Two weeks after being sued by Apple for patent infringement, Taiwanese phone maker HTC is responding with a formal statement defending itself against the allegations.
The company’s statement is a prelude to a legal response, still being drafted, that challenges the patent suit Apple filed in federal court, as well as a complaint it made to the International Trade Commission.
An HTC executive at its U.S. headquarters in Bellevue said the company has the support of partners such as Google. That reinforces the notion that Apple’s suit is part of a bigger feud under way between tech giants that are all building roughly similar touchscreen smartphones.
“HTC strongly disagrees with Apple’s actions,” said Jason Mackenzie, vice president of HTC America in Bellevue. “We plan to use all of the legal tools that are at our disposal to both defend ourselves and set the record straight to the general public.”
Mackenzie noted that HTC introduced touchscreen smartphones long before Apple’s iPhone appeared in 2007.
“We started working on the first touchcscreen smartphone way back in 1999,” he said.
That work led to the Pocket PC phone launched in 2002 with Bellevue’s VoiceStream Wireless, which is now T-Mobile USA.
Since then, HTC has released more than 50 smartphones and worked with all U.S. phone companies, “vs. one single product at one single carrier,” Mackenzie said, in another dig at Apple’s iPhone business.
“We would not have achieved what we’ve achieved today — including the partnerships weve developed with people like Microsoft, Google, all the U.S. operators, Qualcomm — if we were a company that did not respect intellectual property rights.”
Apple accused HTC of making and selling products that “incorporate, without license, many technologies developed by Apple and protected by patents issued to and owned by Apple and its wholly owned subsidiaries, including NeXT.”
It asked the trade commission to block the importation of a number of phones, including the Nexus One that HTC makes for Google, the myTouch 3G sold by T-Mobile, the Droid Eris sold by Verizon and the new HD2 based on Windows Mobile.
Apple’s suit specifically calls out phones running the Android platform backed by Google. A Google spokesperson referred by HTC, Jill Hazelbaker, didn’t say whether the company would participate in HTC’s legal defense, but provided a statement praising HTC for helping to make Android a success.
“The Android platform has seen tremendous adoption all over the world, and we are proud of all our partners who have made it such a success,” she said via e-mail. “In less than a year and a half since HTC shipped the first Android device, there are now 26 devices with 60 carriers in 49 countries and 19 languages powered by Android.”
Mackenzie wouldn’t comment specifically on the lawsuit but said Apple’s responding to HTC’s success.
“We are experiencing more success than we’ve ever had in the U.S. market today. We’ve got great products at all the major operators,” he said. “We’re obviously having this conversation because of that and because of those successes we’ve had.”
So far the lawsuit hasn’t had an effect on HTC’s business or plans for upcoming phones.
“I haven’t seen any impact to our business since this case,” he said.