HTC Files Suit Against Apple in U.K., Patent Battle Heats Up

HTC Files Suit Against Apple in U.K., Patent Battle Heats Up

HTC filed a lawsuit against Apple in the U.K., raising tensions between the companies in an ongoing legal feud between iOS and a leading Android device maker.

The Taiwanese company on Friday named Apple in a new suit at the High Court of Justice, Chancery Division, in London. Details of the lawsuit are not public at this time, including the nature of the allegations.

Last week’s suit is the latest development in a tit-for-tat patent dispute between Apple, the world’s largest cell phone manufacturer, and HTC, the world’s fifth-largest handset maker.

HTC’s move against Apple comes two weeks after the International Trade Commission ruled the Taiwanese company violated two Apple patents relating to multimedia processing and data detection technology.

HTC may have good reason to go on the offensive in London, as the ITC’s decision might sway the final December 6 verdict on patent infringement between the two rivals. If the December judgment finds in favor of Apple, HTC may have to pay royalties for using any borrowed technology, in the same way it gives Microsoft $5 for every Android device it sells.

Even worse, it may possibly see its devices banned in the U.S. if the ITC upholds Apple’s injunction request. Product embargoes are not unheard of during software copyright disputes — Samsung recently agreed to keep its Galaxy Tab 10.1 off Australian shelves while judges debate a similar patent infringement suit between the Apple and the Korean company.

HTC has a tough fight ahead, as this battle isn’t just about Apple vs. HTC. In taking the Taiwanese company to court, as well as tackling fellow Android manufacturer Samsung, Apple appears to be waging a proxy war on Google’s mobile OS.

Google thinks so at least, as the tech giant recently backed HTC, promising to help it should things go poorly in the Apple suit.

Google has a vested interest in protecting Android, as the search giant activates 550,000 Android phones per day and relies on companies like HTC to market its mobile OS. If Apple wins its fight against HTC, Samsung and others Android handset makers like Sony Ericsson and Motorola, Google stands to lose a large chunk of revenue and risk falling behind in the mobile race, especially if phone makers turn to other platforms as alternatives.

If HTC’s London suit carries any weight against Apple, the Taiwanese company may score a victory for Android overall. If it loses to Apple, HTC, Google and all those who build phones with its mobile platform will likely worry about Android’s growing legal vulnerability and what it portends.

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