HTC has responded to Apple’s patent suit to give notice that it intends to vigorously defend itself against allegations of patent infringement. Unlike other ongoing suits–such as the dispute between Nokia and Apple–HTC is not launching a countersuit accusing Apple of also infringing on its patents, but it isn’t planning on going down without a fight.
This case has a more direct impact on smartphones than the dispute between Nokia and Apple–at least in the United States. The simple fact is that Nokia doesn’t have much of a presence for smartphones in America, while HTC has a diverse array of smartphones available for Windows Mobile and Android from all of the major wireless carriers.
In fact, the irony of the Apple suit is that, outside of Apple’s iPhone, HTC is responsible for some of the most innovative and popular smartphones available. While there are other manufacturers making Windows Mobile and Android devices, HTC puts a unique spin on its handsets that set them apart and make them better than the platform they’re built on.
Peter Chou, CEO of HTC, said in a statement “HTC disagrees with Apple’s actions and will fully defend itself. 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.”
“From day one, HTC has focused on creating cutting-edge innovations that deliver unique value for people looking for a smartphone. In 1999 we started designing the XDA[i] and T-Mobile Pocket PC Phone Edition[ii], our first touch-screen smartphones, and they both shipped in 2002 with more than 50 additional HTC smartphone models shipping since then,” added Chou.
I am not a lawyer, but from a layman’s perspective Chou’s statement introduces a compelling point. HTC introduced its first touchscreen smartphones in 2002–five years ahead of the introduction of the iPhone. According to a list of firsts outlined in the HTC statement, HTC is also responsible for introducing the first gesture-based smartphone–the same year the iPhone was launched, in 2007.
“HTC has always taken a partnership-oriented, collaborative approach to business. This has led to long-standing strategic partnerships with the top software, Internet and wireless technology companies in the industry as well as the top U.S., European and Asian mobile operators,” said Jason Mackenzie, vice president of HTC America.
Arguably, it is those partnerships–with Google for Android, and with Microsoft for Windows Mobile devices–that Apple is really targeting. Apple may not be too concerned with the Microsoft mobile operating system for now, but suing HTC seems like a proxy-war to slow the march of Android without taking Google on head-to-head in court.
There are reports that Apple’s legal strong-arm tactics are having an effect–making some smartphone manufacturers think twice about current development rather than becoming Apple’s next legal target. As a business strategy, Apple may know it has little chance of prevailing in the patent suit, but it will have accomplished the short-term goal of making competitors think twice before working on that next “iPhone-killer”.