HTC: we're ready for a big fight with Apple

HTC logoApple both publicly and privately warned smartphone makers that it wouldn't tolerate its intellectual property being infringed upon, and the company made its first move against Taiwan-based HTC earlier this month with a federal lawsuit and a complaint to the International Trade Commission. HTC says it doesn't plan to give up without a fight.

"HTC disagrees with Apple's actions and will fully defend itself," HTC Corporation CEO Peter Chou said in a statement. "HTC strongly advocates intellectual property protection and will continue to respect other innovators and their technologies as we have always done, but we will continue to embrace competition through our own innovation as a healthy way for consumers to get the best mobile experience possible."

HTC cited the company's numerous firsts to market as proof of its innovation, including selling the first Windows Mobile smartphone in 2002 and the first Android smartphone in 2008. (It also lays claim to the "first gesture-based smartphone" released in June 2007, but that's also the same month that Apple released the original iPhone.) It also noted that Fast Company and MIT Technology Review have both recently named HTC as one of the top innovative companies globally.

The company is confident that its own patent portfolio will prove useful in its defense. "We've been in business since 1997 and a pioneer in the smart phone space," HTC America VP Jason Mackenzie told Forbes. "We absolutely have our share of patents."

However, Deutsche Banks analyst Chris Whitmore noted recently that Apple has amassed a much larger patent portfolio than HTC, or even Google, whose Andriod operating system is believed to be the real target of Apple's legal ire. Since 2000, Apple has been awarded over 3,000 patents, compared to Google's 316 and HTC's 58. Prior to the launch of the iPhone, HTC actually filed zero patents with USPTO. Sheer numbers don't guarantee a slam dunk for Apple, but they do certainly give Apple a much larger cache of ammunition to draw from.

Many have criticized Apple for "competition by litigation" by filing complaints against HTC, but as The New York Times recently reported, lawsuits are not at all uncommon in the mobile space. Apple believes it has a right and duty to protect its own innovations, apparently just as other companies in the mobile market do. "We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said earlier this month.

Furthermore, Microsoft VP and deputy general counsel Horacio Gutierrez said the lawsuits are merely a sign that the modern smartphone market is still in its early stages, and that this particular lawsuit won't stifle innovation as some believe. "The smartphone market is still in a nascent state; much innovation still lies ahead in this field," he wrote in an analysis of Apple's patent litigation. "In all nascent technology markets, there is a period early where IP rights will be sorted out."

Unless Apple and HTC come to an out-of-court settlement, we could be waiting until at least 2012 to hear a decision from either the ITC or US district court on the matter.

Source: ars technica

Tags: Apple, HTC, mobile phones

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