Apple filed a patent infringement lawsuit on Tuesday against HTC, claiming that the Taiwanese company is infringing 20 Apple patents.
The patents are related to the iPhone user interface and the smartphone's underlying architecture and hardware, Apple said in a statement. HTC phones include those that use Google's Android mobile OS. The lawsuit was filed in the US District Court in Delaware and with the US International Trade Commission.
"We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions or we can do something about it," the statement quoted Apple CEO Steve Jobs as saying. "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 Apple's filings make frequent reference to HTC Android products that allegedly infringe the patents, the ITC filing also lists as exhibits and instances of unfair importation and sale a number of HTC devices including the Touch Pro, Pure, Imagio and Tilt that run Windows Mobile.
The lawsuit is the most recent in a string of such patent infringement claims filed by smartphone vendors against one another.
"It's a struggle for who gets to control the smartphone market," said Carl Howe, an analyst with the Yankee Group.
In addition, while the industry has been talking about touch-screen phones since the iPhone was first released, only now are other touch-screen phones gaining traction.
"This is the first year we have phones designed to be iPhone killers on the market, so it's the first time Apple is saying, 'let's defend some of these patents,'" said Howe.
Apple's filings show that it is defending its position. "In the same way that Nokia recognised Apple as a serious competitor, Apple is recognising HTC as a serious competitor now," said Charles Golvin, an analyst with Forrester Research. Nokia has recently filed suits against Apple, charging it with infringing its patents.
When Apple first introduced the iPhone, it made a point of saying that it had hundreds of patents on it and would aggressively defend them, Howe said. The HTC lawsuit shows it is serious about doing so.
HTC has not yet seen the lawsuit filing, so cannot comment specifically about it, said Keith Nowak, media relations manager at the company's North American headquarters in Bellevue, Washington. However, the company has been making phones for years and holds many of its own patents, he noted, adding "we value patent rights and their enforcement".
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether it might get involved in the suits since its software runs some of the HTC phones cited. Microsoft said it has no comment on the suits.