On March 2 Apple filed a lawsuit against HTC for infringing on 20 Apple patents related to the iPhone's user interface, underlying architecture and hardware. The lawsuit was filed concurrently with the USITC and the US District Court in Delaware.
The USITC is not a court: its administrative law judges conduct trial-type official administrative hearings, and decisions are generally reached much more quickly than in court proceedings.
Jason Mackenzie, HTC's vice president of North America, said: "We are taking this action against Apple to protect our intellectual property, our industry partners, and most importantly our customers that use HTC phones'¦
"As the innovator of the original Windows Mobile PocketPC Phone Edition in 2002 and the first Android smartphone in 2008, HTC believes the industry should be driven by healthy competition and innovation that offer consumers the best, most accessible mobile experiences possible."
Florian Mueller - founder of the European NoSoftwarePatents.com campaign and author of the Foss Patents blog that addresses open source patent issues - told iTWire: "What's missing from HTC's announcement is a lawsuit in the traditional sense of the word, meaning a lawsuit that would be filed with a court.
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Mueller gave HTC little chance of success, saying: "I have serious doubts that HTC's apparently half-hearted counter strike will scare Apple. HTC's light warfare is probably no match for Apple's heavy artillery'¦HTC asserts five patents while Apple asserted 20.
"HTC had to choose its five bullets out of a rather small arsenal while Apple could pick its 20 out of an arsenal amounting to thousands of patents, which makes it much more likely, in purely statistical terms, that Apple's selection of patents poses a threat to HTC than vice versa."
He speculated that: "Maybe HTC hopes that its announcement could build some kind of pressure on Apple via its customers and shareholders."
According to Mueller, "The Android open-source project is the reason for which Apple sued HTC in the first place" and he suggested that eventually Android's creator, Google, would be drawn into the IPR battle between Apple and vendors of Android based products.
"When HTC and other vendors decided to create Android-based products, they might have thought that Google would help them out if any patent issues came up. I'm wondering whether Google can really stay on the sidelines of this forever, not only with a view to Android but also its other open source projects - existing and future ones."