United States International Trade Commission

Apple bites Android: Customs halts U.S. sales of HTC phones

May 16, 2012: 7:12 AM ET

Two models held for inspection after a December patent ruling in Apple's favor

Stopped at Customs: The HTC One X. Engadget photo.

FORTUNE -- In what is believed to be the first tangible effect of the two-year-old proxy war Apple (AAPL) has waged against Google (GOOG) though the makers of Android phones, U.S. Customs officials have delayed shipment of two of HTC newest models pending inspection.

The delay is indefinite, but may turn out to be brief.

In December Apple won a narrow victory over the Taiwanese manufacturer of smartphones and tablets when the International Trade Commission found that some earlier HTC phones had violated a single Apple patent provision covering the way smartphones make sense of unstructured data, such as e-mails. (See: Apple wins limited ruling in important Android patent case.)

The ITC delayed its mandatory exclusion order until May 19 to give HTC time to devise a workaround. In a statement issued Tuesday, HTC said it believed the new phones -- the HTC One X and HTC EVO 4G LTE -- are in compliance with the ruling, and that it is working with U.S. Customs officials to secure their release.

Nonetheless, HTC shares fell more than 6% in the Asian markets on the news.

HTC, you may recall, was the first maker of Android phones that Apple took to court. The suit was filed on March 2, 2010, and in an oft-quoted statement, Steve Jobs threw down the gauntlet:

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

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