Apple found itself in the crosshairs of a patent-infringement lawsuit filed by HTC May 12, the latest maneuver in a long and increasingly bitter legal battle between the two companies. In a new filing, HTC officials ask the International Trade Commission to ban Apple from selling the iPhone, iPad and iPod in the United States.
"As an innovator of the original Windows Mobile PocketPC Phone Edition in 2002 and the first Android smartphone in 2008, HTC believes the industry should be driven by healthy competition and innovation that offer consumers the best, most accessible mobile experiences possible," Jason Mackenzie, HTC's vice president for North America, wrote in a May 12 statement. "We are taking this action against Apple to protect our intellectual property, our industry partners, and most importantly, our customers that use HTC phones."
That statement did not elaborate on the five patents supposedly in dispute. Nonetheless, this newest lawsuit is widely seen as a response to Apple, which filed a lawsuit against HTC March 2 alleging violation of some 20 patents related to the iPhone interface, architecture and hardware. "We think competition is healthy," Apple CEO Steve Jobs wrote in a March statement, "but competitors should create their original technology, not steal ours."
At the time, HTC promised to vigorously dispute the lawsuit. Several weeks later, on April 27, the manufacturer announced an IP (intellectual property) agreement with Microsoft that would license the latter's patented technology for use in HTC smartphones running Google Android. The royalties paid to Microsoft for the license were undisclosed, but industry watchers speculated that the agreement would help HTC buttress its patent portfolio in advance of any Apple court action.
HTC has been angling to become a top smartphone maker in the United States, issuing a broad range of Android-based devices, including the HTC Droid Incredible and the Nexus One. In a research note released May 10, NPD Group suggested that Android had supplanted the iPhone as the No. 2 smartphone operating system in the United States-numbers that Apple has vigorously disputed, but which nonetheless suggest the strength of Android's market share gains in a relatively limited timeframe.
Nokia has also struck back at Apple, filing a May 7 lawsuit that alleges the iPad and iPhone infringe on five of its patents. The conflict between the two companies began in May 2009, with Nokia seeking patent royalties from Apple; when Apple reportedly refused to negotiate, the companies began a series of legal claims and counterclaims. On Dec. 29, Nokia filed patent infringement lawsuits against Apple with both the U.S. District Court in Delaware and the ITC.