Mobility News

Apple Puts Patent Infringement Smackdown On HTC; Is Palm Next?

Andrew R. Hickey

In the lawsuit, filed concurrently with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) and in U.S. District Court in Delaware, Apple claims that HTC infringed upon patents related to the Apple iPhone's touch-screen user interface, underlying architecture and hardware.

"We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a statement. "We've decided to do something about it. We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology and not steal ours."

It was unclear Tuesday morning which HTC smartphone or smartphones has raised Apple's patent ire. It's likely that the success of the Google Nexus One, the HTC smartphone released last year to great fanfare and billed as the next potential iPhone killer. At question could be the Nexus One's use of multi-touch technology, something Apple has held near and dear.

Google and HTC had planned to add multi-touch capability to earlier devices, including the T-Mobile G1, but according to reports HTC and Google bowed to pressure from Apple to not include multi-touch capabilities in the G1, which was the first Google Android phone to hit the market and the first HTC device to make waves in the U.S. after years of success abroad.

Since the Nexus One, which hit the market in January, HTC has continued its touch-screen momentum, releasing a host of new devices, including the handful of new HTC smartphones unveiled during the Mobile World Congress last month.

Since Apple first released the Apple iPhone in 2007, it has been the smartphone to beat. Device makers globally have rolled out iPhone clones, but have yet to capture the excitement and the massive sales the now-iconic Apple iPhone has experienced. The iPhone has sold more than 40 million units in its less than three years in existence.

Apple's patent infringement lawsuit against HTC could open the floodgates for suits against smartphone competitors that bite Apple's style.

The Palm came under scrutiny from Apple for the Palm Pre's use of multi-touch technology, which Apple has patented. In an earnings call in January 2009, then acting Apple CEO Tim Cook discussed similarities the Palm Pre shared with the Apple iPhone and vowed to take all measures necessary if they "rip off our IP." Apple has yet to get litigious with Palm regarding the Pre.

Nokia, too, has been a legal target for Apple. The two companies are currently embroiled in patent infringement suit in which Apple alleges that Nokia ripped off 13 of its patents.

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