PM ET

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[JURIST] Hungary's Constitutional Court [official website, in Hungarian] on Monday struck down [press release, in Hungarian] certain provisions of the country's recently passed media law as an unconstitutional restraint on press freedom. Rights groups had urged Hungary to amend [JURIST report] the media law. The media law created the National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH) [official website, in Hungarian], which controls private television and radio broadcasters, newspapers and online news sites. Under the law, the government could impose costly fines on broadcasters, newspapers and news websites if their coverage is deemed unbalanced or immoral by the media authority. The Constitutional Court struck down provisions allowing the NMHH to regulate content in print and online media and limiting the rights of reporters to protect confidential sources. The Constitutional Court, in a separate decision, also struck down [press release, in Hungarian] a law regulating religious organizations [JURIST report]. Critics of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban [official website, in Hungarian] have expressed concern over his apparent attempts to limit check and balances on his power [Reuters report].

In April Hungarian President Pal Schmitt signed into law a controversial new constitution [JURIST report] amid concern from civil society leaders and opposition politicians that the document contravenes European human rights principles. According to Human Rights Watch [advocacy website], the new constitution "enshrines discrimination," and jeopardizes the rights of people with disabilities, women and LGBT people. Changes in the new constitution included a debt ceiling, allowing the Fiscal Council to veto the budget and dissolve parliament for failure to pass an annual budget by the end of March, defining marriage as a union between men and women and stating that the life of a fetus begins at and should be protected from conception. Hungary's parliament passed the new media law last December amid protests and criticism. The law took effect on January 1, 2011, the same day the Hungarian government assumed the presidency of the EU. Despite criticism, the Hungarian government initially defended [JURIST report] the law. Under the new law, the NMHH can fine broadcasters more than 700,000 euros and newspapers and news websites roughly 90,000 euros if their coverage is deemed unbalanced or immoral by the media authority, whose members are all loyal to the ruling Fidesz party [party website, in Hungarian]. The law has been harshly criticized [Daily Mail report] by members of the media, as well as other European governments, as being too restrictive of free expression.




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UN rights chief condemns Egypt military crackdown
Katherine Getty on December 20, 2011 10:32 AM ET

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[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] Navi Pillay [official profile] on Monday condemned the brutal crackdown [press release] on protesters by military and security forces in Cairo. Since Friday the brutal suppression of demonstrations has led to 11 deaths and more than 500 injuries. This is the second time since November that Pillay has condemned the use of excessive violence in Egypt. In November she issued a statement denouncing the deaths of 30 protesters [JURIST report] at the hands of security and military forces. She expressed particularly strong concern over what seems to be a deliberate targeting of peaceful women protesters.
The graphic images of protesters, including women, being brutally clubbed and assaulted, long after the point when they are showing any resistance, are utterly shocking. People lying motionless on the ground are shown on film being smashed on the head and body with sticks. These are life-threatening and inhuman acts that cannot possibly be justified under the guise of restoration of security or crowd control.
Pillay called for an independent and impartial investigation into the violence, citing that whoever has perpetrated these attacks must be brought to justice, no matter their rank or power. She also called for the release of all of the prisoners who have been jailed for exercising their rights. Pillay also had a message for protesters, urging them to continue to preserve the peaceful nature of their protests.

Pillay's November declaration came after Amnesty International [advocacy website] released a report highlighting the human rights violations [JURIST report] committed by Egyptian authorities against protesters. That report expressed the concern that the rights violations under this new government maybe equal to those perpetrated under the Mubarak regime. In late November UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official profile] and a group of independent human rights experts [JURIST report] called on Egyptian authorities to guarantee the protection of human rights and civil liberties. The November clashes with armed forces were a result of more than 50,000 protesters taking the streets to criticize the military's continued control over the country since the February overthrow [JURIST reports] of Hosni Mubarak.




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