Apple 2.0

Covering the business that Steve Jobs built

HTC hits Apple with wet noodles

March 18, 2010: 11:10 AM ET

Answers charges of patent "theft" with a polite press release and a Google e-mail address

Two weeks after Apple (AAPL) filed a pair of lawsuits against HTC for allegedly infringing on 20 iPhone-related patents, the Taiwanese smartphone manufacturer broke its silence. In a series of press interviews and a statement released early Thursday morning, it said:

  • HTC advocates intellectual property protection
  • It has always respected other innovators' technologies and will continue to do so
  • It embraces healthy competition.

In other words, it said nothing at all.

"We think competition is healthy," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in the incendiary press release that accompanied its lawsuits, "but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours."

HTC CEO Peter Chou's response, by contrast, was pro forma: "HTC disagrees with Apple's actions and will fully defend itself."

Part of HTC's problem is that the operating system software that runs most of its smartphones is licensed from U.S. companies. HTC doesn't appear to have a deep portfolio of its own patents on which to build a strong countersuit.

Indeed, the evidence of its own contribution to smartphone technology offered in Thursday's press release was a list of three awards (e.g. Fast Company's 2010 Top 50 Most Innovative Companies) and six "first" built largely on software licensed from Microsoft (MSFT) and Google (GOOG):

  • First Windows PDA (1998)
  • First Windows Phone (June 2002)
  • First 3G CDMA EVDO smartphone (October 2005)
  • First gesture-based smartphone (June 2007)
  • First Google Android smartphone (October 2008)
  • First 4G WIMAX smartphone (November 2008)

"For more about HTC's history of innovation," suggested the press release, "please visit www.htc.com/history." There, you will find that history succinctly encapsulated in the following timeline:

Source: HTC

Unless HTC's partners step up in its defense, this could be the rare patent suit that's over almost before it's begun. Perhaps that's why HTC's account manager at Waggener Edstrom invited the press to "reach out" to Google spokesperson Jill Hazelbaker.

See also:

[Follow Philip Elmer-DeWitt on Twitter @philiped]

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About This Author
Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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