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HTC swipes back at Apple in patent dispute

Wed, 05/12/2010 - 11:30am
JESSICA MINTZ - AP Technology Writer - Associated Press

Taiwanese cell phone maker HTC Corp. said it filed a legal complaint against Apple Inc., saying its iPhone, iPod and iPad devices infringe on HTC patents.

The move escalates a patent dispute between the two electronics companies, as Apple tries to maintain the iPhone's supremacy against Android, the increasingly popular mobile software upstart from Google Inc.

HTC, which makes several Android phones including the new Droid Incredible, said it filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission on Wednesday seeking to block U.S. sales of the gadgets. In its statement, HTC did not say what patents it believes Apple has violated.

HTC's complaint is not likely to block sales of Apple products any time soon. Patent disputes are common among technology companies and often take years to resolve. The cases often lead to licensing agreements rather than outright bans on imports, as HTC is seeking in its complaint.

Apple filed its own lawsuits against HTC in March, saying HTC's cell phones violate 20 of Apple's iPhone patents. Apple's complaints were made before the trade commission and in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del.

Android phones, like the iPhone, support multitouch screens. Users sweep their fingers across the screens, and different "gestures" stand for different commands.

Among the patents singled out by Apple is one that lets a device's screen detect more than one finger touch at a time — for instance, allowing someone to zoom in or out by spreading their fingers apart or pinching them together. Another patent refers to technology that helps a device react to information about its surroundings gathered by sensors.

Apple, which is based in Cupertino, Calif., had no comment on HTC's complaint, other than to point to its own legal actions against the cell phone maker.

HTC signed a patent-licensing agreement with Microsoft Corp. in April, presumably to avoid a legal tussle with another of the computer industry's biggest players.

Even though Google's software powers Android phones, hardware makers such as HTC will bear the brunt of the legal actions. Industry experts say that has historically been the case, and they note that HTC is an easier target than Google for U.S. lawsuits.

Even if a legal decision is a long time coming, Apple's move against HTC could tamp down other mobile phone manufacturers' enthusiasm for Android if it seems hefty legal fees could erase the gains from using free software from Google.

Shares of Apple jumped $5.49, or 2.1 percent, to $262.01 in afternoon trading. Google's stock slipped $2.37 to $506.69. HTC's stock is not traded on U.S. exchanges.

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AP Business Writer Andrew Vanacore in New York contributed to this report.

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