There has been yet another development in what is fast shaping up to be an epic patent battle between Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) and High Tech Computer Corp.(PINK: HTCCF) (aka HTC Corp.), HTC (B.V.I.) Corp, HTC America, Inc. and Exeda, Inc. (collectively referred to as HTC). On Monday, June 21, 2010, Apple filed yet another complaint against HTC in the United States District Court for the District of Delaware. On March 2, 2010, Apple, Inc. filed two lawsuits against HTC Corp., alleging that HTC infringes some 20 Apple patents related to the iPhone’s user interface, underlying architecture and hardware.
The latest Apple complaint continues to allege direct infringement of Apple patents, this time four separate patents. The complaint also alleges indirect infringement; specifically contributory infringement and inducement to infringe. The patent asserted by Apple are US Patent No. 7,282,453 (Count I); US Patent No. 7,657,849 (Count II); US Patent No. 6,282,646 (Count III) and US Patent No. 7,380,116 (Count IV). The ‘453 patent and the ‘849 patent were both asserted previously by Apple (see what I have previously referred to as the second complaint filed March 2, 2010). It appears as if they are added here due to recently issued Certificates of Correction. The ‘646 patent and the ‘116 patent were not previously asserted in either of the two complaints filed March 2, 2010 in the District of Delaware.
At the time Apple filed its original complaints in the District of Delaware, Apple CEO Steve Jobs explained that Apple can sit back 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.”
While HTC is the immediate target of Apple’s discontent, let’s be perfectly honest. The real target is Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) and the fight is about the Google operating system for smart phones. Apple simply cannot allow Google to poke its nose under the tent. Apple is too heavily invested in the iPhone and now the iPad. In fact, Apple has sold over 40 million iPhones worldwide, and has sold more than 3 million iPads since the product first became available only 3 months ago, which translates to 37,500 iPads a day! See Analyst estimates 16.5 million iPads sold by 2012. On top of that, on the first day orders were accepted Apple received 600,000 pre-orders for the new and yet to be released iPhone 4. See Apple: 600,000 iPhone 4 preorders on first day. With this kind of popular product and a company that is so heavily leveraged on iThis and iThat, look for Apple to fight to win.
HTC, however, has not exactly rolled over, although it would seem likely that if Apple really has them in its sights HTC will continue to fight this battle from behind in a responsive way. Nevertheless, on May 12, 2010, HTC Corporation launched its own legal action against Apple Inc., filing a complaint with the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) to halt the importation and sale of the iPhone, iPad and iPod in the United States. Jason Mackenzie, Vice President of North America, HTC Corporation explained at the time that HTC was “taking this action against Apple to protect our intellectual property, our industry partners, and most importantly our customers that use HTC phones.”
But Apple had even beat HTC to the ITC. Simultaneously with filing in the District of Delaware on March 2, 2010, Apple also filed a complaint with the ITC, pursuant to section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended, 19 U.S.C. § 1337. The Apple ITC complaint alleged violations of section 337 based upon the importation into the United States, the sale for importation, and the sale within the United States after importation of certain personal data and mobile communications devices and related software by reason of infringement of certain claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,481,721; 5,519,867; 5,566,337; 5,929,852; 5,946,647; 5,969,705; 6,275,983; 6,343,263; 5,915,131; and RE39,486.
Subsequent to the Apple ITC filing the ITC voted to institute an investigation of certain personal data and mobile communications devices and related software. The products at issue in the investigation relate to hardware and software used in mobile communication devices, including but not limited to cellular phones and smart phones. The investigation is based the complaint filed by Apple, which requested an exclusion order and a cease and desist order.
The ball is now in HTC’s court, so to speak. This is going to get very interesting indeed.