HTCLinkify: What It Is and Why Devs Aren’t Removing It
Unless you’ve been living under a rock recently, you’ve undoubtedly heard about Apple’s influence over HTC EVO 4G LTE and One X availability in the US. What most people didn’t hear about, though, is how HTC got around it. For those who are unfamiliar with the case, HTC broke a patent owned by Apple and thus Apple was able to file an exclusion, preventing the HTC devices from being sold Stateside. XDA Member Advocate Admin egzthunder1 explained it the best:
One of the most common uses of this functionality is the phone number recognition, where if you select text containing a phone number and tap it, the browser will automatically launch the phone application with the number you are trying to call. It turns out that the judges at the ITC deemed this patent infringement and decided in their infinite wisdom to serve HTC an Exclusion (rather than a Cease and Desist order)
It was not long—a couple of weeks at most—that the ban was lifted, and HTC devices began pouring into the States. So, how did HTC get around these ridiculous patent infringements? The answer is HTCLinkify. HTCLinkify is an application developed by HTC in order to change how their devices handle the alphanumeric entries in question, thus avoiding Capertino’s copyrights. With HTCLinkify, the patent infringement was no longer an issue, and HTC was able to get their devices to their customers.
The story doesn’t end there, though. As the devices got rooted and custom ROMs starting hitting the forums, users began asking developers to remove HTCLinkify. This has sparked a number of comments from ROM developers. Says XDA Recognized Developer scrosler:
Some, handfull of users, are asking me to remove this work around from my ROM and violate apples patended “link” technoilogy. I state that if HTC and Google, Sprint and ATT can be sued so cant I. Maybe this is an unreliatic fear but none the less quite possible.
Echoing what we saw earlier with the Beats Audio fiasco, this is definitely something that deserves a second thought before proceeding. Developers do not want to touch something that could eventually come back and haunt them. However, devs actually have nothing to fear. Egzthunder1 explains:
He simply cannot and will not get sued for taking it out. Why? He is not making the product in question and even if he was, he its not selling it or making a profit or of it, it is for personal use, hence he is not breaching IP laws.
In other words, you really have nothing to worry about since you’re not stealing anything or making any money off of anything, and developers can include or exclude it at will. In some cases, development around HTCLinkify is already being explored as XDA Forum Member iconeo has opened a thread with the expressed idea of modifying HTCLinkify. The goal? Not to remove HTCLinkify, but to modify it so that it doesn’t work in certain apps, allowing the device to default to the original way of handling things and allowing users to get back to using their device how they want to use it. While not a bad idea for those who want it to work differently, removing HTCLinkify altogether is perfectly okay.
You can find more details in the HTCLinkify modification thread as well as scrosler’s full explanation of what HTCLinkify is and what it does in the discussion thread. While HTCLinkify is required for HTC phones to see the light of day in the United States, it’s not something we have to live with once they get here.