HTC Loses Design Chief, Faces Patent Troubles

HTC Loses Design Chief, Faces Patent Troubles

HTC announced its chief innovation officer has left the company, leaving the smartphone maker with patent infringement issues and questions about its future.

Horace Luke, who came to the HTC from Microsoft in 1996, issued his resignation on April 30, but the company had not confirmed the news until now. Luke reportedly left the company for personal reasons, and HTC isn’t giving further details.

Luke, which made many contributions HTC during his tenure, is cited within the company as one of the talents that helped transform HTC from an Asian contract manufacturer to one of the leading smartphone makers, and his departure may be a blow for the company as it grapples with legal issues.

“Horace nurtured a culture of innovation at HTC and instilled a strong consumer design focus among our employees, who continue to raise the bar in designing products that capture our customers’ imagination,” HTC said in a statement.

The HTC Desire, Thunderbolt and Evo 3D are just a few of the popular HTC phones Luke helped to develop, which elevated the company to a top-tier smartphone maker.

But while Luke helped make the HTC a leader in creating Android devices, he also leaves the company with ongoing legal troubles that developed under his watch.

The company is currently embroiled in a legal battle with Apple over patent infringement related to the phones Luke helped design. The case took a turn for the worse for HTC earlier this month when the International Trade Commission ruled the company had violated two of Apple’s patents, saying it copied Apple’s multimedia processing and data technology in its Android phones.

The ITC is set to issue a final ruling on December 6, which will decide whether or not HTC products should be banned in the U.S. Even if HTC settles this case, the company will likely have to start paying royalties to Apple for every Android phone it sells.

The smartphone maker already pays $5 to Microsoft for every Android phone it sells, due to its loss in a past patent case. This may add up to significant loss of revenue for HTC, as Microsoft makes more money off of HTC phones then it does off of its own.

Luke may have brought innovation and credibility to HTC’s efforts as a smartphone maker, but he’s leaving the company with some big questions about its future.

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