HTC said today that it has filed suit against Apple for patent infringement and has asked the U.S. International Trade Commission to "halt the importation and sale of the iPhone, iPad and iPod in the United States."
The complaint, which HTC says involves five patents, follows legal action by Apple against HTC in a Delaware District court and the ITC in March.
In a brief statement today, Jason McKenzie, VP of HTC North America, said:
As the 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. We are taking this action against Apple to protect our intellectual property, our industry partners, and most importantly our customers that use HTC phones.
The competitive landscape of the mobile industry has become so intense that allegations of patent infringement are flying all over the place, though Apple has been careful to keep the deepest-pocketed competitors - notably Google and Microsoft - out of its legal filings. While Apple mentioned Google's Android mobile OS on several instances in its own court filings, it's legal beef is strictly with the hardware manufacturer HTC, the smallest and weakest patent player. HTC also makes devices that run on Windows Mobile OS.
Initially, Apple's legal complaints made it look like the bully kicking sand into the face of the 98-pound weakling on the beach - an effort to get HTC and its iPhone-killer devices out of the way. Clearly, HTC is a thorn in Apple's side.
Last month,NPD reported that Android devices outsold the iPhone. In addition, Piper Jaffray analyst T. Michael Walkley said that HTC is taking share from rivals. In that report, Walkley writes:
Our April and early May checks indicated strong North America share gains for HTC with strong initial sales of the HTC Incredible at Verizon, combined with solid sales of the HTC Hero at Sprint and HTC HD2 and My Touch 3G at T-Mobile. We believe consumers overwhelmingly selected HTC based Android and Windows Mobile based devices due to its customizable UI, processing power with Qualcomm's Snapdragon 1 GHz processor and sleek designs.
The landscape changed for HTC after the Apple complaints were filed, thanks to an patent licensing agreement between Microsoft and HTC last month that covers Android devices. That deal, in essence, gave HTC some legal heft in its battle with Apple, Larry Dignan argued in a post last month.