HTC Smartphones in Customs, Thanks to Apple Patent Suit

Two HTC smartphones get held up in U.S. customs, following a patent suit that Apple filed with the International Trade Commission.

Following an exclusion order Apple won from the International Trade Commission in December, the U.S. Customs department has held up a shipment of smartphone maker HTC€™s One X and Evo 4G Long-Term Evolution (LTE) handsets, pending an investigation into possible patent infringements, as reported by technology blog The Verge. The unnamed sources said they could confirm that shipments of the handsets were being held back.

The HTC One has already made its market debut, and The Wall Street Journal reported that the company said the customs review could disrupt future sales of the device. The One X, AT&T's version of HTC's new line of Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich, devices, has a 4.7-inch, 720p high-definition Gorilla Glass display and is constructed of polycarbonate for a lightweight yet durable feel.

€œThe U.S. availability of the HTC One X and HTC EVO 4G LTE has been delayed due to a standard U.S. Customs review of shipments that is required after an ITC exclusion order,€ HTC said in an official statement. €œWe believe we are in compliance with the ruling and HTC is working closely with Customs to secure approval. The HTC One X and HTC Evo 4G LTE have been received enthusiastically by customers and we appreciate their patience as we work to get these products into their hands as soon as possible.€

HTC has not just come under fire from Apple for patent infringement; indeed, the major handset manufacturers are in a virtual circular firing squad much of the time. Earlier this month, Nokia filed cases in the United States and Germany against HTC, BlackBerry maker Research In Motion (RIM) and Viewsonic related to 45 patents. The patents relate to technologies such as the power-saving functionality of GSM devices, over-the-air synchronizing of a mobile calendar, an integrated light sensor for regulating screen brightness, and the wireless synchronization of databases such as calendars using filters or a data range.

Shares of Taiwan-based HTC fell sharply May 16 after the news broke. With the handset maker investing heavily in Google Android-based smartphones that can go head-to-head in a competitive marketplace dominated by Samsung and Apple€™s iPhone, the latest blow to HTC could have a lasting effect on the company€™s fortunes in the smartphone space€”not least of all because it€™s an open question as to when€”or if€”the handsets pass through customs at all. €œIt€™s really hard to tell how much longer the phones will be held up at the customs, because the review has already taken a month,€ Bonnie Chang, an analyst at Yuanta Securities, told Reuters.